Neurodivergent

Abstract, algorithmic art resembling a mothership lifting off on rainbow propulsion
Ear readers, press play to listen to this page in the selected language.

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

NEURODIVERSITY: SOME BASIC TERMS & DEFINITIONS

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.

NEURODIVERSITY: SOME BASIC TERMS & DEFINITIONS

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.

NEURODIVERSITY: SOME BASIC TERMS & DEFINITIONS

The language of neurodiversity has now been with us for some time. Judy Singer coined the word “neurodiversity” more than two decades ago, and Kassiane Asasumasu (formerly Kassiane Sibley) gave us the term “neurodivergent”º. However, the language of neurodiversity is still not being used in a standard way, neither in the community, nor in practice, nor in research.

One particular mis-usage – at least in my opinion, is the word “neurodiverse” to describe a single individual.  For example, a teacher might ask for “any advice for supporting a neurodiverse pupil in my class?” or a parent might say that they are “proud of my neurodiverse son”.

These examples are incorrect on a basic linguistic / grammatical level.  Diversity is a property of groups.  It requires variability between things. You only have a diverse range of herbs in your cupboard if you have lots of different ones. Lovage is not “diverse” while parsley is “typical”.  “Diverse” is not a synonym for “rare”. Rather, lovage, basil, thyme and parsley make up a diverse group of herbs.

Therefore, instead of referring to an individual as neurodiverse we should describe them as neurodivergent.*  The image below summarises this more eloquently than I ever could – with thanks to @scrappapertiger

Let’s think about ethnic diversity for a moment. This is a concept that should bring people together but has instead reinforced existing prejudices through misuse.^ Ethnic diversity is a property of the whole human race, but all too often white people use both the word “ethnic”, and the word “diverse” to refer exclusively to people of colour. Consider phrases such as “the diversity hire” to describe a non-white person employed in a majority-white company. While at least a dictionary definition of “ethnic” includes reference to being in a culturally-distinct minority, there’s no such excuse for “diverse”.

What we see when someone from a majority group (neurotypical people, white people in the UK) uses “diverse” to mean “unusual” is an eradication of the ethnicity or neurotype of the speaker.  They do not class themselves as a part of diversity because they do not recognise the relative unusual-ness of their own identity.  Instead, they think of themselves as “normal” and hence everyone else as “diverse”. The desire to other is strong enough to overcome the fundamental meanings of the words in question.

Of course, none of this is meant to instruct individuals how they should identify personally. The language of neurodiversity might not be right for you, or your loved ones.  There is often value in using more specific language – such as “I am dyslexic” or “I have ADHD” – but in any case everyone is entitled to their own preference. If you do choose to use the language of neurodiversity, however, let’s try to get it right and avoid repeating the mistakes that have been made in the past.

Neurodiverse or Neurodivergent? It’s more than just grammar – DART

I coined neurodivergent before tumblr was even a thing, like a decade or more ago, because people were using ‘neurodiverse’ and ‘neurodiversity’ to just mean autistic, & possibly LDs. But there’s more, like way more, ways a person can have a different yet fucking perfect dammit brain.
Neurodivergent refers to neurologically divergent from typical. That’s ALL.

I am multiply neurodivergent: I’m Autistic, epileptic, have PTSD, have cluster headaches, have a chiari malformation.

Neurodivergent just means a brain that diverges.

Autistic people. ADHD people. People with learning disabilities. Epileptic people. People with mental illnesses. People with MS or Parkinsons or apraxia or cerebral palsy or dyspraxia or no specific diagnosis but wonky lateralization or something.

That is all it means. It is not another damn tool of exclusion. It is specifically a tool of inclusion. If you don’t want to be associated with Those People, then YOU are the one who needs another word. Neurodivergent is for all of us.

Lost in my Mind TARDIS, PSA from the actual coiner of “neurodivergent”

an individual is neurodivergent.

a group is neurodiverse.

neurodiverse is when there’s a group of people who all have different minds/brains in comparison to each other.

an individual cannot be neurodiverse because there is only one mind/brain.

even if an individual has multiple neurodivergence, it’s still only one brain.

diversity refers to the variance in a population, place or group. 

we need to use neurodiverse and neurodivergent correctly because when neurodiverse or diverse is used to refer to an individual who is different from the majority, it reinforces the idea that the majority is the default.

Sonny Jane Wise on Instagram

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.

Disability and neurodivergence are broad umbrellas that include 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.

Dr. Devon Price
A purple umbrella labelled “Neurodivergent Umbrella”*

Beneath the umbrella, in colourful text on a black background, it lists:

ADHD
DID & OSDD
ASPD
BPD
NPD
Dyslexia
CPTSD
Dyspraxia
Sensory Processing
Dyscalculia
PTSD
Dysgraphia
Bipolar
Autism
Epilepsy
OCD
ABI
Tic Disorders
Schizophrenia
Misophonia
HPD
Down Syndrome
Synesthesia
* non-exhaustive list
Image Credit: Sonny Jane Wise (@livedexperienceeducator)

Image Description: A purple umbrella labelled “Neurodivergent Umbrella”* 

Beneath the umbrella, in colorful text on a black background, it lists:

  • ADHD
  • DID & OSDD
  • ASPD 
  • BPD
  • NPD
  • Dyslexia 
  • CPTSD
  • Dyspraxia 
  • Sensory Processing 
  • Dyscalculia 
  • PTSD
  • Dysgraphia 
  • Bipolar 
  • Autism
  • Epilepsy 
  • OCD
  • ABI
  • Tic Disorders 
  • Schizophrenia 
  • Misophonia 
  • HPD
  • Down Syndrome 
  • Synesthesia 

* non-exhaustive list 

More About the Neurodivergent Umbrella (non-exhaustive)

Friendly reminder that neurodivergent is an umbrella term that is inclusive and not exclusive – this means mental illnesses are considered neurodivergent.

A few things: ⁣

Neurodivergent is an umbrella term for anyone who has a mind or brain that diverges from what is seen as typical or normal. ⁣

Neurodivergent is a term created by Kassiane Asasumasu, a biracial, multiply neurodivergent activist. Neurodiversity is a different term created by Judy Singer, an autistic sociologist.⁣

Neurodivergent doesn’t just refer to neurological conditions, this is an inaccurate idea based on the prefix of neuro.⁣

Identifying as neurodivergent is up to the individual and we don’t gatekeep or enforce the term. ⁣

Sonny Jane Wise (@livedexperienceeducator)
  • ADHD
  • DID & OSDD
  • ASPD 
  • BPD
  • NPD
  • Dyslexia 
  • CPTSD
  • Dyspraxia 
  • Sensory Processing 
  • Dyscalculia 
  • PTSD
  • Dysgraphia
  • Tourette’s Syndrome
  • Stuttering & Cluttering
  • Anxiety & Depression
  • Personality Disorders/Conditions
  • Bipolar
  • Autism
  • Epilepsy 
  • OCD
  • ABI
  • Tic Disorders 
  • Schizophrenia 
  • Misophonia 
  • HPD
  • Down Syndrome 
  • Synesthesia
  • Panic Disorders/Conditions
  • Developmental Language Disorder/Condition
  • Developmental Co-ordination Disorder/Condition

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.

You can pursue formal diagnosis if you want, for legal protection and educational access. It will never be what makes you Autistic. If you’re uncertain whether you are, meet more of us and join in community with us. We need each other far more than we need psychiatric approval.

Dr. Devon Price

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:

Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic retired technologist turned wannabe-sociologist. 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