Connecting the Dots

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is a term coined by Judy Singer in her Master’s thesis in 1996 and popularized by Harvey Bloom in The Atlantic in 1998. There were no words at the time to talk about people with atypical brains that didn’t consider them as deficient and disordered. Singer used diversity language to reframe all brain types as being on a spectrum, just like sex and gender diversity. The term has been picked up by the neurodiversity movement to normalize divergent brains as different rather than disordered.

We all have a brain type – also called a neurotype – and the existence of a wide variety of brain types is normal. Neurodiversity refers to the whole spectrum of natural variations in human brains and nervous systems that evolved to provide an advantage for human survival. We all fall somewhere on the neurodiverse spectrum.

The terms “neurodiversity” and “neurodiverse” are often used interchangeably with “neurodivergence” and “neurodivergent”. This, however, is inaccurate. When we talk about neurodiversity, we are talking about all brain types, typical and atypical. Neurodiversity is usually used in reference to whole populations. E.g., “Our student body is neurodiverse. This needs to be recognized when allocating support.” When we talk about neurodivergence, we are talking about brain types that fall outside of the statistical norm, usually at the level of the individual. E.g., “My brother is neurodivergent” not “ My brother is neurodiverse.”

Using strengths-based language to normalize neurodivergence should not be confused with saying that neurodivergence is not a disability. Because our world is built for neurotypical brains, and because some aspects of some neurodivergent brains make functioning in this world difficult, varying levels of support may be needed. We all need medical and social support at some time in our lives and some of us, with chronic health conditions, need it at all times. This does not mean we are abnormal or dysfunctional or unproductive. What it does mean is that we need a clinical diagnosis of a Neurodevelopmental Disorder to access the support that will enable full and equal participation and belonging.

Read more about neurodiversity here:

Neurodiversity: Guide (external link)

Neurodiversity: An Overview (external link)

Connecting
The Dots

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity refers to the whole spectrum of natural variations in human brains and nervous systems that evolved to provide an advantage for human survival.

To be accurate:

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Neurodiversity describes all brain types, typical and atypical.

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Neurodivergence describes brain types that fall outside of the statistical norm, usually at the level of the individual.

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Using strengths-based language to normalize neurodivergence should not be confused with saying that neurodivergence is not a disability.

WebM2
Author: WebM2

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