The term "neurodivergent" refers to the idea that differences in the human brain are natural and normal and, in many cases, can lead to meaningful and positive knowledge and skills. People are described as neurodiverse when their thinking patterns, behaviors or learning styles are outside what is considered "normal" or neurotypical.
The concept of neurodiversity is gaining traction as neurodiverse and neurotypical people discover that differences are not necessarily disabilities. Some differences can be real strengths.
This article discusses the meaning of the term neurodivergent, types of neurodiversity, why it is important, signs of neurodiversity, and how to accommodate a person with neurodiversity.
Overview of neurodivergence
The term neurodiversity was first used in 1997 by autistic sociologist Judy Singer.The term should be similar to the term "biodiversity", suggesting that differences in neurological function are strengths rather than weaknesses.
Who is neurodiverse?
The neurodiverse population includes people with specific diagnoses that are considered developmental disabilities (as opposed to intellectual disabilities or mental illnesses). These include, among others:
- autism: a developmental disorder that includes differences in social communication skills, fine and gross motor skills, language, and more
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): A neurodevelopmental disorder that includes features of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity
- Tourette's syndrome: Attic disorder that begins in childhood and involves involuntary and repetitive movements and vocalizations.
- Various learning disorders, such asDyslexia(Difficulties with language skills, especially reading) anddyscalculia(difficulty in arithmetic)
There are also individuals with related symptoms, but no diagnosis, who are considered neurodiverse.
The term neurodiversity is rarely used to refer to mental disorders such asschizophrenia,Depression, ÖBipolar disorder. However, there is debate about whether the term "neurodiversity" is an appropriate term for treatable mental illness. Another related term, "mad pride", is sometimes associated with mental illness.
Why the term "neurodiversity" became popular
The term “neurodiversity” quickly caught on.This happened for several reasons. For one thing, the number of people diagnosed with developmental disorders skyrocketed in the early 2000s, making neurodiversity a much more common phenomenon.
Because people don't "outgrow" autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, or Tourette's syndrome, neurodiverse children grow into neurodiverse adults, many of whom are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves.
Another important reason for the popularity of the concept of neurodiversity is that definitions of terms such as autism spectrum, ADHD, and learning disabilities (some of the challenges most commonly associated with neurodiversity) have been, and still are, in flux.
Many people grew up before certain disorders were labeled, but they always felt like an outsider. Today, many of these people feel embraced by the neurodiversity movement.
Diagnostic terms are constantly changing, based primarily on cultural norms and expectations. people who wereneurotípico50 years ago they were not considered like that and vice versa.
For example, it wasn't until 1973 that homosexuality (romantic love for a person of the same sex) ceased to exist as a pathological condition (associated with or caused by mental illness).Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM). The DSM is the American Psychiatric Association's official manual on mental and developmental disorders.
In 2013, major changes were made that (among other things) eliminated said disorder.Asperger's syndrome(the functional upper end of the autism spectrum) of the DSM, changed the definitions of autism and ADHD and addedhoarding disorder(as a new diagnosable disorder.
Asperger's syndrome was only considered a disease in its own right for about 20 years, from 1993 to 2013. Hoarding (accumulating excess possessions, often of little value) only became pathological until 2013. It was probably thought to be neurotypical before. Clearly, the distinction between neurotypical and neurodivergent is flexible and ever-changing.
Why is neurodiversity important?
The concept of neurodiversity is becoming increasingly attractive to people who consider themselves to be neurodivergent (often those with specific diagnoses) and to those who write, speak, and work directly with neurodivergent people. There are several reasons for this, including:
- Neurodivergent self-advocates have become strong advocates for the concept of neurodiversity and work hard to establish a sense of pride in neurodiverse ways of thinking and behaving.
- Educators are finding that a large portion of their student population is neurodivergent and legally obligated to make reasonable educational accommodations based on individual needs rather than diagnosis. "Neurodiversity" is a general term that covers a large population of students.
- Many employers and members of the general population consideradaptive benefitsto neurodivergence.actually theHarvard Business Reviewexplicitly promotes neurodiversity as a competitive advantage because it often confers many strengths and positive traits.
- The number of people who can be classified as neurodivergent is very high and continues to grow. While no official statistics are available, the peer support organization ADHD Aware estimates that the number of people with neurodivergent disorders (autism, ADHD, Tourette's, various learning disabilities and associated challenges) exceeds 30% of the population.
Signs of neurodivergence
Often, neurodivergence is only recognized as a result of a diagnosis, but it is clear that neurodiversity exists before the diagnosis and can exist with or without a diagnosis. It is possible to become neurodiverse as a result of physical or emotional injury or trauma, but in most cases neurodiversity is usually present from birth.
Research into the genetic and environmental causes of disorders such as autism and ADHD is ongoing, and there is no doubt that many people are simply born with atypical brains.
There are many ways in which thoughts, behaviors, and emotional responses can be neurodivergent, and it's important to remember that neurodivergence is a cultural construct. Therefore, behaviors considered “normal” in one part of the world may be considered “atypical” in another place or time in history.
Challenging symptoms of neurodiversity
Being neurodiverse can be challenging because, by definition, neurodiverse people are not “like everyone else”. As a result, they may have difficulty adjusting socially, behaving as expected, or easily adapting to change. Some common and challenging symptoms of neurodiversity are:
- difficulties in social communication
- Speech and language challenges
- Learning difficulties, which may be related to problems with concentration, reading, numeracy, speech and/or languageexecutive function(important skills including working memory, flexible thinking and self-control)
- Unusual responses to sensory input (sensitivityor unusual insensitivity to light, sound, heat, cold, pressure, crowds, and other stimuli)
- Unusual physical behavior, such as rocking, squirming, babbling, and screaming at unexpected times
- Inflexibility (inability to adjust or change interests based on age or situation)
ADHD and Dyslexia: Living Well with Dual Diagnosis
Useful symptoms of neurodiversity
Neurodiversity can make life difficult, but it can also make certain tasks easier. In some cases, neurodiverse ways of seeing and understanding the world can lead to exciting discoveries and intriguing results. Some positive signs of neurodiversity are:
- Ability to focus on a topic or activity of interest for extended periods of time.
- Thinking outside the box, which can lead to innovative solutions to challenges.
- Strong powers of observation and attention to detail.
- Superior ability to recognize patterns, including in codes and behaviors.
- Some have strong skills in areas such as music, art, technology and science.
These are, of course, very general descriptions. Each individual is unique and certain abilities, for example, are more likely to occur in an autistic person than in a person with dyscalculia, or vice versa.
How to Accommodate Someone Who is Neurodivergent
Neurodivergent people can be very different, making it difficult to come up with a single list of adaptations. However, there are some adjustments that can help both children and adults with or without specific neurodivergent diagnoses.
Some accommodations are required by law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Some of the simplest and most effective customizations are:
- Awareness of neurodivergence and willingness to be flexible in the school or workplace when faced with specific and appropriate demands: this could range from wearing noise canceling headphones in school hallways to preferring to work from home or Communication by SMS or video is enough for a conference.
- Positive responses to sensory challenges that can lead to physical discomfort: may include replacing fluorescent light bulbs with less aggressive LED or incandescent light bulbs, reducing ambient noise, eliminating perfume, providing noise canceling headphones, and providing natural light .
- Supported scheduling and time technology: This may include smartphone alarms, calendars and other time management software.
- Options for different ways of receiving and delivering information: may include oral versus written reports, videos versus lectures, typed versus face-to-face responses.
- Sensitivity to social differences: Examples include taking it easy rather than reacting negatively when someone is loud, ticks, stutters, or has difficulty socializing in typical ways, as well as repeating words or speaking more slowly to avoid doing so to improve understanding.
- Opportunities to learn or communicate in preferred ways
In addition to adapting to differences, it is also important to recognize differences and use them when they are helpful. Ways to achieve this include:
- Craftsmanship that makes the most of an individual's strengths without unduly challenging weaknesses
- Assign a specific job or activity based on a person's strengths and preferences
- Ask neurodivergent students or employees for advice and information on how to design office space, equipment, and project management systems.
Neurodivergence is a relatively new concept that presents neurological differences as normal variations rather than pathological disorders. While the concept is new, its importance is growing and can go a long way towards creating accessible schools, workplaces and communities.
People who are neurodivergent are usually diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia or Tourette's syndrome, but they may also have related differences such as: B. Sensory dysfunction.
It is not only appropriate, but easy and useful to work with neurodivergent self-advocates, students and staff to make arrangements while supporting and nurturing individual strengths and abilities.
A Word from Verywell
If you feel that you or a loved one is neurodivergent, you are not alone. The term is becoming better understood and can be useful as a tool to explain your challenges, needs and strengths. You may also want to get more involved in the neurodiversity movement by reading more about the subject, joining advocacy groups, or advocating for specific precautions at your school or workplace.
Am I neurodivergent?
As there is no official definition of neurodivergence, different people and groups have different ideas about what it is. You are fully neurodivergent if you have been diagnosed with a developmental or learning disorder such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia or Tourette's syndrome.
You may choose to consider yourself neurodivergent if you don't have a diagnosis, but you think, behave, or interact in an unusual way.
You may also describe yourself as neurodivergent if you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, such as schizophrenia, although mental illnesses are generally not included in definitions of neurodivergence.
Is neurodivergence a disability?
People with neurodivergence often have a diagnosis commonly referred to as a disability. That said, many autistic people consider their autism to be a strength, and the same is true for people with diagnoses like ADHD or dyslexia.
However, the reality is that the world is often created for the benefit of neurotypical people, so it can be harder for neurodivergent people to function well in school or work.
Is neurodivergence genetic?
Some forms of neurodivergence are almost certainly at least partially genetic. For example, research shows that autisme TDAHthey are often hereditary. It is also possible to become neurodivergent from exposure to certain medications in utero or from physical or emotional injuries.