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Your Brain is Designed to be Spiky

Krystal Revai Sodaitis, MD, MPH introduces the term "spiky profile" and illustrates how the disparity between strengths and weaknesses is more pronounced in gifted/multi-exceptional people than for the average person.

December 25, 2023

There is a relatively new term in the neurodiversity space called spiky profile.

This term describes a phenomenon whereby the disparity between strengths and weaknesses is more pronounced in gifted/multi-exceptional people than for the average person.

In this article, we’ll dive into the concept of spiky profiles and why understanding and embracing them is essential for appreciating the beauty of our individuality.

I’ll explain why autistic doctors or physicians with ADHD or other neuro-developmental diagnoses may have a more spiky profile than others. 

 

This article explains why autistic doctors or physicians with ADHD or other neuro-developmental diagnoses may have a more spiky profile than others. Share on X

 

If we were to map our skills and abilities on a bell curve, the areas where we excel would be situated on the right side, while those in which we might be average or even below average would find their place on the left side of the curve. The curve reflects the distribution of our abilities.

As you move further to one end of that bell curve, there’s a balancing act happening on the other side. The more gifted you are in one area, the more likely you will have a corresponding challenge or less proficiency in another. The greater the differences between the two, the more likely someone is to take note of the difference. 

Let’s use IQ to demonstrate: let’s say someone’s ID hovers in the average IQ range (100). Their visual-spatial ability may be at 110, so they are good at puzzles. At the same time, their working memory is at 90. This 20-point difference could manifest as having difficulty remembering where they put the puzzle piece they just put down to fill in a particular spot. This person may not even notice it’s a strength and weakness.

Let’s compare that to a physician with ADHD with visual-spatial abilities closer to 150 ( highly gifted). The balance may be a score of 80 (borderline mental disability) for working memory. That 70-point difference will be felt, perhaps sharply. Most people would be cognizant of that difference and may even have significant difficulties as a result. 

 

 

In another example, someone may be an autistic physician with exceptional mathematical skills or an uncanny knack for pattern recognition. (It’s important to note that not everyone with autism is a mathematical genius). That same person may struggle with time management.

As a radiation oncologist, they are at the top of their field, but getting to work on time is a problem and may lead to work performance issues. That person may ask themselves, “I love my job; why can’t I get to work on time?”

 

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A personal example: My executive functioning and linear thinking skills are off the charts. My creativity and strategic thinking abilities are not as sharp. It’s not a matter of capability; it’s just that some skills come more naturally to me than others. That’s not to say I can’t be creative or think strategically. These may require more time and effort, and I account for that. I could use some of my executive functioning skills as support. 

Understanding this concept is significant because it helps us embrace our uniqueness and appreciate the diversity of human talents. If you hover around the mean in multiple areas, it’s unlikely you will feel a significant difference between your skills. But when there’s a considerable gap between your talents, you lose perspective and start to view yourself as “broken” or that the challenge is a problem. The truth is both sides of the coin are normal and valid. We can no more “cure” dyslexia than we can perfect pitch. 

 

Understanding spiky profiles is significant because it helps us embrace our uniqueness and appreciate the diversity of human talents. Share on X

 

When we fail to recognize the spiky profiles in ourselves and others, our brains focus on the deficits, not the strengths. It’s time to acknowledge and celebrate these differences as our individual “superpowers.” Instead of labeling them as deficits, let’s appreciate the incredible diversity of human abilities.

So, the next time you start to focus on the area where you struggle, remember that your superpower might be just waiting to shine. Let’s embrace the beauty of our spiky profiles and acknowledge that our differences make us extraordinary. It’s time to celebrate the diversity of human abilities and empower each other to shine in our unique ways.

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. For more information, or to submit your own opinion, please see our submission guidelines or email opmed@doximity.com. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Find out what we’re looking for here and submit your writing, or send us a pitch.

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Submit your own article now here.

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One Response

  1. This was very interesting and I loved your examples. Being able to see our strengths and weaknesses in a context helps self-esteem. Thanks so much for sharing it. Dove Wilson @braincoach333

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