The term Neurodiversity is relatively new, coined in 1998 by Autistic Australian sociologist Judy Singer. Singer believed that Autistic people were not disabled, rather than, their brains were simply wired differently. There is no moral judgement on this difference - the Autistic brain is no worse or better, just different. Neurodiversity initially was used to just describe people on the Autistic spectrum (Autistic Spectrum Disorder/ASD) but has since been broadened to include a wide range of neurological differences.
According to Dictionary.com Neurodiversity may be defined as:
'...the variation and differences in neurological structure and function that exist among human beings, especially when viewed as being normal and natural rather than pathological.'
Essentially, our brains, thoughts and behaviours are simply different due to the way our brains developed(!) which is why Neurodiverse conditions are often called neurodevelopment conditions. This is a result of the brain developing different during key stages of development before birth, as a very young child, or in some cases - in later life after a traumatic event causes the brain to change. E.g. someone with CPTSD or PTSD. These occurrences are largely due to genetics but environmental factors such as stress and trauma can also play a role. Scientists still have a lot to learn about Neurodiversity and more knowledge is being discovered frequently.
I believe that Neurodiversity itself is not a mental illness. We're not ill or broken. It is a life-long way of being. It is not being Neurodivergent itself that can cause people to seek therapy – rather the stress of living in a Neurotypical world.
And there's a lot of us, I believe around 1 in 7 of us are Neurodivergent but some sources put that amount as high as 30-40% of the population!
Kassiane Asasumasu who is a Multiply Neurodivergent (meaning someone who has more than one Neurodivergent condition, like me), activist coined the terms Neurodivergent (having a brain that exists and functions differently to the 'normal' brain) and Neurodivergence (being in the state of Neurodivergent). Asasumasu also includes mental health conditions, issues, and disorders such a PTSD and Bipolar as being a part of Neurodiversity. Please note, not all sources and individuals agree with including mental health conditions. As there is no scientific, specific list of disorders there is much disagreement and varying definitions online.
Neurodiversity can bring comorbid conditions; this means often Neurodivergent people have more than one Neurodivergent condition. Neurodiversity is also frequently comorbid with anxiety, depression, sleep issues and more.
I have ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia and therefore, I am neurodivergent. I always knew something was different about me, although I often just felt that the difference was simply stupidity. It wasn't until I was 21 that I was diagnosed with all 3 and my life changed. I suddenly understood why I am like I am! I wasn't crazy or stupid! I am actually, intelligent, capable, creative, and empathetic - just in a different way, a neurodivergent way! This new self-awareness felt empowering, relieving and a little overwhelming. It has been a huge benefit to my life to have this new understanding of myself. I was also then able to access various supportive materials which have helped me personally and professionally, as well as in my education.
I believe that being Neurodivergent in a Neurotypical world can bring anxiety and great struggles. However, these difficulties can be overcome with:
After all, we don't need curing or fixing because we aren't broken! We're not abnormal, our brains are just different. I believe life is richer and more vibrant when difference is celebrated. Let's live life joyfully.
That said, I understand it can be tough being different but let's think of nourishment, not punishment. For too long in my life, I've felt lazy, stupid, crazy and ashamed to be who I am but after extensive work on myself, I am feeling happier and more accepting. In fact, a good amount of my acceptance has simply come from building self-awareness and understanding.
I have a special interest and understanding in working with other Neurodivergents due to being Neurodivergent myself. By working in the Person-Centred therapeutic approach, I work in a way that is led by you which works excellently for Neurodivergents as we can work in a way that is suited to your individual needs. I believe this can be a very refreshing change from being in a Neurotypical world. This is finally a place where you can be your natural and Neurodivergent self without any pretence or masking. I'm not here to tell you what you are doing or how you are living is wrong (if you wanna stim, stim!), instead, I'm here to help you live happier and work through what you need to. You deserve it!
I have also undergone additional training in supporting Neurodivergent people but remember, you will always be the expert on you. I am not here to tell you how to live, we can work that out together.
The infinity symbol is now largely considered to be the symbol of Neurodiversity, no more puzzle pieces! We are not missing any pieces of ourselves; we are whole.
Language is important, it shapes our world! The way we communicate conveys not just what we mean but also our values and beliefs. So, please let me know if you prefer Person-First language or Identity-First language.
e.g., Identity First – I am disabled
e.g., Person First – I am a person with a disability
...and many more. So, don't feel discouraged! Instead, I hope you feel proud to be who you are and as you can see from the list above, being Neurodivergent does not have to hold you back. You are different (and that isn't a bad thing), but you are also brilliant and there are many positives to being neurodivergent and indeed, different.