Understanding Neurodiversity: Who Has It and What Does It Mean?

Neurodiversity is a term that was coined by sociologist Judy Singer in the late 1990s to describe the natural variations in the way people's brains work. It is used to refer to individuals whose brain functions and behaviors differ from what is considered “normal”. This includes people with autism, ADHD, Tourette syndrome, dyslexia, and a variety of other neurodiverse conditions. The concept of neurodiversity recognizes that both brain function and behavioral traits are simply indicators of the diversity of the human population.

It is the view that brain differences are normal, rather than deficits. Neurodiversity is a recognition that not all brains think or feel the same way, and that these differences are natural variations of the human genome. A group of people is neurodiverse, an individual is not. Neurodiversity describes the variation in the human experience of the world, at school, at work and through social relationships.

It is estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of the world's population has some type of neurodivergence. Additionally, 1 to 3 neurodivergent conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), are overrepresented in STEM fields. Rather than thinking that there is something wrong or problematic when some people don't function in a similar way to others, neurodiversity embraces all the differences. It is an understanding that everyone has their own unique way of thinking and feeling, and that this should be celebrated rather than judged.

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