What if neurodevelopmental disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and learning disabilities were viewed differently around the globe? What if, instead of focusing on the difficulties presented by these differences, everyone took a moment to appreciate the potential benefits?
That’s the central idea behind neurodiversity: that people’s unique traits can be strengths as well. They aren’t ailments that can be “cured” or “fixed.” Their minds are merely different forms of our own.
A neurodiverse perspective is also an individual one. One’s sense of self and one’s place in the world can be shaped by one’s neurodiversity. People who are neurodiverse see, feel, and understand the world differently than the average person. There may be difficulties as a result at times. On the other hand, it can spark novel approaches to old problems and useful new ideas.
Originating in the late 1990s, the term “neurodiversity” argued that neurological differences should be recognized and respected as a social category on par with gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability status.
Origins Of Neurodiversity
Sociologist Judy Singer argued in the 1990s that autistic people should not be labeled as “disabled.” (Singer considers herself to be on the spectrum for autism.) She argued that people with autism have brains that are wired differently than those without autism.
Brain imaging has given rise to the concept of neurodiversity in science. Numerous neuroscientific investigations have revealed that those who have learning or thinking differences are “wired” otherwise.
To rephrase, some kids just have brains that are wired differently from the get-go, making them think, learn, and process information in unique ways. Since then, the concept of neurodiversity has expanded to encompass more than just autism.
Some children’s neurological differences can make it difficult for them to learn in a traditional school setting. Kids with dyslexia may have a more difficult time reading, taking notes, and focusing during tests.
The neurodiversity movement acknowledges that differences in brain function, such as dyslexia, are common. According to this point of view, there is absolutely nothing wrong with kids who are wired differently.
The theory of neurodiversity proposes that a wide variety of neurological disorders are the result of natural variations in the human genome, and thus should be viewed as part of the norm rather than the exception when it comes to learning and disability.
Neurodivergent vs. Neurotypical
The field of neurology employs a number of significant terms, including neurotypical and neurodivergent. When it comes to how their brain functions, neurotypical people are considered to be on par with the rest of us. Anyone whose mind doesn’t operate within those parameters can be classified as neurodivergent.
What Is Neurodivergence?
Someone with an abnormal brain structure, such as those who suffer from mental illness or developmental disorders. When applied to a group of people, “Neurodiverse” describes a group in which some individuals have a neurodivergent profile.
An individual with non-typical neurological development and functioning is considered neurodivergent. The neurodiversity movement popularized the term as a counterpoint to “neurotypical,” though “neurodiverse” had previously been used in this way.
The term “Neurodivergence” (which was coined in the early 21st century from the words “neuro” and “divergence”) refers to a departure in cognitive or neural processes from the norm (frequently used with reference to autistic spectrum disorders).
Conditions like autism, Asperger’s syndrome, dyslexia, dyscalculia, epilepsy, hyperlexia, Dyspraxia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and Tourette syndrome are all “recognized” forms of Neurodivergence (TS).
It is not uncommon to include left-handedness, gender identity disorder, and sexual orientations such as homosexuality, bisexuality, and asexuality.
What Is Neurotypical?
In contrast to Neurodivergent, the term “Neurotypical” (NT) describes the normative population. To be neurotypical is to fall within the average range of human neurology, hence the term “neurologically typical.”
A person whose neurological development and state are typical, conforming to what most people would perceive to be normal, is said to be “typical,” a term that originated in the autistic community as a way to refer to non-autistic people.
Neurodivergent refers to people with abnormal neurological development. In most cases, autistics and those with Asperger Syndrome are the ones who use this term.
Proponents Of Neurodiversity
Aiming for justice on behalf of people with neurological differences, the Neurodiversity Movement promotes issues such as equal rights, acceptance, and respect. For instance, the Autism Rights Movement (ARM) is a subset of the neurodiversity movement.
It advocates for the acceptance of autism as a neurodivergent trait rather than a mental disorder in order to better serve the needs of autistic people, their families, and the general public. Common treatments for autism-related behavioral and linguistic differences, such as applied behavior analysis, have been criticized by advocates who say they are both ineffective and unethical.
The Paradigm of Neurodiversity: A paradigm is defined as “a typical example or pattern of something; a pattern or model” in the Oxford English Dictionary. Thomas Kuhn, a historian of science, gave the term its current meaning when he adopted it to describe the conventions that characterize a given scientific field at a given point in time.
Those on the autism spectrum are often credited with being the first to embrace the neurodiversity paradigm. Subsequent groups, however, have extended the idea beyond autism spectrum disorders to include conditions like:
- Bipolar Disorder
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Schizoaffective Disorder
- Circadian Rhythm Disorders
- Developmental Speech Disorders
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Intellectual Disability
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Tourette syndrome
Relevance Of Neurodiversity Awareness
Those who are neurotypical can gain as well from a more accepting culture. The concept of neurodiversity helps us recognize the unique ways in which we all process information. We can celebrate our differences rather than judge them as “good” or “bad.”
Specifically, this means making adjustments to meet the non-typical needs of neurodivergent people and capitalizing on their particular strengths in the workplace and the classroom. The result could resemble:
- Providing neurodiverse people with the autonomy they need to complete tasks in their own way.
- Training/teaching people to understand neurodiversity.
- Creating a welcoming environment for all people.
- Giving someone who has trouble focusing on tasks due to ambient noise a pair of headphones designed to block it out.
- Employing and teaching methods that welcome all.
Also, it has the potential to yield sizeable benefits. Case in point: participants in JPMorgan Chase’s Autism at Work program increased productivity by up to 140% compared to neurotypical employees while also significantly reducing error rates.
The concept of neurodiversity, which was first proposed by an autistic person more than two decades ago, is gaining popularity. We can change our actions in the future if we take the time to learn about neurodiversity today.
Advocacy for neurodiverse populations is being shaped in large part by our growing understanding of neurodiversity, which has led to a rejection of applied behavior analysis (ABA), which attempts to “cure” autism by teaching children with the disorder new ways to behave, in favor of approaches that recognize and accommodate individuals’ unique neural make-ups. Many people view ABA as abusive. You can find entire websites devoted to explaining why ABA is harmful to autistic children and what alternatives there are.
A powerful illustration of advocacy and the shifting narrative around educating neurodiverse people is the rise of alternative therapies to ABA for children with autism.
Employers are now actively seeking out people with neurodiversity because they understand that their differences can lead to highly valuable specialized skills.
Neurodivergent people still face discrimination and disadvantage in today’s society. Nonetheless, we can change our perspective on neurodiversity and how we treat people who are neurodiverse by using the framework provided by cultural understanding.
The more progress we make to recognize and appreciate neurodiversity, the more effectively we will communicate with one another and guide all people toward optimal modes of learning and behavior.
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