What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is a term used to describe the differences between the way people think and how their brains ‘work’. It is a way of acknowledging that everyone’s brains are different, and hence everyone has different skills, strengths and needs.
Who is neurodivergent?
We are all neurodiverse – all our brains respond differently to events, due to our genetics and environmental factors that make us who we are. However, someone who is Neurodivergent is a person whose thinking and behaviours differs from how mainstream society classes as ‘typical’. There are various conditions association with being neurodivergent: autism, ADHD, dyslexia, Tourettes, dyspraxia, plus others like Down’s Syndrome.
Why does this matter?
As our brains are all different, we all have different way of thinking. The Neurodiversity Affirming movement is aiming for greater acceptance of people who think ‘differently’ from the expectations of mainstream society, and believe that highlighting, fostering and loving these differences results in increased quality of life, greater satisfaction with personal life and better inclusion within the community.
What does it mean for someone who is neurodivergent?
In the past, therapy has been focussed on trying to get neurodiverse people to act and behave in a more neurotypical manner, by insisting on, for example, maintaining eye contact, turn taking conversational skills, and ‘improving’ overall social skills. Research now shows that this is highly damaging for the mental health of autistic individuals, with higher anxiety, depression and suicide rates seen within this population.
The Neurodiversity Affirming Practice is focussed on allowing autistic individuals to be themselves, by following their passions to engage them in therapy, and by finding alternative ways to communicate (that is, how the person wants to communicate, not how the neurotypicals want them to communicate). By accepting all people into society, we can enrich and grow our society in many beneficial ways.
As Neurodiversity Accepting clinicians, it is important that we don’t view neurodivergence as something that has to be ‘fixed’, but also that we acknowledge that it can be very limiting and disabling to be neurodivergent in certain situations. As a result, we listen and take the lead from our clients, focussing on their goals and supporting them to achieve these.