What is neurodiversity?
Have you heard this term mentioned and not know what it means? Maybe you already identify as neurodiverse? This article is about helping others to better understand and be inclusive of neurodiverse individuals.
Neurodiverse: “neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome.” source
Neurotypical: A person without certain neurological differences above would be described as “neurotypical“.
There has been a much-needed shift in the language used to refer to young people with neurological differences in their brain styles and thinking. For example, individuals with:
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Order)
- DSD (Dyspraxia)
- Tourette Syndrome
Up until recently, the medical model has labeled autism and ADHD as a “disorder” with “problems” that should be cured or fixed. This paradigm encourages individuals to mask or hide their differences in order to fit in with the status quo. It tells them that there is something wrong with who they are. This invokes a sense of shame, identity problems, and poor mental health
The neurodiversity approach takes the idea that differences in brain styles exist. Just as we acknowledge and celebrate diversity in other aspects of our culture – ethnicity, race, religion, personality, appearance – we should also accept that not all people think and act in the same way. Many of the challenges that come with being neurodiverse are because our society is not set up in favour of these individuals. For example, being extraverted and having a high social drive is glorified over liking to spend time on your own. Children with ADHD are often mistaken as disruptive or unable to learn. Neurodiverse people should be embraced rather than moulded around others’ expectations.
There are many strengths of being neurodiverse because they can think outside the box. For example, creativity, innovation, highly specialised skills and attention to detail are commonly associated with neurodivergent people. More and more companies have started to realise the advantages of having neurodiverse individuals on their teams.
Did you know…. these famous figures were neurodiverse?
- Billie Eilish
- Albert Einstein
- Richard Branson
- Bill Gates
- And many more… approximately 1 in 7 people are not neuro-typical!
In sum, there are many benefits from being wired differently, and what is normal anyway?
So how can you be more neuro affirming?
- Think in terms of natural variations rather than deficiencies
- Support individuals to skills and focus on independence and autonomy
- Encourage individuals to realise unique qualities and strengths to boost self-esteem
- Take time to listen and understand other people’s experiences
- Be curious and open rather than judgemental
- Create an environment where they can feel comfortable such as giving support to reduce anxiety in certain situations
- Adapt to different ways of communicating and acting