The concept of neurodiversity refers to the variations in the human brain that allow each individual to interact with the world around them in their own unique way.
In other words, each person’s brain is wired differently and we may behave secondary to those differences. These differences can include variations in cognitive, learning, social, emotional, and behavioral functioning.
Within the neurodiversity movement, these differences are looked at as natural and valuable, rather than viewing them as deficits.
What is the neurodiversity movement?
The neurodiversity movement is a social and advocacy movement that emphasizes the importance of recognizing and respecting neurological differences among individuals. These individuals commonly identify as neurodivergent.
What does it mean to be neurodivergent?
The term neurodivergent is used to describe individuals who have neurological variations that are different from what is considered “typical” or “neurotypical.” Individuals who identify as neurodivergent may experience a wide range of conditions, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, or other neurocognitive differences.
Individuals who are neurodivergent may have differences that can present as both strengths and challenges. For example, a person with ADHD may require more support with executive functions to help with working memory and remaining focused; however, they may also possess exceptional creativity and problem solving skills. Increasing awareness and acknowledgment of the strengths can be incredibly valuable for academic and workplace culture.
Neurodiversity in the workplace
Workplaces have increasingly recognized the value of neurodiversity and having neurodivergent individuals in their work environments. A recent Forbes article shared a similar sentiment regarding the importance of embracing neurodiversity in the workplace. For example, the article reported that following an Autism at Work initiative created by JPMorgan Chase, they discovered their neurodiverse hires were (on average) 90% to 140% more productive than their employees who had been at the company for 5+ years.
Additionally, neurodivergent individuals often bring unique perspectives and critical thinking skills that can contribute to innovation and creativity across fields. By understanding and embracing neurodiversity, society can tap into the full potential of its diverse population and foster greater progress and development. Companies that have followed this approach have reported more inclusive, supportive, and diverse work environments.
Why is it Important to Understand Neurodiversity as a Society?
As mentioned above (relating to the workplace), it has become more and more apparent that acknowledging neurodiversity and understanding neurodivergent individuals can lead to better societal outcomes, such as:
- Reducing stigma and discrimination
- Fostering inclusivity
- Encouraging innovation and creativity
- Supporting well-being and mental health
- Enhancing employment opportunities
- Informing public policy and advocacy
- Promoting social cohesion
For example, let’s take a look at the areas of education and employment. If educators and employers can better accommodate the unique needs and strengths of neurodiverse individuals, this would increase the likelihood of more equitable education and employment opportunities. Thus, it could lead to improving the overall quality of life for neurodivergent individuals and contributing to a more productive and diverse society.
In conclusion, the neurodiversity movement has the potential to create a profound impact on the lives of millions of people. By recognizing the value of neurodivergent individuals, we can promote a more inclusive and accepting society that works to reduce barriers and provide equal opportunity.
Did you know?
Did you know that speech-language pathologists (SLPs), as well as other skilled instructors and related service providers, play a critical role in supporting the development of self-determination skills in some neurodivergent individuals?
By focusing on self-advocating, decision-making, and problem-solving skills, SLPs (& other providers) can help empower neurodivergent individuals and foster a greater sense of independence.
Check out our PACKED Self-Determination Goal Bank with Resources: Applicable to a wide range of skill levels. This packet covers the 8 key areas of self-determination: choice making, decision making, goal setting, problem solving, self-advocacy, self-awareness, self-efficacy, and self-regulation.
References & Further Resources
Cleveland Clinic. (2022, June 2). Neurodivergent. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/23154-neurodivergent
Dodd, A. (2023, April 19). Neurodiverse applicants are revolutionizing the hiring process. Quartz. https://qz.com/work/1981466/neurodiverse-applicants-are-revolutionizing-the-hiring-process/
Forbes Business Council. (2023, March 7). Why it's important to embrace neurodiversity in the workplace and how to do it effectively. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2023/03/07/why-its-important-to-embrace-neurodiversity-in-the-workplace-and-how-to-do-it-effectively/?sh=6417d0eb4669
Note: Being “neurodiverse” or “neurodivergent” is not formal diagnosis. Additionally, individuals with some of the conditions mentioned above may choose not to identify themselves as neurodiverse or neurodivergent individuals.