An introduction to the wonder of human neuro-diversity and us autistic neuro-divergents.
“NEURODIVERSITY [by Nick Walker]
What It Means:
Neurodiversity is the diversity of human brains and minds – the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species.
What It Doesn’t Mean:
Neurodiversity is a biological fact. It’s not a perspective, an approach, a belief, a political position, or a paradigm.
Neurodiversity is not a trait that any individual possesses. Diversity is a trait possessed by a group, not an individual. When an individual diverges from the dominant societal standards of “normal” neurocognitive functioning, they don’t “have neurodiversity,” they’re neurodivergent (see below).
Example of Correct Usage:
“Our school offers multiple learning strategies to accommodate the neurodiversity of our student body.”
Examples of Incorrect Usage:
“Neurodiversity is a load of nonsense.”
Really? So human brains and minds don’t differ from one another? There’s an awful lot of scientific evidence that shows quite plainly that there’s considerable variation among human brains. And if we all thought alike, the world would be a very different place indeed. The person who wrote this sentence was probably trying to object to the neurodiversity paradigmand/or the positions of the Neurodiversity Movement, and has ended up sounding rather silly as a result of failing to distinguish between these things and the phenomenon of neurodiversity itself.
“My neurodiversity makes it hard for me to cope with school.”
The correct word here would be neurodivergence, rather than neurodiversity. Individuals diverge; groups are diverse.”
NEURODIVERGENT, or ND (and NEURODIVERGENCE)
What It Means:
Neurodivergent, sometimes abbreviated as ND, means having a brain that functions in ways that diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of “normal.”
Neurodivergent is quite a broad term. Neurodivergence (the state of being neurodivergent) can be largely or entirely genetic and innate, or it can be largely or entirely produced by brain-altering experience, or some combination of the two (autism and dyslexia are examples of innate forms of neurodivergence, while alterations in brain functioning caused by such things as trauma, long-term meditation practice, or heavy usage of psychedelic drugs are examples of forms of neurodivergence produced through experience).
A person whose neurocognitive functioning diverges from dominant societal norms in multiple ways – for instance, a person who is Autistic, dyslexic, and epileptic – can be described as multiply neurodivergent.
Some forms of innate or largely innate neurodivergence, like autism, are intrinsic and pervasive factors in an individual’s psyche, personality, and fundamental way of relating to the world. The neurodiversity paradigm rejects the pathologizing of such forms of neurodivergence, and the Neurodiversity Movement opposes attempts to get rid of them.
Other forms of neurodivergence, like epilepsy or the effects of traumatic brain injuries, could be removed from an individual without erasing fundamental aspects of the individual’s selfhood, and in many cases the individual would be happy to be rid of such forms of neurodivergence. The neurodiversity paradigm does not reject the pathologizing of these forms of neurodivergence, and the Neurodiversity Movement does not object to consensual attempts to cure them (but still most definitely objects to discrimination against people who have them).
Thus, neurodivergence is not intrinsically positive or negative, desirable or undesirable – it all depends on what sort of neurodivergence one is talking about.
The terms neurodivergent and neurodivergence were coined by Kassiane Asasumasu, a multiply neurodivergent neurodiversity activist.
Examples of Correct Usage:
“Our school aims to be inclusive of students who are Autistic, dyslexic, or otherwise neurodivergent, though there are some types of neurodivergence that we’re still seeking ways to accommodate.”
“This Facebook group is for people who identify as both queer and ND (neurodivergent).”