The spiky profile is a really interesting and helpful way to explain the neurodivergent skill set. Autistic people and ADHDers tend to have really advanced skills in some areas and very poor ones in others. This is considered quite different to the skill sets of neurotypical people.

So, if you imagine a graph with each of your skills plotted on to it and then you join them all together. (I’ve labelled the one below with various skills, just as an example). You’ll see that this imaginary person has some really strong areas – such as the ability to hyperfocus, in-depth knowledge in their area of special interest etc – and these are the peaks. In between each peak is a trough and this is where you would see your weaker skills – in this case, cooking, communication, organisation etc.

It’s thought that neurotypicals don’t have such extremes of peaks and troughs. So their graphs would look much more even – less extremes in either direction – more of a shallow wavy line, perhaps. When we link all of the skill sets of a neurodivergent up, they tend to look very spiky – hence the name spiky profile!

 

I like to think that our peaks more than offset our troughs – we’re very, very good at the things we’re good at, after all! Unfortunately, because we’re misunderstood by non-autistic people so much of the time, they don’t generally understand our spiky profiles, so if we’re really great at one or two things, they expect that we should be able to perform well in all areas of life (particularly at tasks that they would consider very straightforward) which of course we can’t, for a multitude of reasons. This causes us a huge amount of stress and frustration in our everyday lives.

Conversely, if we have organisational difficulties or restricted communication, people commonly assume that we are incompetent in all areas, or that we have learning disabilities.

So the spiky profile could be a really neat way to explain to people why we behave in ways that are unexpected to them, and maybe, just maybe they will begin to understand us a little more. I think it’s a great concept.

You can read more about it in this good little article on the website Neuroclastic: Autistic Skill Sets: A Spiky Profile of Peaks and Troughs.