the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioral traits, considered part of the normal variation in the human population (used especially in the context of autism spectrum disorders)
The roots of the neurodiversity movement go back to the late 1900s; the term originated in 1988 by autistic sociologist Judy Singer, to describe an essential form of human diversity – a form that accepts that there is no “normal” brain and that neurodivergence does not make the brain of someone “evil”.
While this movement began specifically to combat hatred toward autistic people, today the paradigm has expanded beyond autism to encompass other forms of neurodivergence.
Most activities in our daily lives include eye contact, noisy group work, and overly stimulating environments; essentially, they are environments where neurotypical people thrive. As a result, although 20% of the world is made up of neurodivergent people, they only have a 15% employment rate; in other words, over 85% of neurodiverse people are turned down for a job because they don’t fit the “normal” person mold.
In the workplace, the neurodivergent population has been studied to be highly creative, possess complex problem-solving skills, and an aptitude for data and technology. When these skills align, neurodivergent people can get ahead of their peers and really shine. Their diverse experiences, motivations and perspectives can enrich conversations and stimulate debate.
Within schools, promoting neurodiversity supports inclusivity. Students with special needs who are included in regular classrooms develop a more positive view of themselves, form friendships with neurotypical children, and are better able to follow the curriculum and learn important academic skills. Neurodiversity helps support inclusion by convincing the regular teacher that adding neurodiverse students will actually improve the classroom; that students with neurodiversity will bring positive qualities, attributes, and gifts to contribute positively to the classroom.
Neurodiversity as a whole is based on the idea of emphasizing (and promoting) the gifts and abilities of students with special needs and projecting a more powerful image. We generally tend to think of the individuals who have had the greatest impact on the world as super-individuals with extraordinary power and expertise. However, when you start looking at individual lives, you see something completely different. For example, Winston Churchill had a conduct disorder and a speech disorder. Henry Ford had a learning disability. Thomas Edison had clear signs of ADHD and Agatha Christie suffered from dyslexia. The list could go on even longer. It should remind us that the children with special needs in our classrooms may be the ones who will make the crucial discoveries or key decisions for our world in the decades to come – “Sometimes it’s the people no one can imagine who do things no one can imagine.
It is our duty, as a new generation, to nurture this audience and help them grow to fulfill their potential; and, it starts with creating an inclusive and flexible environment – one that accommodates neurodivergence. Leaders who start working on these lines are sure to see a much more diverse, creative, and innovative group of young leaders on their way to changing the world.
Now you might be wondering – “How exactly should I do this?” How can I support this movement and work to create a more inclusive and empathetic environment for those around me? »
Well, the steps are simple and doable.
You can start by recognizing that there are different, but equally valid, ways of doing things. Don’t be quick to judge people for having different ways of doing things, because that’s what works for them.
Also, one of the most common “symptoms” of neurodiversity is “overwhelm”. Neurodiverse individuals do their best in a world and society that is not right for them – there are loud noises and constant distractions. The best thing you can do at times like this is to give them their personal space. Don’t try to harass them and give them time to calm down if they need it.
Finally, be sure to treat them like you would any other peer. Do not show pity or sympathy for them and instead acknowledge their strengths.
Remember that simply accepting that it’s okay to be different can go a long way in increasing the self-esteem, confidence, and achievement of neurodiverse individuals, enriching classrooms and workplaces with various points of view.