Understanding Neurodiversity: What It Is and How It Impacts Us

Neurodiversity is a concept that recognizes the natural variations in the way people's brains work. It is an idea that suggests that it is normal and acceptable for people to have brains that are different from one another. Judy Singer, a sociologist with autism, first used the term in the late 1990s to refer to the notion that certain developmental disorders are normal variations of the human genome. Neurodiversity is an acknowledgment that not all brains think or feel the same way, and these differences should be celebrated.

A group of people can be considered neurodiverse, but an individual cannot. Neurodivergent is a relatively new term used to describe someone who thinks differently than most people expect (known as neurotypical). People who are neurodivergent may have certain strengths, and being neurodivergent should not be seen as an inherent deficit. 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.

People are described as neurodiverse when their thinking patterns, behaviors, or learning styles are outside of what is considered normal or neurotypical. Most people with mental illness are born without a developmental disorder and are considered predominantly neurotypical from birth. The neurodiverse population includes people with specific diagnoses that are considered developmental disorders (as opposed to intellectual disabilities or mental illness). The concept of neurodiversity has become increasingly attractive to those who consider themselves neurodivergent (often those with specific diagnoses) and for those who write, speak and work directly with neurodivergent people.

There is also a social justice movement that focuses on celebrating neurodivergence along with cultural diversity. Neurodiversity is an important concept to understand as it can help us better understand how different brains work and how we can better support those who think differently than us. By recognizing and celebrating our differences, we can create a more inclusive society where everyone feels accepted and valued.

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