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What It Means to Be "Neurodiversity-Affirming"

To understand neurodiversity-affirming, we must first have working definitions of neurodiversity and affirming.

  • Neurodiversity is "the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioral traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population" (Oxford Dictionary, 2023).

  • Affirming is to "publicly show your support for an opinion or idea;" "maintain as true;" and/or "offer (someone) emotional support or encouragement" (Oxford and Cambridge Dictionaries, 2023.

To be neurodiversity-affirming, then, is to support and maintain as true that variation in human brain function is normal. To take this a step further, it is to assume that variations are not inherently deficits that need to be "fixed." This is not to suggest that all variation is beneficial for that individual or even benign, but instead an acknowledgement that variation can produce both strengths and limitations.

This philosophy and model challenge the historically pathological paradigm of neurodiversity that individuals who experience neurological differences need be "cured," "normalized," or even institutionalized.

ND-Affirmation in Action:

  • Listen to and validate lived experiences

  • ​Support and embrace multiple modes/styles of communication and expression

  • Reject "functioning" labels and instead focus on how the social and physical environment may support or hinder an individual

  • Avoid the assumption of disability or suffering solely on the basis of diagnosis

-Rachel Robertson, OTRL

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