The concept of neurodiversity is based on the diversity of human brains and minds – the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species. The word is relatively new, invented by an autistic sociologist named Judy Singer in the 1990s to describe conditions like autism, dyslexia, and ADHD.
The paradigm of neurodiversity shifts the focus away from the concept of impairment, deficit, or disorder and instead recognizes that many atypical forms of brain wiring also come with their own strengths and benefits. It recognizes that neurological differences like autism, ADHD, and dyslexia are normal variations in the human genome, different but not broken. Like biodiversity is necessary for life, neurodiversity is responsible for many of the world’s technological and inventive steps forward – playing a crucial role in the balance and diversity of the human experience. “The idea that there is one “normal” or “healthy” type of brain or mind, or one “right” style of neurocognitive functioning, is a culturally constructed fiction, no more valid (and no more conducive to a healthy society or to the overall well-being of humanity) than the idea that there is one “normal” or “right” ethnicity, gender, or culture.” – Foundations for Divergent Minds
Understanding that neurodivergent people are valuable variations in the world around us can help us start creating a society of acceptance and understanding, a system that stops “othering” humans who are different. This comes into practice most acutely in the realms of healthcare and education – two systems which have long pathologized neurodiversity. By supporting the differences of neurodivergent people rather than attempting to “normalize” their behavior or learning methods, outcomes are far healthier. “We don’t pathologize a calla lily by saying it has a ‘petal deficit disorder,'” writes Thomas Armstrong, author of Neurodiversity in the Classroom. “Similarly, we ought not to pathologize children who have different kinds of brains and different ways of thinking and learning.”
Resources for Further Learning
Autism Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) (advocacy and education)
Shutting Down Bullsh*t About Autism (an excellent short video discussing common misconceptions that surround autism)
Neurotribes – “A groundbreaking book that upends conventional thinking about autism and suggests a broader model for acceptance, understanding, and full participation in society for people who think differently.”