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What is neurodiversity?

The neurodiversity view is that brain differences are normal, rather than deficiencies. This concept can help reduce the stigma around differences in thinking and learning.



What if the world looked differently at neurodevelopmental differences such as ADHD, autism, and learning disabilities? If everyone first noticed the strengths that can arise from these differences, rather than the challenges?


That's the basic idea of neurodiversity: that differences should not be viewed solely as disadvantages. They are not problems to be "fixed" or "cured." They are simply variations of the human brain.


The view of neurodiversity is also a personal one. Being neurodiverse or neurodivergent can help shape identity and how people perceive themselves and their value in society. Neurodiverse people experience, interact with and interpret the world in unique ways. That can sometimes cause challenges. However, it can also lead to new ideas and creative ways of solving problems, which benefits everyone.


The concept of neurodiversity is not new. Judy Singer, a sociologist with an interest in the autism spectrum, began using the term in the late 1990s. Singer rejected the idea that people with autism are disabled. Her view was that their brains simply functioned differently from those of other people.


The term was adopted by some activists in the autism community and by others. They have used it to reduce stigma and promote inclusion in schools and the workplace.


Brain and Neurodevelopmental Differences


Some people think that learning differences and ADHD are not real. Others mistakenly believe that people who have these conditions are intelligent.


These beliefs are based on myths. Research has shown differences in brain structure and function. That explains why neurodiverse people may experience certain challenges. But these differences do not affect intelligence.


The neurodiversity approach is that brain differences are only variations in the way the brain is "wired".


Neurodiversity and disability


The neurodiversity approach is that differences are not deficits and are part of what is considered normal. However, this does not mean that "diagnosis" or "disability" are inappropriate words or concepts.


Being diagnosed with a disability gives people legal protection. It allows children to receive special education and support in school. And it can help employees get accommodations and other supports in the workplace.


Recognizing that neurodiversity and disability coexist has other benefits as well:


  • It decreases the likelihood that children will be ignored or overlooked in school.

  • It makes it clear that all people have challenges that deserve support.

  • It encourages funding for research.


That's why it's important to recognize differences as well as disabilities. Each can help people thrive. Also, these terms can sometimes be part of identity, so it is important to value them.

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