If every brain were the same, we would be limited by one set of strengths and possibilities.
What is Neurodiversity?
The conversation around Neurodiversity began recently, just 25 years ago! An Australian sociologist, Judy Singer, coined the term "neurodiversity" in 1998, noticing many of the cognitive differences in society.
Oxford Languages defines Neurodiversity as "the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioral traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population."
What is our current understanding of neurodiversity?
Most people have heard of the term Neurodiversity. Despite this, there are a lot of misconceptions and assumptions! According to research from Understood.org, Only 52% of Americans know that neurodivergent people don't all have autism, and 43% of Americans incorrectly believe people outgrow learning disabilities/differences.
What can Neurodiversity bring?
The hallmark of diversity is that with more perspectives comes more unique perspectives that can significantly strengthen teams' performance and problem-solving abilities. Those perspectives and innovative ideas stem from our brains, so the more diverse our brains are, the more variation our ideas can have!
The perspective of Neurodiversity suggests that it is the environment and society that hinders individuals with neurological differences, rather than the individual's neurological condition itself. With a suitable climate, accommodations, and support, neurodivergent individuals have the potential to become some of society's most creative and successful individuals! The roadblock arises, however, when neurodivergent individuals do not receive the proper accommodations they need to level the playing field and excel, whether it's in school or the workplace.
Fostering Neurodiversity leads to more inclusive & productive environments. Educators with learning differences, for example, serve as instrumental role models for students with learning differences.
Additionally, the impulsivity that is associated with ADHD has been demonstrated to lead to some of the most creative and original ideas. The hyperfocus that is associated with ADHD can lead to the strongest passion towards things that interest those individuals.
Many individuals with autism have stronger declarative memories and problem solving abilities than their neurotypical peers. And, research has demonstrated that individuals with dyslexia process many of the stimuli around them differently. Rather than using primarily verbal thinking, many individuals with dyslexia use a 3-dimensional multi-sensory process with spatial images that is processed much faster and in a way that can be better retained than traditional verbal thinking.
Some of the most successful, renowned people in society are neurodivergent and have spoken about how their differences led to their success. .
Albert Einstein: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
Greta Thunberg: “To make clear, Autism is not something that makes you “better” than others. Nor is it a “condition/disorder” that necessarily disables you. It’s simply something that makes you different, and in a world where everyone strives to fit in, being different is a strength.”
Shark Tank’s Barbara Carcoran: “Dyslexia made me a millionaire… I spent 6 hours a day daydreaming in class.”
Elon Musk: After opening up about his experience with Autism, Musk shared “I just want to say, I reinvented electric cars (Tesla) and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship (SpaceX). Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?”
Through proper diagnosis, individuals with learning differences can receive appropriate treatment. And with the proper treatment, support, and accommodations, many of the strengths neurodivergent individuals have can be unleashed. We must stand from a perspective that values neurodiversity, its unique perspectives, and the cutting-edge innovation that it can bring.