“The notion that there is a normal we should all aspire to is a tyrannical idea. It is a fiction deeply embedded in our institutions that causes a lot of harm in the world.”

Jonathan MooneyAuthor & Learning Advocate

 

The future of normal

a production in collaboration with The Kindling Group

Launched by a revolution and founded on rugged individualism, America has a proud history of embracing diversity. And yet we have spent the past 150 years building school, work and social institutions that measure everything against average—or normal—making people who are different feel like they don’t belong.

The Future of Normal is a wake up call.

A broad-reaching documentary film and national engagement campaign, The Future of Normal examines the tension between our country’s long-standing fixation with conformity and the need to understand, accommodate and embrace individual difference.

The Old Paradigm

For millions of neurodivergent children and adults—including individuals with ADHD, dyslexia, other learning disabilities and high-functioning autism—life can be overwhelmingly difficult. 

In the past, people who learned differently were, at best, trained to mold themselves to fit the norm. At worst, they were ostracized, over-medicated or institutionalized. Even today, most schools require students to sit still, complete linear tasks and take standardized tests. The workplace is often similar: desk sitting, linear tasks, and a strict hierarchy of authority, where neurodivergent behaviors are often judged as stupid, lazy or unprofessional. 

Many competent and creative people, who don’t—or can’t—conform to these rigid environments, fail to reach their full potential, depriving our country of enormous reservoirs of talent. When provisions are made that improve their performance, they are often labeled with a diagnosis that sets them apart from their peers—a double-edged sword. 

Launched by a revolution and founded on rugged individualism, America has a proud history of embracing diversity. And yet we have spent the past 150 years building school, work and social institutions that measure everything against average—or normal—making people who are different feel like they don’t belong.

The Future of Normal is a wake up call.

A broad-reaching documentary film and national engagement campaign, The Future of Normal examines the tension between our country’s long-standing fixation with conformity and the need to understand, accommodate and embrace individual difference.

The Old Paradigm

For millions of neurodivergent children and adults—including individuals with ADHD, dyslexia, other learning disabilities and high-functioning autism—life can be overwhelmingly difficult. 

In the past, people who learned differently were, at best, trained to mold themselves to fit the norm. At worst, they were ostracized, over-medicated or institutionalized. Even today, most schools require students to sit still, complete linear tasks and take standardized tests. The workplace is often similar: desk sitting, linear tasks, and a strict hierarchy of authority, where neurodivergent behaviors are often judged as stupid, lazy or unprofessional. 

Many competent and creative people, who don’t—or can’t—conform to these rigid environments, fail to reach their full potential, depriving our country of enormous reservoirs of talent. When provisions are made that improve their performance, they are often labeled with a diagnosis that sets them apart from their peers—a double-edged sword. 

What all of our efforts in neuroscience are demonstrating is that you have many peculiar ways of arranging a human brain and there are all sorts of varieties of creative, successful human beings ... ADHD, dyslexia and autism, are not deficits or disorders, but facets on the broad spectrum of neurodiversity.”

Dr. Antonio Damasio
Professor of Neuroscience
University of Southern California

The Future

The good news is that the concept of “normal” is being revisited in many spheres of American life, whether it pertains to race, ability, gender or sexuality. And we are seeing
increased support for diversity in the most fundamental thing that makes us human: how we think

A new focus on “neurodiversity,” where difference is valued, is gaining momentum in the fields of neuroscience, education, psychology, genetics and business. Across the country schools, workplaces and communities are accommodating—and welcoming—the unique gifts of those who have been marginalized. And many successful entrepreneurs, scientists, politicians, educators and artists publicly acknowledge their neurodivergent qualities as
positive, even game-changing, assets. 

THE DIFFERENTS: STORIES FROM THE FUTURE OF NORMAL

At the heart of The Future of Normal is a racially, geographically, economically and neurologically diverse cast of engaging individuals, who face the challenges of school, workplace and social situations that demand “normal” at every turn. Some have found ways to make the most of their distinctive ways of thinking and knowing. Others are caught in the crosscurrents of change and struggling to stay afloat in a system rigged against them. Still others, who might thrive with the right conditions, are barely surviving. 

The Future of Normal will interweave intimate personal stories with explorations of larger forces at work: new science about how different brains function; historical, social and psychological forces that perpetuate conformity; and neuroscientists, employers and educators, whose innovations are maximizing people’s unique strengths and creating schools, workplaces, tools, and social structures that redefine what it means to be normal.

BUILDING A CAMPAIGN

20% of Americans are affected by learning differences.
That’s more than 30 million people —a community big enough
to create a powerful movement that can engender powerful change.

The film will be the backbone of a cross-platform engagement campaign that combines the authenticity of a documentary with cutting-edge digital amplification and live events. The campaign rests on proven principles for expanding reach and deepening impact: Establish a clearly defined mission and ethos; understand audiences and reach them where they already “live”; build productive partnerships; move audiences to realistic action; and test and iterate content and approach. 

Our goal is to raise awareness of human diversity at a time when we need multiple perspectives to solve the complex problems of our time. We will accomplish that by igniting conversations about something already on many people’s minds: how to re-think “normal” in a world of difference.