What Does It Mean to Be Neurodivergent?
Neurodivergence refers to a condition where an individual's brain functions, learns or behaves differently from the societal norm. Previously, this was often perceived as an abnormality or problem. However, recent scientific advancements have shown that neurodivergence is not an inherent issue for the individual and that it actually benefits society as a whole. While not all forms of neurodivergence are disabilities, they all represent a difference in how the brain processes information.
As a result, practitioners are no longer treating neurodivergence as an illness. Instead, they view it as a unique method of learning and processing information that can sometimes develop into a disability in an inaccessible society that discriminates against those with disabilities.
Types of Neurodivergence
Neurodivergence is a term that describes a range of consistent ways in which some brains work differently than others. As a result, it's not surprising to learn that there are many different ways in which neurodivergence can manifest. However, you may need to become more familiar with all the different types. The following are the most common examples.
Autism is a "spectrum disorder" because people with autism have different traits and support needs. It used to have subtypes like Asperger's and PDD, but now they're all part of the autism spectrum disorder.
Autism includes challenges with socializing, repetitive behaviors, and speech difficulties. Some people communicate using Alternative Augmentative Communication, writing, typing, or sign language instead of talking.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that affects a person's ability to regulate executive functions. Executive functions are responsible for managing thoughts, attention, behaviors, and emotions, and people with ADHD may struggle with all of these.
Individuals with ADHD may have difficulty with organization, restlessness, seeming disinterested or zoning out, and exhibiting inappropriate behavior when experiencing strong emotions.
Despite the challenges, people with ADHD are often great problem solvers thanks to their out-of-the-box thinking, and they can be energetic and fun. They are also often sensitive to others.
Dyslexia is a type of neurodivergence that affects speaking, reading, and writing. It's often linked to difficulties with reading, writing, and speaking words or letters in the wrong order. It can also cause:
- confusion with certain letters
- trouble organizing words into sentences
- difficulty learning new words
- challenges with pronouncing words
People with dyslexia are often good at seeing the big picture and have strong visual processing skills. They may also have a good sense of space and be very creative.
How to Know If You're Neurodivergent
If you have been diagnosed with any of the conditions mentioned, you are considered neurodivergent. If you haven't been formally diagnosed but strongly relate to the traits of neurodivergence, it's a good idea to seek professional help.
You can also learn more about the condition and hear from people who have similar experiences. Self-diagnosis is valid and often the only way for many people to get a diagnosis.
Many people don't realize they are neurodivergent until they are adults. This can bring challenges but also provide helpful explanations for things they didn't understand about themselves before.
If you've never been diagnosed with any of the mentioned conditions and don't feel like you have those traits, then you are likely neurotypical.
How Common Is Being Neurodivergent?
The exact number of neurodivergent individuals is not known, but examining the prevalence of conditions associated with neurodiversity can provide insight into its commonality.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 44 eight-year-olds has autism spectrum disorder, which accounts for 2.3% of children in that age group. It is 4.2 times more prevalent in boys than in girls, largely due to a patriarchal lack of understanding of how autism presents in marginalized genders.
- The CDC suggests that approximately 9.4% of all children are diagnosed with ADHD at some point before the age of 18.
- According to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, dyslexia affects 20% of the population.
The Future Of Neurodivergence
As our understanding of the brain evolves, the way we treat individuals who are neurodivergent is also changing. For instance, there's been a significant shift in the way we approach autism - it's no longer considered an illness that needs to be cured.
This change is also reflected in the field of special education, where teaching approaches are now designed based on how individuals with different neurodivergent tendencies learn best.
The push for neurodiversity acceptance began with autism, but it has now expanded to include other neurodivergent conditions. By acknowledging and understanding that our brains function differently, we can more easily accommodate individuals in ways that allow them to learn, function, and succeed in society.