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What is neurodiversity?


‘Neurodiversity’ describes the different ways that people’s brains develop. Everyone’s brain is unique but the majority of us have similar brains to others. Our brains affect how we experience the world around us and how we react to it. Neurodiversity includes neurotypical and neurodivergent people. Neurodivergence describes people whose brains have developed differently, including autistic people and those with ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, developmental language disorder and Tourette syndrome. The list of neurodivergent brain types is ever changing as we learn more.

Illustration of a compass

Being neurodivergent has its strengths as well as its challenges. These differences are unique and personal to every individual and no two neurodivergent people are the same. Neurodivergent people can have a range of learning abilities and needs. Being neurodivergent is often a big part of a person’s self-identity. It often shapes how they see themselves and their value in the world.  The differences are not things that need to be ‘fixed’ or ‘cured’, just differences in the way someone’s brain works.

 

I am a mum to three beautifully neurodiverse children. Two of whom are autistic. They are incredible and inspire me to be the best person I can be and challenge the world in ways I never thought possible… read more

Emily, parent

Some people who identify as being neurodivergent may not have a formal diagnosis. This website is designed to support everyone who relates to any of the strengths and challenges described.

What is neurodivergent-affirming?

Neurodivergent-affirming means seeing neurodivergence through a ‘strength-based’ lens and accepting all different types of neuro-types as just that – different. Neurodivergent-affirming means rejecting ‘medical’ models and language such as ‘disordered’, ‘deficit’ and ‘impairment’ that imply the person needs fixing.

Neurodivergence is NOT linear, like it has previously been described, through images such as rainbows. This is not neurodivergent-affirming, so we no longer these descriptions.

Rainbow illustration with line through to represent neurodiversity is not linear

Additionally, it is not helpful to label different neurotypes (e.g. autism or ADHD) as mild/ moderate/ severe, or high/low functioning.

It is, in fact, a complex relationship between the impact of the environment, someone’s internal factors (mood, resilience) and their characteristics. Therefore, a person’s neurodivergence may present differently or change in intensity across a day, week or month.  For example, if an environment is overwhelming, a speaking individual may become non-speaking or withdraw from interaction.

The diagram below uses a graphic equaliser to illustrate this point, in an autistic person. The top boxes show what can influence an individual’s autistic characteristics. The sliders show examples of the characteristics which may change.

Neurodivergent equaliser

Please see our Neurodivergent-Affirming Principles below and share this with your friends, families, professionals and colleagues. This can also be downloaded here.

Neurodiversity affirming principles document

The below music video, ‘Every Mind’, was performed and written by neurodivergent young people, in partnership with West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership.


More on Autism

Find out more from MindMate about autism and what it means.

Understanding autism

More on ADHD

Find out more from MindMate about ADHD and what it means.

Understanding ADHD

More on Developmental Language Disorder

Find out more about Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), one of the most common types of neurodivergence.

Understanding DLD

More on Dyslexia

Find out more about the most common type of neurodivergence.

Understanding Dyslexia

More on Sensory Processing

Find out more about sensory processing in neurodivergence.

Understanding sensory processing

More on Learning Disability

Read more from MindMate about learning disability and what it means.

Understanding learning disability

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