Abstract, algorithmic art resembling a mothership lifting off on rainbow propulsion

Neurodivergent, sometimes abbreviated as ND, means having a mind that functions in ways which diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of “normal.”


Neurodivergent is quite a broad term. Neurodivergence (the state of being neurodivergent) can be largely or entirely genetic and innate, or it can be largely or entirely produced by brain-altering experience, or some combination of the two. Autism and dyslexia are examples of innate forms of neurodivergence, while alterations in brain functioning caused by such things as trauma, long-term meditation practice, or heavy usage of psychedelic drugs are examples of forms of neurodivergence produced through experience.

A person whose neurocognitive functioning diverges from dominant societal norms in multiple ways – for instance, a person who is Autistic, dyslexic, and epileptic – can be described as multiply neurodivergent.

Some forms of innate or largely innate neurodivergence, like autism, are intrinsic and pervasive factors in an individual’s psyche, personality, and fundamental way of relating to the world. The neurodiversity paradigm rejects the pathologizing of such forms of neurodivergence, and the Neurodiversity Movement opposes attempts to get rid of them.


Other forms of neurodivergence, like epilepsy or the effects of traumatic brain injuries, could be removed from an individual without erasing fundamental aspects of the individual’s selfhood, and in many cases the individual would be happy to be rid of such forms of neurodivergence. The neurodiversity paradigm does not reject the pathologizing of these forms of neurodivergence, and the Neurodiversity Movement does not object to consensual attempts to cure them (but still most definitely objects to discrimination against people who have them).

Thus, neurodivergence is not intrinsically positive or negative, desirable or undesirable – it all depends on what sort of neurodivergence one is talking about.

The terms neurodivergent and neurodivergence were coined in the year 2000 by Kassiane Asasumasu, a multiply neurodivergent neurodiversity activist.


Neurodivergence is a term (named by multiply neurodivergent blogger and activist Kassianne Sibley) when some brains and bodyminds are pathologized and discriminated against. These terms come from autistic communities, who have welcomed folks with other marginalized brain/bodyminds to use them, including but not limited to people with cognitive, brain injury, epilepsy, learning and mental health disabilities.

Terminology | Critical Disability Studies Collective
A visual guide to Neurodiversity language, defining the difference between diverse and divergent and when to use them. Then aligning this to the impact on divergent groups, of a society designed for the "typical" majority.

Neurodivergence is a broad umbrella that includes many people, possibly you. The neurodivergent umbrella includes a diversity of inherent and acquired differences and spiky profiles. Many neurodivergent people don’t know they are neurodivergent. With our website and outreach, we help people get in touch with their neurodivergent and disabled identities. We respect and encourage self-diagnosis and community diagnosis. #SelfDxIsValid, and our website can help you understand your ways of being.

If you are wondering whether you are Autistic, spend time amongst Autistic people, online and offline.  If you notice you relate to these people much better than to others, if they make you feel safe, and if they understand you, you have arrived.

A communal definition of Autistic ways of being

Requiring diagnosis was counter to trans liberation and acceptance. The exact same is true of Autism.

Self diagnosis is not just “valid” — it is liberatory. When we define our community ourselves and wrest our right to self-definition back from the systems that painted us as abnormal and sick, we are powerful, and free.

The term neurodiversity originates from the autism rights movement in 1998 from Judy Singer on Martijn Dekker’s mailing list InLv, but as the movement has matured into a more active part of a cross-disability rights coalition, the term has evolved to become more politicized and radical (a change noted by a few contributors, especially Dekker in Chapter 3). Neurodiversity has come to mean “variation in neurocognitive functioning” (p. 3) [1], a broad concept that includes everyone: both neurodivergent people (those with a condition that renders their neurocognitive functioning significantly different from a “normal” range) and neurotypical people (those within that socially acceptable range). The neurodiversity movement advocates for the rights of neurodivergent people, applying a framework or approach that values the full spectra of differences and rights such as inclusion and autonomy.

Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement | SpringerLink

The movement arguably adopts a spectrum or dimensional concept to neurodiversity, in which people’s neurocognitive differences largely have no natural boundaries. While the extension from this concept to group-based identity politics that distinguish between the neurodivergent and neurotypical may at first seem contradictory, the neurodiversity framework draws from reactions to existing stigma- and mistreatment-inducing medical categories imposed on people that they reclaim by negotiating their meaning into an affirmative construct. People who are not discriminated against on the basis of their perceived or actual neurodivergences arguably benefit from neurotypical privilege, so they do not need corresponding legal protections and access to services.

Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement | SpringerLink
A multicoloured sphere showing examples of neurodiversity. Neurotypicality along with a selection of neurodivergent conditions are listed: Developmental Co-ordination Disorder/Condition, Personality Disorders/Conditions, Developmental Language Disorder/Condition, Bipolar Disorder/Condition, Anxiety and Depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder/Condition, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder/Condition, Autism, Stuttering and Cluttering, Tourette’s syndrome and Tics, Panic Disorders/Conditions, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia.
Image source: MetaArXiv Preprints | Bridging Neurodiversity and Open Scholarship: How Shared Values Can Guide Best Practices for Research Integrity, Social Justice, and Principled Education; License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International
Abstract, algorithmic art resembling a mothership lifting off on rainbow propulsion
Artist: AJ Wool

I intended to represent ND as I made it. I wanted the colors to be the illuminates of the greater intricate whole crystal. I wanted to make something beautiful and detailed with the colors representing myself, and you, and all the people who would want to be those colored sections. Even though the homogeneous black sections are the majority, they are not the entire body. The entire bodymind includes us, with our wounds, our flaws and our sometimes uncharacterizable spiky profiles.

AJ Wool

Further reading:

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Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic parent and retired tech worker. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they

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