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Nerd-o-diversity: The Intersection of Nerds and Neurodiversity

There's a term that I have been throwing around for the last year that I really wanted to more formally explore: nerd-o-diversity. It's the amazing intersection between all things nerdy (board games, LARP, comic books, TTRPG, fantasy, sci-fi, cosplay, video games, books, and so much more) and all who share neurodiversity. It's important in discussing this to make sure we do not try to conflate these terms as they are not interchangeable and instead focus on the intersection between these two identities. There are many shared traits and experiences in these identities from social stigma to common values. And (well-deservedly) the presentation and perception of both nerdom and neurodiversity have been evolving and ameliorating in our current culture.

Neurodiversity rainbow infinity + D20

All you have to do is take a moment to reflect on your adventuring party, your gaming group, your book club, your discord server and chances are you have neurodivergent friends. The overlap between common presentations of ADHD and autism and the nerd community are obvious: info dumping (what self-respecting nerd spent hours overexplaining a specific gaming system to their friends), hyperfocus (losing yourself in a specific set of stiches on a cosplay that's ALMOST perfect), and repetitive behaviors (revisiting your favorite series over and over again).

For many of us, our neurobiology and presenting behaviors that classify us as neurodivergent individuals is often a burden when paired up with expectations of outdated school, community, and work systems. As Greta Thunberg, environmental and autistic activist, clarifies: "No, autism is not a ‘gift’. For most, it is an endless fight against schools, workplaces, and bullies. But, under the right circumstances, given the right adjustments, it CAN be a superpower." Though I am hesitant to call any typical human experience a "superpower", I can appreciate the recognition of the strengths of neurodiversity. We like to believe that at Camp FABLE and Camp Grimoire we can control the circumstances and make the correct adjustments so that all our heroes can express themselves in an environment that celebrates them instead of limiting them.

Camp FABLE heroes and counselors gather on a log

We are proud to help cultivate the strengths of neurodivergent individuals and empower them within our nerdy community.

  • Innovation and Creativity

    • Neurodivergent individuals literally think differently and nerds love to explore different modalities. From the real-world technological aspects in sci-fi to the open-world creation mindset of fantasy, nerd-o-divergent folx look to expand how we look at the world and use lateral thinking to make connections that no one else can.

  • Work Ethic in Engaging Activities

    • Ask anyone who has ever experienced or witnessed a hyperfixation in progress and don't tell me that my neurodivergent brethren can't work hard. When properly engaged, our nerd-o-divergent power kicks in and productivity far exceeds many of our peers allowing for incredibly complex and intricate tasks to be completed.

  • Valuing Intellectualism

    • Intelligence is often hard to pin down as a specific and shared definition, but when you have many people on different wavelengths the ability to connect via logic and reasoning is huge. While sometimes driven to competition over the most "technically correct" answer, one of the fantastic strengths of the nerd-o-divergent is the ability to recognize and desire to respect intelligence in themselves and others

  • Empathy

    • Having any kind of social stigma (whether from being judged for your interests or how your brain functions) can take an individual in one of two directions: a strong desire to withdraw or well-developed empathy. I am proud to say that our wonderful nerdy and neurodiverse campers show me time and time again how they seek to make positive connections and build up their community. Imagine having a build in set of friends who understand and can relate to your experiences in nerd-o-diversity and help you laugh and embrace who you are. That's camp!

Campers dressed as heroes solve a puzzle in a dark

By hosting and cultivating our nerdy eduLARP camp, we see so many of our fellow nerd-o-divergents flourish as the intersectionality of both of these populations allows us to embrace and celebrate all things nerd and all things neurodivergent. Sharing the elaborate process of making a costume, bonding over a common hyperfixation topic, and recognizing a book/game/character references from across the room. Watching and nurturing the immediate connection that happens on the first day of camp and persists as friendship across the years is something I pride myself on as a camp director.

We love our nerd-o-diverse campers and cannot wait to welcome the next season of our Camp FABLE and Camp Grimoire heroes to see how they are going to help (in-game and out of game) save the world!

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