Neurodivergence, or Neurodiversity is the term for brain processes, learning and behaviour that is different from what is “typical”.
The scientific community has recently begun to recognise that not all brains function the same way as the others, and that it is rather normal and acceptable for some brains to operate differently in terms of processing and behaviours, and that it does not necessarily have to be pathological.
The umbrella term of ‘neurodiversity’ was coined by sociologist Judy Singer, who herself was on the autism spectrum and thus, it was originally used to specifically refer to people with autism.
It was an attempt to help shift perspectives that focused on deficits and impairments in the condition, and instead on how differences in individual brains are a result of normal variations in the human genome rather than being a deviance.
It is to say, that different brains are ‘wired’ to work differently. And, it is about celebrating these
Sam from Netflix’s Atypical and Shaun from the Good Doctor are often heard using the term ‘Neurotypical’ to refer to their friends and colleagues who’re not on the spectrum on the respective shows. The usage of the term has broadened since and encompasses individuals with a range of development disorders and mental health conditions.
According to the National Symposium on Neurodiversity (2011) held at Syracuse University, neurodiversity is: "...a concept where neurological differences are to be recognized and respected as any other human variation. These differences can include those labelled with Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyscalculia, Autistic Spectrum, Tourette Syndrome, and others."
Thus, trying to ‘cure’ these neurological differences, is essentially trying to change the individual themselves. It is taking away from them their uniqueness, which isn’t how it should be. Neurodiversity appreciates varying forms of self-expression, self-presentation and communication.
It is letting individuals live their lives as they want to, rather than forcing them to adhere to a certain concept of normality that may be accepted by the majority.
Popular discourse online and in the media has also begun to incorporate neurodiversity in conversation, helping spread word on what it means and entails. Literature has also had neurodivergent protagonists in a number of books, such as Flowers for Algernon and
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
This can be seen as a positive step towards inclusivity of neurodiverse people. However, it remains a much debated topic in the medical community and around the globe, thus a more nuanced understanding will take time to take effect as much work still remains to be done.