Did you know that nearly 15-20% of the world’s population exhibits some form of neurodivergence?
Our world is full of diverse individuals. Not everyone’s cognitive processes and learning styles align with societal norms. This misalignment is where the concept of neurodiversity comes in.
Neurodiversity recognizes and celebrates the variety of ways people’s brains work. It refers to the fact that differences in neurological functioning are just as natural and valuable as other types of diversity.
Below is a comprehensive guide that dives into what neurodiversity is and neurodivergent brains work.
What is Neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is a term coined by sociologist Judy Singer in the late 1990s. It refers to the natural and expected variation in the human brain’s cognitive functioning and behavior.
Neurodiversity recognizes that neurological differences, such as autism, are not disorders. But rather, they’re variations in the human brain’s functioning.
It views brain differences as normal, rather than deficits. The neurodiversity movement aims to celebrate diversity and promotes inclusivity.
What Does It Mean to Be Neurodivergent?
When you are neurodivergent, it means your brain operates in ways that deviate from what society considers typical. Neurodivergent individuals may experience unique patterns of thinking, learning, and relating to others.
It’s a spectrum that encompasses a wide range of abilities, strengths, and challenges. Some examples of neurodivergence include:
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
People with ASD may have difficulty processing social cues and understanding nonverbal communication. Other autism symptoms include struggling with changes in routine and having a strong focus on details.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
With ADHD, you may have difficulty with executive functions, such as planning and organizing tasks. They may also have trouble sustaining attention. Also, they may be hyperactive or impulsive.
Individuals with dyslexia may have difficulty decoding words and recognizing familiar words quickly. They may also struggle with spelling and reading comprehension.
If you have dyspraxia, you may have difficulty with motor planning and coordination. This makes it challenging to perform tasks that involve complex movements.
Tourette Syndrome is a condition that affects the nervous system. It may cause individuals to experience involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics. This can be physical or verbal.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
If you have OCD, you may experience intrusive and compulsive behaviors. This means that you may feel compelled to perform certain tasks to relieve anxiety.
People with schizophrenia may experience hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking. Patients may seem like they have lost touch with reality.
Individuals with bipolar disorder may experience extreme mood swings. This may include episodes of depression and mania.
As a neurodivergent, you may experience stigma, discrimination, and exclusion from society. This is because your differences may not be understood.
How Do Neurodivergent Brains Work?
Each neurodivergent condition has its unique characteristics. However, there are some general aspects of how neurodivergent brains work. Learn more below.
Different Information Processing
When it comes to processing information, neurodivergent individuals differ from neurotypical people. Some may have heightened senses, allowing them to pick up on details and nuances that others may miss. This ability can be valuable, especially in fields like art, music, or science.
However, other people with neurodivergence may struggle with sensory processing. This can lead to sensory sensitivities or overload. As a result, it can make it challenging for them to filter out irrelevant information and pay attention to what’s important.
Neurodivergent individuals can exhibit various cognitive patterns. Be on the lookout for the following if you are taking care of a patient.
- Visual Thinking: May process information and think in images rather than words
- Hyperfocus: Can become focused on a particular task, often to the point of losing track of time or surroundings
- High Attention to Detail: May notice and remember small details that others may overlook
- Exceptional Memory Skills: This can be useful in fields such as history, language learning, or music
- Pattern Recognition: Skilled at recognizing patterns and making connections between seemingly unrelated concepts
- Heightened Sensitivity to Sensory Input: Can be highly sensitive to sound, light, touch, or smell
- Repetitive or Ritualistic Behaviors: such as following strict routines
Neurodivergent brains often exhibit sensory processing differences. This can significantly impact how they perceive and interact with the world around them. The sensory differences can be categorized into hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity.
With hypersensitivity, they may find certain sounds, textures, lights, smells, or tastes overwhelming.
On the other hand, hyposensitivity refers to a decreased sensitivity to sensory stimuli. For neurodivergents with hyposensitivity, they may have a higher sensory threshold. As a result, they may require more intense sensory input to notice stimuli.
Neurodivergent brains can exhibit differences in social interaction and communication. Although not all people with neurodivergence have the same social challenges, there are some common characteristics observed.
Social Cue Processing
They may have difficulty interpreting social cues, such as facial expressions and body language. This can lead to challenges in understanding the emotions, intentions, or social dynamics of others.
Neurodivergent individuals may struggle to use or interpret gestures, eye contact, or facial expressions appropriately. They may also nonverbally convey a particular emotion that others find off-putting.
Empathy and Theory of Mind
They may have difficulty understanding that others have thoughts and perspectives different from their own. This affects social interactions.
A lot of neurodivergent individuals experience social anxiety due to the challenges they face in social situations. The fear of social judgment or the uncertainty of social cues can contribute to anxiety. This may lead to avoidance of social interactions.
Symptoms of Neurodiversity
Symptoms of neurodivergent conditions vary widely. But, here are some common ones. They include:
- Difficulty with social interactions
- Sensory sensitivities
- Repetitive behaviors or routines
- Difficulty with communication
- Difficulty with executive function— planning, organizing, prioritizing
- Hyperfocus on specific interests or topics
- Impulsivity or distractibility
- Difficulty with reading, writing, or spelling
Why Neurodiversity Matters
Our brains work in so many different ways. This is a natural part of humanity and neurodiversity helps us see that. It matters for several reasons, including:
Acceptance and Inclusion
When we recognize and accept neurological differences, we can create a more inclusive society. This can help reduce stigma and discrimination against individuals with neurodiverse conditions.
If you value neurodivergent people for their strengths, they are more likely to develop positive self-identities. As a result, they can feel good about themselves.
Innovation and Creativity
Many neurodivergent individuals have special skills. Embracing neurodiversity can foster creativity and innovation in our communities.
Assess and Understand Neurodivergent Brains
Neurodivergent brains have unique strengths and challenges. Working with a specialist can help your child make the most of their strengths and overcome challenges.
Contact us today to learn more.