Understanding Neurodiversity: A Comprehensive Guide

The term neurodiversity is used to refer to the diversity of all people, but is often used in the context of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as other neurological or developmental conditions, such as ADHD or learning disabilities. Neurodiversity is not the same as disability, but people who have neurodivergent characteristics may need adaptations at work or school. Neurodiversity is a view that brain differences are normal, rather than deficits. Neurodiversity encompasses all specific learning difficulties (SPD), many of which coexist or overlap. For example, dyslexia is one of the SPDs that often coexists with other conditions.

Neurodiversity is rooted in the social model of disability, which views disability as a civil rights issue. This model rejects the idea that an individual must be “normal” to enjoy the full range of human experiences, and holds that an impediment should not constitute a barrier to inclusion or access. The neurodiversity approach is mainly a call to include and respect people whose brain functions atypically, regardless of their level of disability. This includes non-cisgender identities in neurodiversity, which could best be explained by having neurodiverse relationship preferences or by lacking typical relationship preferences. Respecting neurodiversity means not insisting on eye contact when autistic people have stated (time and time again) that it is too overwhelming and stressful for them to pay attention. Respecting neurodiversity also means apologizing for decades of wrongly insisting that autistic people lack emotions or empathy, and for all the harm, both physical and psychological, that has been done to autistic people (and continues to be done) due to mistakes made by Neurotypicals.

Gender identities that differ from biological sex (non-cisgender identities) appear to be more common in autism and neurodiversity. The Autism Rights Movement (ARM) is a social movement within the neurodiversity movement that encourages autistic people, their caregivers and society to adopt a position of neurodiversity, accepting autism as a variation in functioning and not as a mental disorder that must be cured. We must respect that, in general, they learn things in a different order than normal children and stop following their progress within the time frames of neurotypical development. Proponents of neurodiversity suggest that too much attention is paid to the deficiencies that come with conditions such as ADHD. Ultimately, neurodiversity helps us understand that each person has different experiences depending on how their brain works. It means accepting that some children will learn to write but never to speak, or that they will always understand music better than their manners, or that they will never have an interest in sports or will not identify with a binary genre; and that there is room in this world to appreciate and celebrate all these people for who they are, regardless of the amount of help they need. Author David Pollak views neurodiversity as an inclusive term that refers to the equality of all possible mental states.

And while there is a distinction between neurodiversity and disability, right now some people want to hold on to the identity of the disability to recognize that the work and school environment hasn't been adjusted yet.

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