Neurodiversity – Part 1

Humans are diverse. We have a range of different aspects, such as skin colour, eye colour, blood type, height, gender preference, sex, gender identity, culture, food preferences and so forth. Neurodiversity is the word used to discuss how our brains and minds work in a range of different ways, highlighting those who are neurotypical, in the middle of the bell curve, and those who are neurodivergent, at away from the middle of the bell curve.

In this Part we will cover some of the terminology and a little of the history.

History

Neruodiversity was first coined by Judy Singer, an Australian social scientist on the autism spectrum around 1990 and was first seen in print in 1998. The idea was to recognise that diverse peoples have always existed throughout the history of humanity and that being divergent from the local social norm is not a pathological condition, but a factor of being human.

The concept was rapidly embraced by individuals who identified with Autism, and was quickly adopted by other peoples who wanted to move away from “mother blaming” and toward recognition that there is nothing inherently wrong with them, that there is just difference.

Jim Sinclair 1993 speech is incredibly important. While Sinclair is talking specifically about autism here, replace any of the axis and it is still true.

“Non-autistic people see autism as a great tragedy, and parents experience continuing disappointment and grief at all stages of the child’s and family’s life cycle. But this grief does not stem from the child’s autism in itself. It is grief over the loss of the normal child the parents had hoped and expected to have … There’s no normal child hidden behind the autism. Autism is a way of being. It is pervasive; it colors every experience, every sensation, perception, thought, emotion, and encounter, every aspect of existence. It is not possible to separate the autism from the person—and if it were possible, the person you’d have left would not be the same person you started with. This is important, so take a moment to consider it: Autism is a way of being. It is not possible to separate the person from the autism.”

While neurodiversity was initially first embraced by Autism people and groups, other peoples have also embraced the concept.

ADHD, developmental speech disorders, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysnomia and intellectual disability; mental health conditions such as bipolarity, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, sociopathy, bsessive–compulsive disorder, and Tourette syndrome and the medical condition Parkinson’s disease.

Terminology

For an excellent more in depth discussion on terminology, I recommend you check out Neurocosmopolitanism’s website [link].

NEURODIVERSITY

Neurodiversity is the diversity of human brains and minds within our human species. It recognises that we are not all the same, we are not clones or copies of each other.

Neurodiversity is a biological fact, not an opinion or movement.

NEURODIVERSITY PARADIGM

The neurodiversity paradigm is a specific perspective on neurodiversity that follows these basic 3 principles:

1) Neurodiversity is a natural and valuable form of human diversity

2) The idea that there is one “normal” or “healthy” type of brain or mind, or one “right” style of neurocognitive functioning, is a culturally constructed fiction

3) The social dynamics that manifest in regard to neurodiversity are similar to the social dynamics that manifest in regard to other forms of human diversity (e.g., diversity of ethnicity, gender, or culture)

NEURODIVERSITY MOVEMENT

The Neurodiversity Movement is a social justice movement that seeks civil rights, equality, respect, and full societal inclusion for the neurodivergent. If you consider other diversities that have made progress towards equality you will find that they too had social justice movements behind them.

NEURODIVERGENT, or ND (and NEURODIVERGENCE)

Neurodivergent, sometimes abbreviated as ND, means having a brain that functions in ways that diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of “normal”, as defined by the local bell curve.

Neurodivergent is quite a broad term as it can refer to many different aspects of divergence from the “norm”.

MULTIPLY NEURODIVERGENT

A person who is divergent from “normal” in more than one axis.

INNATE, INTRINSIC OR GENETIC NEURODIVERGENCE

Someone who is born divergent from the “norm”.

ORGANIC, TRAUMATIC, ORGANIC NEURODIVERGENCE

Someone who develops neurodivergence in response to a life event or experience

NEUROTYPICAL, or NT

Neurotypical, often abbreviated as NT, means having a style of neurocognition that falls within the local dominant societal standards of “normal.”

Neurotypical can be used as either an adjective (“They’re neurotypical”) or a noun (“They’re a neurotypical”).

Much like Straight is to Queer, Neurotypical is to Neurodivergent.

NEUROMINORITY

A neurominority is a population of neurodivergent people about whom all of the following are true:

1) They all share a similar form of neurodivergence

2) The form of neurodivergence they share is one of those forms that is largely innate and that is inseparable from who they are and is thus pervasive to their personality

3) The form of neurodivergence they share is one to which the neurotypical majority tends to respond with some degree of prejudice, misunderstanding, discrimination, and/or oppression (often facilitated by classifying that form of neurodivergence as a medical pathology)

The word neurominority can be used as either a noun (“ADHD are a neurominority”) or an adjective (“ADHD are a neurominority group”).

NEURODIVERSE

Where one or more members of the group differ substantially from other members, in terms of their neurocognitive functioning.