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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Vu

Demystifying Neurodivergence: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

This guide aims to shed light on neurodivergence and provide an understanding for those who identify as neurodivergent or have neurodivergent loved ones.


Defining Neurodivergence

To begin, let us define neurodivergence. This term encompasses various conditions and neurological differences, including autism (Jaarsma et al., 2012), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, and more (Arnold, 2020). Neurodivergent individuals have unique ways of processing information, experiencing the world, and interacting with others. The concept of neurodivergence emphasizes that these differences should be recognized and respected rather than pathologized.

Neurodivergence
The idea behind neurodivergence is that these differences should not be pathologized but acknowledged and valued.

“Neurodiversity needs to be part of academia’s systemic efforts for diversity, equality, and inclusion. Neurodivergences intersect with race, ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, class, and other disabilities.” (Dr Steven Kapp, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Portsmouth)

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders

One of the most commonly discussed aspects of neurodivergence is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism is a developmental disorder typified by behavioural, social communication, and sensory processing abnormalities. It is crucial to recognize that autism is a spectrum, meaning that the experiences and needs of individuals with autism can vary widely (Lord et al., 2000). Some may have significant support requirements, while others may lead independent lives (Leadbitter et al., 2021).



Neurodivergence and ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is another aspect of neurodivergence. Individuals with ADHD often struggle with attention and impulse control. They may have difficulty focusing, be easily distracted, and exhibit hyperactive or impulsive behaviour (Brown, 2008). While these challenges can present obstacles, they are also associated with unique strengths, such as creativity and high energy levels.

ADHD
Individuals with ADHD usually have unique strengths like creativity and high energy levels.

Dyslexia: A Different Way of Learning

One particular type of learning impairment that impacts language processing and reading is dyslexia. Reading fluently, spelling, and word recognition can all be challenging for those with dyslexia. It is essential to understand that dyslexia does not reflect one's intelligence. Many individuals with dyslexia are knowledgeable and creative, but they may need alternative methods of learning and communication (Siegel, 2006).


Sensory Processing Differences in Neurodivergence

Sensory processing differences are a major component of neurodivergence. Many neurodivergent individuals experience heightened or diminished sensory sensitivity, meaning they may be more sensitive to sounds, textures, or light, which can be overwhelming (Kapp et al., 2019). Understanding and accommodating these sensory differences is necessary to create inclusive environments.



Neurodivergence in Society

Neurodivergence extends beyond individual experiences. It is also a societal concept that promotes the acceptance and inclusion of neurodivergent individuals (Fenton, 2007). By recognizing and valuing neurodivergence, society can benefit from the unique perspectives and contributions of neurodivergent individuals in various fields, including science, technology, and the arts.

Neurodiversity
By valuing neurodivergent individuals, society can benefit from their unique perspectives and contributions.

In Conclusion:

Neurodivergence encompasses a wide range of neurological differences, and understanding it is a complex and ongoing process. This thorough guide has summarized some of the most critical components of neurodivergence, including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, sensory processing differences, and the importance of instituting comprehensive communities.


Recognizing and respecting neurodivergence is not only a matter of social justice but also an opportunity for us to benefit from the unique strengths and perspectives of neurodivergent individuals. We can build a more compassionate and accepting community where people value one another's differences rather than stigmatize them by getting neurodivergence. It is a journey toward a brighter and more diverse future for all.


If someone you know is neurodivergent, remember that even a tiny act of understanding, acceptance, and support can make a rebound impact. Seek out resources, connect with support networks, and remember that every neurodivergent individual has a unique journey and strengths to contribute.



References:

1. Arnold L (2020). Autonomy, the Critical Journal of Interdisciplinary Autism Studies. In Kapp SK (ed.). Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement. pp. 211–220. doi:10.1007/978-981-13-8437-0_15.

2. Brosnan, M., Lewton, M., & Ashwin, C. (2016). Reasoning on the Autism Spectrum: A Dual Process Theory Account. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 46(6), 2115–2125. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-016-2742-4

3. Brown T. E. (2008). ADD/ADHD and Impaired Executive Function in Clinical Practice. Current psychiatry reports, 10(5), 407–411. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-008-0065-7

4. Fenton, A., & Krahn, T. (2007). Autism, neurodiversity and equality beyond the 'normal.' Journal of Ethics in Mental Health, 2(2), 1–6.

5. Jaarsma P, Welin S (March 2012). Autism as a natural human variation: Reflections on the claims of the neurodiversity movement. Health Care Analysis. 20 (1): 20–30. doi:10.1007/s10728-011-0169-9

6. Kapp, S. K., Steward, R., Crane, L., Elliott, D., Elphick, C., Pellicano, E., & Russell, G. (2019). “People should be allowed to do what they like”: Autistic adults’ views and experiences of stimming. Autism, 23(7), 1782–1792. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361319829628

7. Leadbitter, K., Buckle, K. L., Ellis, C., & Dekker, M. (2021). Autistic Self-Advocacy and the Neurodiversity Movement: Implications for Autism Early Intervention Research and Practice. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 635690. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.635690

8. Lord, C., Cook, E. H., Leventhal, B. L., & Amaral, D. G. (2000). Autism spectrum disorders. Neuron, 28, 355-363.

9. Siegel L. S. (2006). Perspectives on dyslexia. Paediatrics & child health, 11(9), 581–587. https://doi.org/10.1093/pch/11.9.581

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