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Neurodivergent affirming

What is neurodivergent affirming?

Neurodivergent affirming (ND affirming) means seeing neurodivergence through a ‘strength-based’ lens and accepting all different neuro/brain-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.

Nevertheless, neurodivergent affirming does not mean that the challenges and needs of individuals are not acknowledged and supported. Every individual has the right to be seen in a positive way and to be valued in their community. Every individual also has the right to have their needs understood and to have their needs accommodated for and supported.

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.


It is also 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; 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 graphic equaliser image below illustrates how an individual’s characteristics and behaviours can change depending on their environment and internal factors at any moment. The image is based on an autistic person, as an example.


The top boxes show what can influence an individual’s autistic characteristics. The sliders underneath show examples of the characteristics and behaviours which may change. Therefore, it is unhelpful to label individuals with an overall ‘severity’ label, as these characteristics are not fixed.

Neurodivergent affirming language

The way people talk to and about us can significantly influence the way we see ourselves, our identity, and our value in the world. The way we are described and spoken about will also impact the way we then talk about ourselves.

It is important that we use language that recognises a person’s strengths and abilities while also acknowledging any challenges and needs. It is also important that we use language that enables others to feel accepted, appreciated and valued for who they are.

Neurodivergent affirming language has been particularly advocated for by the adult autistic community. However, the principles apply to the way we describe all individuals who feel and process things differently.

Neurodivergent-affirming principles poster

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