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What's neurodiversity, anyway?

1. Neurodiversity: "Individual differences in brain functioning regarded as normal variations within the human population." Difference does not equal disability, but differences can result in disability. Note the important distinction.

Some key assumptions of neurodiversity:

  • Every person is valuable.

  • No two brains are the same.

  • Differences are not inherently disabilities.

  • Many individuals do experience disability related to these differences.

2. Neurodivergent: "[To differ] in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical or normal." This is not a medical term nor a diagnosis, but an umbrella term that groups conditions and symptoms that impact cognitive and behavioral functioning.

Some common conditions associated with this identifier:

  • Autism spectrum disorder

  • Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder

  • Intellectual and developmental disabilities

  • Learning disorders

  • Brain injury

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder

Individuals who identify as neurodivergent commonly differ in these three domains:

  • Executive functioning

    • Working memory, self-monitoring, set shifting, emotion regulation, and planning can all be limited.

  • Socialization/Communication

    • Priorities, function, ease of communicating as well as use of paraverbals may be different.

  • Sensory processing

    • Sensory stimuli, like sights, sounds, smells, even body sensations, may be more/less intense and interfere with concentration and wellbeing.

3. Neurotypical: "An individual who thinks, perceives, and behaves in ways that are considered the norm by the general population."

Neurodiversity, a concept first coined in 1998 by researcher, Judy Singer, provides a language to explore and embrace variation in human brains. Neurodiversity is intended to be a neutral descriptor, one that does not aim to qualify that which it describes. No two brains are alike, meaning no two humans will experience the world the same.

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