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Neurodiversity: What Is It and What Does It Mean to Be Neurodivergent?

Posted by AAPC Publishing on Dec 10th 2021

Neurodiversity: What Is It and What Does It Mean to Be Neurodivergent?

What is Neurodiversity? Is it a disability? A mental health disorder? What does being neurodivergent mean for me and my family? What are the different kinds of neurodivergence that exist? Why is neurodiversity important?

These are some of the questions that people have when they first hear about Neurodiversity.

In this article, we will explore what neurodiversity is and what it means to be neurodivergent.

We will also provide examples and resources to help you learn more about neurodivergence and how to celebrate and embrace neurodiversity in your life.

What is Neurodiversity?

The definition of neurodiversity is "a concept where neurological differences are respected as a normal and natural variation in human diversity." In other words, neurodiversity refers to the variety of different ways that people's brains function.

The concept of neurodiversity is not new. In the 1990s, a sociologist on the autism spectrum Judy Singer popularized the term. Singer rejected the notion that people with autism are disabled. She believed that their brains just work differently from others.

Why Neurodiversity Is Important

When those who are neurotypical have a hard time understanding how neurodivergent people think, they often invalidate their experiences and struggles with mental illness by dismissing them as "not real problems."

Of course, this isn't always the case. There are many neurotypical people who embrace neurodivergent individuals and understand their differences as a part of human diversity and natural human variation rather than trying to change them or fix what is not broken.

Having empathy for neurodiverse conditions that neurotypical people cannot understand is the only way to create widespread neurodiversity acceptance and learn to embrace neurodiversity.

What is Neurotypical?

So, what is neurotypical or neurotypicality? Neurotypicality is a term used to describe people who have a neurotypical brain. A neurotypical brain is one that follows societal norms and expectations. It is the type of brain that is found in most people and it is considered to be the "normal" way to think and behave.

What is Neurodivergent and What Does It Mean to Be Neurodivergent?

Now that we know what neurodiversity is, let's talk about what it means to be neurodivergent. There is no one-size-fits-all definition for neurodivergent. However, neurodivergence typically refers to people who exhibit neurocognitive differences such as the way the brain processes, learns and behaves in comparison to how the neurotypical population does.

Simply put, being neurodivergent means that your brain functions in a way that is different from the neurotypical population. It doesn't mean that you are sick, defective, or abnormal.

In fact, researchers have discovered that neurodivergence can provide a lot of benefits.

This shift in the neurodiversity paradigm has resulted in a new way of looking at neurodivergence. Rather than considering it an illness, practitioners now consider it as a variety of learning and information processing techniques.

Now that we have a general understanding of neurodiversity and what it means to be neurodivergent, let's explore some of the different types of neurodivergence that exist.

What is Considered Neurodivergent?

Types of Neurodivergence:

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

One of the best-known forms of neurodivergence is autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Autism spectrum disorder refers to a range of neurodevelopmental disorders that can cause social, communication, and behavioral challenges. People who are neurodivergent on the autism spectrum often find it difficult to communicate and interact with others, especially if they display symptoms of autistic hypersensitivity (extreme reactions to sensory stimuli) or hyposensitivity (reduced sensitivity). About 1 in 44 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

The autistic community has long been neurodiversity advocates and has played a significant role in the shift from viewing autism as a disorder to viewing it as a form of neurodivergence.

You can learn more about autism spectrum disorder and how to support autistic people by browsing the rest of AAPC Publishing's website.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Another neurodevelopmental disorder that is often considered neurodivergent is ADHD. People who are neurodivergent with ADHD often have difficulty paying attention, staying focused and completing certain tasks, and controlling their impulses. According to estimates from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), 6.1 million children aged 2-17 years living in the U.S. had been diagnosed with ADHD.

Dyslexia and Dyscalculia

Neurodivergence does not only affect neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder or ADHD, it can also affect neurocognitive processes that are involved in how people learn and process information. For example, dyslexia and dyscalculia are two neurodivergent conditions that affect reading and math skills, respectively.

Dyslexia is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how people read. It is estimated that up to 20% of the population has some form of dyslexia.

Dyscalculia is a neurocognitive disorder that affects how people process math. About 20% of the population is neurodivergent with dyscalculia, which often results in difficulty performing numerical tasks such as addition and subtraction.

Dyspraxia

Another neurocognitive disorder that is often considered neurodivergent is dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is a condition that affects movement and coordination. People who are neurodivergent with dyspraxia may have trouble with tasks such as walking, writing, or using tools. It is estimated that about two percent of the population has dyspraxia.

Tourette Syndrome

Tourette Syndrome is a neuropsychiatric disorder that causes people to have tics, or sudden and repetitive movements or vocalizations. People who are neurodivergent with Tourette Syndrome often have trouble controlling their tics and may also experience other neuropsychiatric symptoms such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is estimated that Tourette Syndrome affects about one percent of the population.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a neuropsychiatric disorder that causes people to have intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or compulsions. People who are neurodivergent with OCD often have difficulty resisting their obsessions and compulsions. It is estimated that about one percent of the population has OCD.

Psychosis and Schizophrenia

Another neuropsychiatric disorder that often considered neurodivergent is psychosis or schizophrenia. Psychotic disorders affect how people think, act, feel, or perceive things. They can cause hallucinations (sensations) and delusions (beliefs). People neurodivergent with psychosis or schizophrenia may experience paranoia and feel as if their thoughts are being controlled by outside forces. It is estimated that about 0.37 percent of the population has schizoaffective disorder, which causes psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions to occur at the same time without a period of depression first.

Other Types

There are numerous types of neurodivergence, each with its own set of symptoms and effects.

Other types of neurodivergence include but are not limited to Tourette's, synesthesia, Down syndrome, epilepsy, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, anxiety, and depression.

How to Know If You're Neurodivergent

You would be considered as neurodivergent if you have been diagnosed with any of the above conditions.

However, if you have never been formally diagnosed but nevertheless seem to correspond with the description of one or more types of neurodivergence, you might benefit from seeing a professional.

If you're neurodivergent, it's important to understand your neurotype and how it affects different areas of your life.

For example, ADHD can affect a person’s ability to pay attention in class or stay focused at work and Dyslexia can impact a person's ability to read and write.

It’s important to remember that neurodivergence is not something that needs to be cured or fixed but rather treated with respect and understanding.

If you haven't been diagnosed with any of the above diagnoses and you've never had any symptoms, there's a good chance that you're neurotypical.

What Is It Like to Be Neurodivergent?

There is no one-size-fits-all response to what it's like to be neurodivergent. Every neurodivergent person experiences their neurotype in different ways.

However, many neurodivergent people feel like they don't fit in with the neurotypical world. They may feel that their needs are not understood or supported by society.

This can be especially difficult for neurodivergent children and adolescents who are still trying to figure out their place in the world.

It is important to promote neurodiversity and create a society that celebrates and accepts neurodivergence.

The goal is to make sure that everyone, regardless of their neurotype, feels accepted and supported.

Learn More About Neurodivergence

There's a wealth of information available regarding what it's like to be neurodivergent if you're interested in learning more about it!

Books

the spectrum girls survival toolkit the workbook for autistic girls book cover

The Spectrum Girl's Survival Toolkit: A Workbook for Autistic Girls

by Siena Castellon

This book is intended for teen girls on the autism spectrum that provides strategies to help them thrive.

Learn More


living outside the box book cover

Living Outside the Box

by Cort Rogers

Cort Rogers, an autistic twelve-year-old boy, wrote a book to help other children with autism feel less alone.

Learn More


Women on the spectrum a handbook for life

Women on the Spectrum

by Dr. Emma Goodall and Yenn Purkis

This book is a helpful handbook for autistic women, written by autistic women.

Learn More


Middle School the stuff nobody tells you about a teenage girl with high-functioning autism shares her experiences haley moss

Middle School: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About

by Haley Moss

Haley Moss, the first openly autistic attorney, shares her experiences as a teenager with high-functioning autism in middle school.

Learn More


developing talents Careers for Individuals With Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism temple grandin

Developing Talents

by Temple Grandin and Kate Duffy

The book explores the unique abilities of people on the autism spectrum, and how this can help them have a successful career.

Learn More

Life After Lockdown strategies and reflections of covid temple grandin kerry magro

Life After Lockdown

A one-of-a-kind collaboration with over 40 well-known professionals and individuals with ASD.

Learn More


not your neurotypical guy book cover

Not Your Neurotypical Guy

by Maureen McCarthy Bartlett

In this charming and well-written book, the author shares her experiences with a spouse who has autism spectrum disorder.

Learn More


older autistic adults in the own words the lost generation

Older Autistic Adults, In Their Own Words: The Lost Generation

by Wilma Wake, PhD, LCSW., Eric Endlich, PhD., Robert S. Lagos

This book is a must-read for people interested in the experiences and stories of older autistic adults. Powerful storytelling at its best.

Learn More


beeper obsession

Beeper's Obsession

by Jasmine Pope

Beeper’s Obsession is a children’s story that teaches kids about autism and empathy. The story follows a child with autism and his mother as they interact with people who don't understand their son's obsession.

Learn More


my sister lily who doesn't have autism

My Sister Lily, Who Doesn't Have Autism

by Natalie Dalton

A touching book that seeks to provide an illuminating perspective on autism and neurodivergence. Told through the eyes of an autistic boy who is best friends with his neurotypical sister.

Learn More

Websites

Siena Castellon's Neurodiversity Celebrations Week Campaign

Haley Moss -"Lawyer with Autism, is a Trailblazer for Both Feminism and Disability Inclusion." - Forbes

Rachel Worsley - Neurodiversity Media

Planet Neurodiversity

NeuroClastic

ADDitude - Inside the ADHD mind

Dyspraxic Women's Network

Deviant Dyspraxic Blog

emotions game sign up

The Future Of Neurodivergence

Social justice movements like the neurodiversity movement and disability rights are helping to promote and create a society that celebrates, accepts, and accommodates neurodivergence.

Celebrate diversity. Celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of human brains, which allows us as a species to develop and create the unimaginable.

There are many neurodivergent people who are doing amazing things and we can learn a lot from them.

It is critical that these words are said again and again.

We need to create a world that celebrates neurodiversity and accommodates everyone, regardless of their neurotype. Only then will everyone feel supported and accepted.

As one of our authors, Haley Moss says, "The future begins now. The future is neurodiverse. The future is accessible. The future is people with disabilities. I’m ready. Are you?"

We are definitely ready!

What do you think the future of neurodivergence holds? Let us know in the comments below!

AAPC Publishing's content is for informational and educational purposes only. Our website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. AAPC Publishing does not provide medical advice.