Image courtesy of Millikin University
Image courtesy of Millikin University

Jonathan Mooney: Stop Faking Normal

March 31, 2023

Jonathan Mooney left an impact on Millikin’s community and campus by stating a challenge to the community as a whole “to stop faking normal.”

Mooney is an activist in the space of neurodivergence. He is the author of books which is known as Normal Sucks, The Short Bus, and Learning Outside The Lines. He graduated from Brown University in the class of 2000 and holds an honors degree in English Literature.

With all these successes, the path was not always easy for him. At the age of nine he was diagnosed behavior and executive functioning problems, ADHD conduct disorder, and others when he was 10. At the age of 12 he ended up leaving school due to struggling with many mental health challenges such as anxiety, and depression, and had a suicide plan.  That’s also when he learned to read. At the age of 13, he ended up going back into the school system.

Mooney conveyed the message of advocating for yourself and being that advocate when others may need it the most inside and outside of the school system.

“The person in my corner was my mom,” Mooney said. “She understood it in her soul. She understood that I didn’t need somebody in my life to fix me. What I needed was somebody in my life to fight for and with me, and those are two very different things.”

In college, Mooney decided to advocate for himself and what he needed to succeed in learning.

“My journey changed when I decided to fight for myself,” he said. “Like my mom told me, I should fight for my rights.

“For accommodations, it’s the idea that the environment should change and not the person and I resisted those for so much of my education.

“Hey, I don’t want to be a different person. No, but things changed for me.”

He learned from those times that “we got to go beyond accommodation just for some because that’s what we got right now.

“You know you get accommodation if you diagnose yourself as having a problem. It reinforces this whole system of there’s the normal learners over here and the advert learners over there. When the truth is we’re all on a continuum of learning diversity so we have to move towards accommodations for all.”

As Mooney dug deeper into the challenge he proposed to Millikin’s community and campus to “stop faking normal”. The idea ideology of “stop faking normal” resonated with Millikin’s students and staff that attended Mooney’s lecture.

“It is so important to break the stigma that’s behind all the things related to the special item,” said Carrie Pierson, Dean of Academic Support Service.

“You don’t have to look at it as a disorder or dysfunction. It’s just they can still get to the same goal. Why does it have to be A, B,C?  Why can’t it be A, X, F, K, S, E like that matter? As long, as you can still end up with the goal that you want how you get there. I mean, in the big deal.”

“I loved the whole stop faking normal, like be different, be you sort of thing.” said, Brynn Sentnor, a Senior at Millikin University.

“I think that if we all make an effort to show people that we are different, and we do have ADHD, and dyslexia, and whatever else like,  and just like make that okay, and make that awesome, like make that your superpower.”

Another Millikin Student, Leah Flint said, “Something that I wrote in my notes, just stop faking normal, like being verbal about the things that you struggle with really brings it to light and helps other people feel seen.”

“It’s really important to continue to just educate people in general about, you know, any minority groups, such as you know, neurodivergent people who struggle with not fitting into the norm or the population when they are just as much as part of the population as everyone else.”

Mooney said that there were haters and believers throughout his life. Although he is proud that he prove haters wrong, topping all other feelings he was able prove the believers that they were right that he did not have to fake being normal.

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