What is Neuro-diversity?
Neurodiversity is a term that’s become widely used and accepted in modern society. We hear it mentioned in schools, come across charities supporting various neuro-diverse communities and even see supermarkets advertising the specially designated hour of ‘neuro-diverse friendly shopping’. But what exactly is neuro-diversity? How can we truly embrace neuro-diverse people and encourage equality for all unique individuals in our daily lives? How can we embrace neuro-diversity in ourselves?
· Let’s start with what neuro-diversity is not. Contrary to what we may have once been led to believe, neuro-diversity is not a negative thing to be pitied or feared.
· It’s a term that basically refers to the rich diversity of differing human minds
· It is a difference to be celebrated and embraced
· It is a step forward in understanding humanity and the many wonders that human uniqueness has to offer.
· Current research suggests that neuro-divergent people encompass approximately one in seven people in our society. The complexities involved between being identified as neuro-diverse make this a difficult figure to be sure of. However, there is no doubt that the neuro-diverse population is significant.
· It can also be a part of individuality that causes difficulties, to varying extents for different people.
· This is often due to the fact that we live in a world which is primarily aimed at supporting neuro-typical people. Put broadly, neuro-typical is a term often used to describe the individuals in society who share the neurology of the majority of people.
Different types of neuro-diversity
Part of the problem with understanding neuro-diversity is the fact that it is a term which encompasses a wide range of differences and needs. If we think of a tree, then we might imagine the term ‘neuro-diversity’ as a strong and rightly proud tree trunk, with many branches growing from it. Each unique branch, will in turn have its own off shoots, including smaller branches and leaves, with constantly evolving buds and flowering life. Some of the more widely known branches include, but are not limited to, the following:
· Intellectual Disability
· Tourette Syndrome
How can I support neuro-diverse individuals?
If someone in your life or community is neuro-diverse:
· Educate yourself with some of the particular characteristics, unique gifts and possible difficulties of their neurology.
· Be mindful that there is a LOT of mis-information out there. Try to learn from trusted and fully informed sources.
· The most important source of learning will always be gleaned from the individual in question. As humans, we all need to be accepted and understood. And each of us is as individual as the print on our fingers. It is perhaps more rare than it should be for us to seek details from the person living the life we are curious to understand. Naturally, the level of exploration will greatly depend on your relationship with the person and each of the individuals involved.
· Try to begin with an open mind and allow the conversation to be developed only at the clear agreement and pace of the individual themselves.
· Remember that greater empathy and awareness of the differences experienced by another person can have a truly positive impact on their life and their relationships.
How can I support myself as a neuro-diverse individual?
Being part of a particular neuro-diverse branch can involve a wide range of experiences and emotions, some of which will be unique to each individual, and others which will be experienced by many others sharing some of the characteristics of your branch. This process can include:
· Exploring the pros and cons of seeking an official diagnosis
· The practical and emotional elements of getting a diagnosis
· Gaining understanding of your uniqueness as you learn to navigate your own path
· Managing the challenges that can occur with being a neuro-diverse person living in a world that is often aimed at neuro-typical people.
Some supports for neuro-diverse individuals
· Reaching out to others in your particular neuro-community can help. Isolation and fear can be very debilitating. Finding a safe space to explore your authenticity is a truly wonderful gift to give yourself.
· Working with a therapist who understands your diversity and some of the challenges that this might entail can also be game changing.
· Most important of all is embracing your own true self and allowing all the branches of yourself to grow wide and far. Reach for the light, find the water source you need and allow yourself the true nurture and support that you deserve.
Together, we all make up a diverse forest/ world of humanity. Let’s make it a world of which we can be truly proud.
If you would like support for yourself as a neuro-diverse person, or support in understanding a member of the neuro-diverse community, please know that support and understanding is available.