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What does it mean to be neurodivergent?

October 18, 2023
In recent years, you may have come across the term “neurodivergent” quite frequently. 

If you look at Google Trends, online searches around the term ‘neurodivergence’ have grown year after year.

It’s definitely a buzzword in discussions about diversity and inclusion, especially in the context of education and employment. But what does it really mean?

Defining neurodivergence

Neurodivergence is a term that describes the natural variations in how our brains are wired and how they function. It encompasses a wide range of neurocognitive diagnoses, such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and more. The fundamental idea behind neurodiversity is that these conditions are not inherently good or bad, but rather, they are part of the human diversity.

Being neurodivergent means having a brain that functions differently from the societal norm.  Neurodivergent individuals often have unique strengths and perspectives that can contribute greatly to society if given the opportunity.

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Key characteristics of neurodivergence

Neurodiversity has always been with us, but the key idea behind specifically using the word ‘neurodiversity’ is embracing difference. Embracing the diversity of neurodivergence includes the following characteristics:

  1. Differences, Not Deficits: Neurodivergent individuals may have unique strengths, talents, and perspectives that are different from the neurotypical population. These differences are not necessarily deficits; they’re just variations in the human experience.
  2. Variability: Neurodiversity recognises that no two neurodivergent individuals are the same. Each person’s experience of their neurodivergent condition is unique, shaped by their genetics, environment, and personal history.
  3. Inclusivity: The concept of neurodiversity emphasises the importance of creating inclusive and accommodating environments for all individuals, regardless of their neurological makeup. Inclusion is not just a matter of tolerance but a celebration of diversity.

Why is neurodiversity important?

The neurodiversity movement has gained momentum for several reasons:

  • Promoting Inclusivity: It challenges traditional norms and biases, promoting the inclusion of neurodivergent individuals in all aspects of society, from education and employment to social interactions.
  • Highlighting Strengths: Neurodiversity emphasises the unique talents and abilities that neurodivergent individuals can bring to various fields, from technology and art to problem-solving and creativity.
  • Reducing Stigma: It aims to reduce the stigma and discrimination that neurodivergent individuals often face. Instead of pathologising differences, it encourages understanding and support.
  • Redefining Success: The concept of success is redefined by neurodiversity, recognising that one’s worth is not solely defined by their ability to conform to a neurotypical mould.
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Moving forward: Embracing neurodiversity

In a world that is becoming more aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion, understanding neurodiversity is a significant step forward. It invites us to appreciate the richness of human experiences, to celebrate differences, and to create more inclusive communities and workplaces. Embracing neurodiversity means acknowledging that every brain is beautifully unique, and we all have a role to play in fostering a more inclusive and understanding world. 

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