Words Used Matter: When to use Neurodivergent?

In discussions surrounding neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and others, two terms often arise: "neurodiversity" and "neurodivergent." While these terms are related, they carry nuanced differences in their meaning and implications. As we delve into the discourse surrounding neurodiversity and neurodivergent, it's essential to understand their usage and the significance they hold in advocating for inclusivity and acceptance.
Exploring the Terminology: Neurodiversity vs. Neurodivergent

In discussions surrounding neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and others, two terms often arise: “neurodiversity” and “neurodivergent.” While these terms are related, they carry nuanced differences in their meaning and implications. As we delve into the discourse surrounding neurodiversity and neurodivergent, it’s essential to understand their usage and the significance they hold in advocating for inclusivity and acceptance.

Neurodiversity: Celebrating Variation in Human Brain Functioning

The term “neurodiversity” emerged in the late 1990s and is rooted in the idea that neurological differences, such as those seen in autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other conditions, are natural variations of human brain functioning. Rather than viewing these differences as deficits or disorders, neurodiversity advocates emphasize the importance of recognizing and celebrating the diversity of cognitive styles and perspectives present within the human population. The term was coined by Australian Sociologist, Judy Singer.

At its core, neurodiversity promotes the acceptance of neurological differences and advocates for creating environments that accommodate the needs of individuals with diverse cognitive profiles. It rejects the notion of a “normal” or “typical” brain and instead embraces the idea that all brains are unique and valuable, contributing to the richness of human experience.

Advocates of neurodiversity argue that society should shift its focus from trying to normalize neurodivergent individuals to embracing their differences and providing support and accommodations to enable them to thrive. This approach emphasizes the strengths and abilities of neurodivergent individuals rather than solely focusing on their challenges.

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Neurodivergent: Affirming Individual Identity

On the other hand, the term “neurodivergent” refers specifically to individuals whose neurological functioning diverges from what is considered typical or average. It is often used as a self-identifier by individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and others. The term acknowledges that these individuals have unique ways of experiencing the world and interacting with their environment due to their neurological differences.

For many neurodivergent individuals, embracing the label of “neurodivergent” can be empowering as it affirms their identity and experiences. It fosters a sense of community and belonging among individuals who share similar neurological traits and challenges. By embracing their neurodivergence, individuals can advocate for their needs and rights while challenging societal norms and stereotypes surrounding neurodevelopmental conditions.

Neurodiverse vs Neurodivergent

The terms “neurodiverse” and “neurodivergent” are often used interchangeably, but they carry nuanced distinctions in the discourse surrounding neurodiversity. “Neurodiverse” typically refers to the broader concept of diversity within neurological characteristics and cognitive functioning. It encompasses a wide range of neurological conditions, including but not limited to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, and others. When describing a group or community, “neurodiverse” acknowledges the inherent variety in neurological makeup and highlights the value of different cognitive perspectives and experiences. It promotes inclusivity and recognizes that diverse neurological profiles contribute to the richness of human society.

On the other hand, “neurodivergent” tends to be more specific and often refers to individuals whose neurological makeup deviates from the dominant or expected patterns. It emphasizes departure from neurotypical norms and acknowledges that certain neurological conditions diverge from the perceived standard. While “neurodivergent” is inclusive of various neurological differences, it particularly centers on those that are typically considered outside the societal norm. This term is frequently embraced by advocacy groups and individuals seeking to challenge societal stigmas and promote acceptance and accommodation for diverse neurological experiences. In essence, while “neurodiverse” underscores the collective spectrum of neurological differences, “neurodivergent” places emphasis on the departure from neurotypicality on an individual level.

Navigating the Discourse

While both “neurodiversity” and “neurodivergent” are used within the context of advocating for inclusivity and acceptance of neurodivergent individuals, it’s essential to recognize their distinct meanings and implications. “Neurodiversity” highlights the broader concept of embracing neurological differences as a natural aspect of human diversity, while “neurodivergent” focuses on individual identity and lived experiences.

In discussions surrounding neurodiversity and neurodivergent, it’s crucial to center the voices and perspectives of neurodivergent individuals themselves. By listening to their experiences and insights, we can gain a deeper understanding of the challenges they face and work towards creating more inclusive and supportive environments for all. Whether we use the term “neurodiversity” or “neurodivergent,” what matters most is fostering empathy, understanding, and acceptance towards individuals with diverse neurological profiles.

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