Convention Ramble (Neurodiversity in Sherlock)

Morning everyone,

This past weekend I was part of the Neurodiversity in Sherlock Holmes panel at “GridLOCK DC” a Washington D.C area Sherlock Holmes convention.


Many things happened.

Some were fun.

Some were amazing.

I will get to the best bit at some point in the future but you’ll have to wait on that.

Today we’re talkin bout the panel.


 I’m on the right here, mid sentence about…something.

Topics discussed were both about autism in general, and the tendency of many to “read” Sherlock Holmes as being neurodivergent in some manner. Labeling Sherlock Holmes is problematic to say the least, but it cannot be denied that many people relate to his differences.

We talked generalities such as:

  • Functioning labels, definition and connotation
  • Executive Functioning
  • Autism Empathy Myth (we’re not sociopaths thank you)
  • Definitions of  “neurodiversity” and “neurodivergence”

And more Sherlock Holmes specific:

  • Character’s divergent behaviors (and of other characters)
  • Troubling statements made by a certain actor and that being considered a good actor or a good person doesn’t make one an authority on everything
  • BBC Sherlock’s entire “high functioning sociopath” silliness
  • The ability to make Sherlock Holmes into anything we like (as he is, really, not a well developed character, its easy to mold him into whatever we want/need)
  • Problems with labeling the character with specific disorders

It went well.

Had a nice mention on “Art in the Blood” a Sherlockian fan/forum site:

Amanda Mills is becoming one of my favorite presenters. She was one of the two presenters on a powerful panel called “Neurodiversity in Sherlock.” This might have been my favorite panel (even including the two in which I participated!). I really appreciate the way Mills approaches subjects that can be confusing or even unknown to people, such as autism and other examples of neurodiversity, such as bipolar disorder and sociopathy. She speaks clearly, concisely and with authority, but she is quick to contextualize her responses with relevant peer-reviewed data and the caveat that she can only speak for her own experiences. As an audience member, I felt very welcomed to ask questions and contribute ideas (mostly I just clapped and laughed and hummmmmed in interest).

So that is really good.

I felt though, somewhat discouraged concerning having to explain the difference between theory of mind (a deficit of everyone on this planet) and emotional empathy to an otherwise knowledgeable and accepting crowd. It’s not their fault, but still, its disheartening.

I touched on that quite a bit for Quora, but don’t believe its been delved into too much on this blog.

It needs covering.

Let’s do that.


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