The Neurodiversity Paradigm describes the notion that all individual humans work in similar ways, but some work more similarly than others.
Consider this picture of a forest:
In this forest are trees.
The Google definition of a tree is:
A woody perennial plant, typically having a single stem or trunk growing to a considerable height and bearing lateral branches at some distance from the ground.
Look at the photo again, more closely this time:
In this forest there are several different types of tree. Can you spot them all?
In fact there are 60,065 types of tree in the world. They are all trees and all fall under the same tree definition, but all those types of tree do things slightly differently to other types.
Of course every single tree is individual.
This is biodiversity.
Now consider humans and more specifically the human neurological system.
Here’s Mary again, you’ll recognise her from ‘What is Autism?’:
Human brains are the command centre for the human nervous system. It receives signals from the body’s sensory organs and outputs information to the muscles.
Neurodiversity describes all humans. We all have brains that do the same thing but we’re all individuals too.
Among the human population there are pockets of humans whose neurological systems work similarly to each other, but are noticeably different to the rest.
These pockets are defined as Neurodivergent.
Examples of Neurodivegent neurology include Autism, ADHD, Bipolar, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, Tourette’s, and more and it covers many of the co-occurring conditions that can often tag along with being Autistic, but also can stand on their own.
The concept of Neurodiversity has grown and developed over the past decade, different people claim ownership of the term, but it’s very much grown from its earlier iterations as we’ve come to understand more of the many fallacies and myths that were previously believed, not just about Autism, but all these other things too
Neurodiversity is a useful lens to look through when considering Autism. It automatically frames it as an acceptable difference, rather than describe the six million ways someone is broken or wrong, just because other people do things differently.
When you view Neurodiversity through the social model of disability instead of the medical model of disability, you start to realise that actually just because the world was built with a certain type of person, or the majority of people in mind, it doesn’t mean that other people are fundamentally wrong – it’s just that they haven’t been very well catered to, if at all.
That is not to say that Neurodivergencies like Autism aren’t Disabilities, it’s more to say that actually if you bring in the right accommodations and support in a positive and proactive way, you find that there are aspects of Autism and other Neurodivergencies that are disabling, rather than the current view of it all being disabling.
All of this thinking will probably change and develop over time.
The one disclaimer I have in all this is that the concept of Neurodiversity has become very much a buzzword in the corporate world, particular amongst the Recruitment industry.
They’ve co-opted the term and changed it somewhat – they talk about ‘Neurodiverse conditions’ and the ‘Neurodiversity community’ – which of course, having read the explanation above, doesn’t work. There are now many people talking for the different communities that aren’t members of those communities and lots of people making money out of it all.
But hey, it’s no different to how the Autism industry makes a fortune out of us.
For more about Neurodiversity see Dr Nick Walker’s explanation of terms Neurodiversity: Some basic terms and definitions