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Neurodiversity: Definition & Information

  • Synopsis: Last Updated: 2016-01-04 - Information regarding neurodiversity including the neurodiversity movement, and being neurodivergent and neurotypical

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What is Neurodiversity?

In the late 1990s, Judy Singer, a sociologist, who is on the autism spectrum herself, came up with a word to describe conditions like ADD, Autism, and Dyslexia, this word was "neurodiversity". Her hope and objective was to shift the focus of discourse about ways of thinking and learning away from the usual litany of deficits, disorders, and impairments. defines Neurodiversity as "...the diversity of human brains and minds - the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species." - (

According to the National Symposium on Neurodiversity (2011) held at Syracuse University, neurodiversity is: "...a concept where neurological differences are to be recognized and respected as any other human variation. These differences can include those labeled with Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyscalculia, Autistic Spectrum, Tourette Syndrome, and others." In other words, a condition such as autism is a part of who the person is and to take away the autism is to take away the person. As such, neurodiversity activists reject the idea that autism should be cured, advocating instead for celebrating autistic forms of communication and self-expression, and for promoting support systems that allow people with autism to live as someone with autism.

Today, neurodiversity is broadly defined as an approach to learning and disability that suggests diverse neurological conditions appear as a result of normal variations in the human genome. Neurodiversity advocates promote support systems (such as inclusion-focused services, accommodations, communication and assistive technologies, occupational training, and independent living support) that allow those who are neuro-divergent to live their lives as they are, rather than being coerced or forced to adopt uncritically accepted ideas of normality, or to conform to a clinical ideal. Different people think differently - not just because of differences in culture or life experience, but because their brains are "wired" to work differently.

"Neurodiversity is not a word about autism alone. It is a word that embraces all neurological uniqueness, all rhythms of neurodevelopment and all the forms by which humans can express themselves and contribute to their world." -

What does it mean to be Neurodivergent?

Having an atypical neurological configuration, for example a person who has a developmental disorder and/or a mental illness. The word "Neurodiverse" refers to a group of people where some of the members of that group are neurodivergent.

What does it mean to be Neurotypical?

The word "Neurotypical" is the the opposite of Neurodivergent. Neurotypical means being "neurologically typical" - within the typical (average) range for human neurology.

What is the neurodiversity movement?

The Neurodiversity Movement is a social justice movement that seeks civil rights, equality, respect, and full societal inclusion for the neurodivergent. For example, the autism rights movement (ARM) is a social movement within the neurodiversity movement that encourages autistic people, their caregivers and society to adopt a position of neurodiversity, accepting autism as a variation in functioning rather than a mental disorder to be cured.

Neurodiversity Paradigm:

The neurodiversity paradigm is said to have been initially embraced by people on the autism spectrum, however subsequent groups have applied the concept to conditions that aren't on the autism spectrum such as bipolar, ADHD, schizophrenia, schizoaffective, sociopathy, circadian rhythm disorders,developmental speech disorders, Parkinson's disease, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysnomia, intellectual disability, obsessive–compulsive, and Tourette syndrome.


The neurodiversity concept is controversial. Those proposing the medical model of disability identify mental differences as "disorders, deficits, and dysfunctions". From this point of view, some neuro-minority states are treated as medical conditions that can and should be corrected. Author David Pollak sees neurodiversity as an inclusive term that refers to the equality of all possible mental states. Still others reject the word because they think it sounds too medical.

A major point for neurodiversity opponents - is that racial or sexual orientation differences do not functionally disable a person whereas neurological differences can.

Autism Infinity Symbol

The Autism infinity symbol is becoming a popular alternative to the puzzle pieces autism symbols.
About This Image: The Autism infinity symbol is becoming a popular alternative to the puzzle pieces autism symbols.

Latest Neurodiversity Publications
1 - Neurodiversity in the Classroom by Thomas Armstrong - Thomas Armstrong.
2 - Autism Speaks Board Appointments - ASAN Statement - Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN).
Click Here for Full List - (2 Items)

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