Understanding Neurodiversity: What Does it Mean to be Neurodivergent?

The concept of neurodiversity is gaining traction in the world today, and it's important to understand what it means. Neurodiversity refers to the diversity of all people, but is often used in the context of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other neurological or developmental conditions, such as ADHD or learning disabilities. A person who is neurodivergent behaves, thinks and learns differently compared to neurotypical people. This term can be used to describe an individual whose brain works differently from what we consider “normal”.

This includes people with autism, ADHD, Tourette syndrome, dyslexia, and a variety of other neurodiverse conditions. The neurodiversity movement advocates for the idea that our brains are different and that everyone (whether neurotypical or neurodivergent) should be treated equally by people, the workplace and external environments. The self-identifying label of “neurodivergent” originally focused on autistic people. However, in more recent years it has been used to describe those who think, behave and learn differently from what is typical in society. Being neurodivergent should not be considered an inherent deficit, but simply a difference in processing the world around us. Judy Singer, a sociologist with autism, began using the term neurodiversity in the late 1990s.

It refers to the concept that certain developmental disorders are normal variations in the brain. And people who have these characteristics also have certain strengths. Neurodivergence is often first recognized as the result of a diagnosis, but, of course, neurodiversity exists before diagnosis and can exist with or without a diagnosis. It's not only appropriate, but also easy and useful to work with neurodivergent self-advocates, students, and employees to offer adaptations while supporting and promoting individual strengths and abilities. You can also choose to describe yourself as neurodivergent if you are diagnosed with a mental illness such as schizophrenia, although mental illness is not usually included in the definitions of neurodivergence. Since there is no official definition of neurodivergent, various people and groups have different ideas of what it is.

It also teaches you how to know if you are neurodivergent and describes what it is to be neurodivergent. The results of these tests don't count as a diagnosis, but you can take the results to your doctor to explain why you think you may be neurodivergent. For many adults, discovering that they have ADHD, autism, or another form of neurodivergence often helps explain things they didn't understand before about themselves. 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. You may decide to consider yourself neurodivergent if you don't have a diagnosis but think, behave, or interact in ways that are out of the ordinary. On the other hand, if you have never been formally diagnosed but have great resonance with the descriptors of one or more types of neurodivergence.

Neurodivergent refers to an individual who has a less typical cognitive variation such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia etc. The reality however is that the world is generally configured for the benefit of neurotypical people so it may be more difficult for neurodivergent people to function well in school or at work. Promoting the acceptance of neurodiversity may have started with autism and the way it is managed but it has grown to include many different types of neurodivergents. It's important for everyone to understand what it means to be neurodivergent, so that we can create an inclusive environment for all types of thinkers.

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