What is Neurodiversity
Neurodiversity is a concept that celebrates the natural diversity of human brains and minds. It emphasizes that neurological differences, are natural variations of the human experience rather than defects that need to be fixed. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of neurodiversity and the need for neurodiversity-affirming practices to support individuals and their families who live with neurodiversity.
No Two Brains Function the Same
“Neurodiversity” is a word used to explain the diversity of human minds, and the unique ways people’s brains work. While everyone’s brain develops similarly, no two brains function the same. Being neurodivergent means having a brain that works differently from the average or “neurotypical” person. This may be differences in social preferences, ways of learning, ways of communicating and/or ways of perceiving the environment.
If you are “neurodivergent” (ND) you probably have a mind that differs significantly from what the prevailing standard. Still, there is no normal or abnormal, because there is no typical for how the human brain operates.
There are numerous ways to be neurodivergent, most commonly including autism, ADHD, mental health conditions, sensory processing disorders, giftedness and twice exceptionality, aphantasia (difficulty visualizing images in the mind), dyslexia, dyspraxia (difficulty with coordination), dyscalculia (difficulty with math), dysgraphia (difficulty with writing) Downs syndrome, intellectual disabilities, Prader-Willi syndrome, Tourette syndrome, and Williams syndrome, as other conditions.
Differently-Abled Rather Than Disability
The neurodiversity paradigm is a perspective that challenges the traditional medical model. The medical model views neurological differences as disorders that need to be “cured,” with the idea that there is one “normal” or “healthy” brain type or style of functioning.
The traditional notion of ability and disability emphasizes the diverse ways individuals' brains function. The term "differently-abled" recognizes that people have a spectrum of abilities that may not conform to conventional expectations.
Embracing the concept of "differently-abled" encourages us to appreciate the unique talents and perspectives that neurodivergent individuals bring to various domains, fostering a more inclusive and accepting environment.
Distinguish Different From Less Than
Neurodiversity challenges the predominant societal narrative that associates neurological differences with brokenness or being "less than."
The empowering concept of neurodiversity asserts that neurodivergent individuals are not flawed versions of a neurotypical norm. Rather, neurodivergent individuals represent the natural variation in human cognitive functioning.
Embracing neurodiversity means recognizing the inherent value of diverse minds and acknowledging that neurodivergent individuals contribute unique strengths and perspectives to society. Instead of viewing differences as deficits, the neurodiversity paradigm encourages a shift towards appreciating the richness that comes from cognitive diversity.
The idea that one is not broken or less than underpins the movement toward creating environments that celebrate the full spectrum of human neurological experiences.
The concept of neurodiversity doesn’t mean people who are neurodivergent deny that they have struggles. Yet, experts’ research about the knowledge and language of neurodiversity gives people who are neurodivergent the tools to adapt and help themselves succeed.
Accommodating the differently-abled perspective in neurodiversity involves creating environments that are flexible, understanding, and tailored to individual needs. It's crucial to involve neurodivergent individuals in the accommodation process, recognizing their expertise in understanding their own experiences and preferences.
Neurodiversity-affirming practices contribute to the richness of human experiences which need to be acknowledged and accepted. These practices recognize, for example, that while some individuals may thrive in traditional educational or workplace settings, others may excel through experiential learning, self-directed study, hands-on exploration, enriching educational and workplace environments.
For example, an individual with autism may excel in pattern recognition or exhibit extraordinary attention to detail, showcasing unique cognitive strengths. Similarly, someone with ADHD might demonstrate remarkable creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. These examples highlight how neurodiversity reframes the narrative around abilities, acknowledging that each person's strengths and challenges contribute to a rich tapestry of skills.
The Neurodiversity-Affirming Movement
The neurodiversity movement is a broad social justice movement that seeks civil rights and equality and encourages us to move away from pathologizing neurodivergent individuals. It focuses on creating inclusive environments that value and accommodate diverse ways of thinking and being.
The neurodiversity-affirming movement not only promotes inclusivity but also fosters a sense of pride and self-acceptance among neurodivergent individuals, affirming that they are whole, valid, and deserving of respect just as they are.
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