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A Fun Introduction to Neurodiversity with Author Louise Gooding

Updated: May 17, 2023

Here at Imagining History, we were blown away by the book 'Wonderfully Wired Brains' by Author Louise Gooding. So much so that we just had to get Louise on to the blog!

'Wonderfully Wired Brains' takes the fascinating but oh-so-complicated topic of Neurodiversity and makes it an accessible and fun read for children (and grown-ups!)

Even better, 'Wonderfully Wired Brains' looks at the history of Neurodiversity and those who have studied it. The book is filled with fascinating historical trivia, taking the reader back in time over thousands of years to Ancient Egypt in order to tell its story.

Anyway, that's enough Interview Introduction waffle. This is an absolutely eye-opening interview, so let's get stuck straight in!

Imagining History: Could you tell our readers a little about your fascinating new book ‘Wonderfully Wired Brains’?

Author of 'Wonderfully Wired Brains', Louise Gooding.

Lousing Gooding: 'Wonderfully Wired Brains' is a fun, beautifully illustrated (thank you Ruth Burrows) exploration of Neurodiversity. Most people have probably heard of the word neurodiversity, but what does it mean?

When most people think of neurodiversity, they think “Oh, like ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia?”, but the fact is that it is actually so much more complicated than that. Neurodiversity is the diversity of all brains and, as the book explains, our brains are as individual and unique as snowflakes.

'Wonderfully Wired Brains' introduces readers to the wonderful wiring inside our heads that makes us who we are as individuals; from our likes, dislikes, experiences, and more.

It breaks down different diagnoses like ADHD, Tourettes, and Dyspraxia into easily understandable terms.

The book takes a complicated topic and turns it into a very easy and enjoyable discovery of a subject that’s not been explored by kids before.

Absolutely, ‘Wonderfully Wired Brains’ does a brilliant job of making neurology accessible to younger readers (and older readers too, like me!) What did your research consist of? It must have been absolutely epic!

I have to say that my ADHD hyperfocus helped A LOT during this project.

Many many hours were spent reading a variety of books at home and in the library for kids and adults, watching YouTube presentations, listening to podcasts, and my own drive to find out more about a topic I was really interested in. Brain health, science, and neurodiversity are fascinating topics and it is easy to get lost down many different research ‘rabbit holes’. The fact is that there was SO much exciting information and facts that we just couldn't fit it all in.

I have been passionate about learning about Neurodiversity, and its understanding and acceptance, since my daughters and I got our diagnosis. In researching my first book, ‘Just Like Me’, I found that there wasn’t really much out there on the topic of neurodiversity, at least nothing I could easily use to talk to my kids about what the term meant.

Even the books I picked up for myself I found heavy and difficult to read, with too much data, and too much information, all presented in a very neurodivergent unfriendly way. I started to do my own research and gathered things I found interesting along the way. What I found fascinating was the fact it was almost impossible to find a clear historical timeline for how we began to understand the brain. When did it all begin? How much do we really know now and how much did they know in the past without the technology we have today? Seeking the answer to one question would often spark another question for me to chase up later. I would often send my editors over exciting fun facts I had found along the way, and I guess that excitement helped translate what should be a very complex topic, into something more digestible for younger readers (and adults!).

There’s so much fascinating information in ‘Wonderfully Wired Brains’ but for this interview, we wanted to focus on Neurodiversity in history. I was blown away to learn that the Ancient Egyptians were aware of mental health, could you tell us more about this and the historical evidence that has been found?

We can trace this topic all the way back to Ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptians were looking into different ways to respond to depression and even dementia. This topic really has been around for some time!

The Ebers and Edwin Smith Papyri dates back to 1550 BC and is one of the oldest medical journals. In the chapter ‘The Book of Hearts’ it seems to make reference to both dementia and depression. The Ancient Egyptians did a lot of research into the mind and the body, and while some of their findings aren’t what we believe today, it’s still amazing to have access to their work and their beliefs on how our minds and bodies worked.

It’s fair to say that the Ancient Egyptians had a great interest in the human body, for medical research and as part of their burial ceremonies. I’m sure many embalmers got to see their fair share of brains too… although, probably not in one piece…

That’s very true, maybe more like whisked mashed-up brains I guess? So, from Ancient Egypt to Ancient Greece now. Hippocrates caused a stir in Ancient Greece, believing that mental illness had natural causes, rather than being sent from the gods. Could you tell us more about Hippocrates discoveries?

Hippocrates changed the way doctors thought about mental health.

It was common at the time to believe that mental illnesses were caused by gods or magic, but Hippocrates thought that to be poppycock, and linked the cause back to naturally occurring reasons.

He felt that doctors should study their patients and their habits to get to the root cause of their problems. A firm believer in self-care, he advocated for treatments like eating healthy food, exercising, and taking rest, to help people feel better. His work became the foundation of much medical knowledge, education, and research for centuries and is still considered very important today.

In your book, there is an eye-opening timeline of neurodiversity, featuring all sorts of historical figures, who do you find the most fascinating and why?

This is a really good question, because there are so many amazing people highlighted on the timeline for different reasons, but it’s definitely worth mentioning that there are lots of other history snippets throughout the book. For instance in the chapter ‘About ADHD’ I introduce people to Melchior Adam Weikard, who, even before the 1800’s made a record of something he described as ‘a lack of attention disorder’. I love this fact because so often ADHD is accused of being a ‘new thing’.

Someone who definitely deserves a special mention though from the timeline is Judy Singer, who created the term ‘neurodiversity’. She is still working hard today to promote neurodiversity understanding and acceptance and deserves a lot of credit for the work she has done and continues to do today. Everyone needs to know her name!

I was very interested to learn that experts believe that Benjamin Bannekar may well have been neurodiverse. Could you tell our readers (and us!) more about him?

Benjamin Banneker is a really interesting character and has a great story. Firstly, I must stress that each highlighted person in the Wonderfully Wired Brains in History chapter has never received a formal diagnosis of being neurodivergent, so it’s best to step away from attempting to give a posthumous diagnosis. What we can focus on is how wonderfully wired their brains were in the way they were unique to them and gave them the ability to do amazing things.

Benjamin was indeed someone with a wonderfully wired brain. Although he was born a freeman it was still common for African Americans to be enslaved, the attitudes towards them were grim and opportunities to thrive and be successful were slim. Benjamin was an incredibly intelligent and talented man and although denied the education he sought, even after requesting permission from government officials, he would not give up. He went on to successfully self-educate himself.

It was thought that Benjamin built the first American-made wooden clock after studying the inside workings of a watch. He was fascinated by math and astronomy and even accurately predicted a solar eclipse. He went on to publish much of his work in a yearly published handbook.

Sadly a lot of Benjamin’s work was lost soon after his death, his house was set on fire and a lot of his discoveries and equations were lost. A few of his published works survived outside the fire which is why we can get a small insight into his incredible mind. Who knows what else Benjamin would have been able to have achieved if attitudes at the time were different and the opportunity to seek further education was made available to him.

Thank you for your time, Louise, we cannot recommend ‘Wonderfully Wired Brains’ enough and wish you all the success with its launch!

'Wonderfully Wired Brains' has been released today (the 4th of May, 2023) and if you'd like a copy, please click here to head over to the DK's website.


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