What Is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is not a new idea. Neurodiversity is a term coined by Judy Singer in the late 1990s. She rejected the idea the people with autism were “disabled.” It went from being used in the ASD community to the ADHD/ADD community, and on to other areas of neurological research.

The concept of neurodiversity is backed by science. Brain imaging studies have come a long way in the past 20 years. Scans exist that can show what areas of the brain are “working” at any given time, and how hard they are working. Using these scans, we have found that thinking patterns we label ASD and ADD/ADHD are not “abnormal.” They are simply different ways that the human brain processes information.

The concept of neurodiversity can help kids (and their parents) frame their challenges as differences, rather than as deficits. It can also shed light on instructional approaches that might help to highlight particular strengths different individuals have.

The neurodiversity movement emphasizes that the goal shouldn’t be to “cure” people whose brain works differently. The goal is to embrace them as part of the mainstream. And that means providing needed support so they can fully participate as members of the community.

The concept that people are naturally diverse learners is important for kids with learning and thinking differences. It can reduce stigma and the feeling that something is “wrong” with them. And that can help build confidence, self esteem and encourage creative problem solving.

Celebrating differences is important. But it isn’t enough to get kids with learning and thinking differences the help they need at school. It’s important to acknowledge disabilities in order for kids to get support and services.

Why we currently must tolerate a “diagnosis”

Kids who are neurodiverse in their approach to learning and problem-solving need educational strategies that are often different from those used in the mainstream classroom. In America, we call this “special education.”

Kids can’t receive special education without having an identified disability. And without a disability label, they won’t be protected by special education law. Under current law, accepting the “disability” label has other benefits, too:

It makes it less likely that kids with learning and thinking differences will be overlooked or fall through the cracks in school.

It makes it clear they have challenges that require support.

It encourages research funding for these issues.

So, for the moment, we embrace the label in order to get our kids the help they need. But, with schools closing due to COVID-19, how does this help you with educating your neurodiverse child at home?

Tune in to future posts to get links to online resources and other valuable information that will help you keep your neurodiverse child in learning mode.