What is Neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is a concept that recognizes and respects neurological differences just as any other human variation. People's brains are "wired" differently, but this doesn't mean these differences are necessarily abnormal. Neurological traits include people's interpersonal skills, attention, mood, communication, behavior, sensory processing and learning. There are those that are referred to as "neurotypical" (individuals that are considered to have typical or average developmental, intellectual and cognitive abilities), and those considered neurodiverse - autistic people (autism spectrum disorder
(ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia and Tourette syndrome.
In reality, everyone is on some type of range or spectrum. For example, someone can have an intellectual disability or be cognitively gifted, but not be on the autism spectrum, or other such condition. A person can be autistic and have complex issues to the point that they need total care and support. And there are also autistic people that are highly skilled, have successful careers, are social and/or have long term partners and raising children. But they may have challenges with a number of issues such as sensory overwhelm, social anxiety, or a strong need for sameness.
Similarly, a person with ADHD can be so significantly impacted that without additional support, they have difficulty learning because they can't focus, or maintain healthy relationships. While another person with ADHD can have more mild symptoms, and have very few challenges. It is not unusual for adults with ADHD to have learned to adapt, and even use what is often considered deficits to their advantage, such as jobs that require multitasking.
Some people that can be considered neurodiverse are truly gifted. Below is a list of some of the famous and successful individuals that are suspected to be autistic or have received that diagnosis:
Emily Dickinson, Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Jane Austin, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Jerry Seinfeld, Greta Thunberg, Elon Musk, Michelangelo, Wolfgang Mozart, Anthony Hopkins, Dawn Price-Hughes (anthropologist and ethologist), and Satoshi Tajiri (creator of Pokémon). It is clear that neurodiverse individuals have contributed quite significantly to humanity.
There are autistic people that have great strengths in S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, math) and other creative fields. They can be very successful in their careers, and the fact that they have specialized skills is often because of their neurology relative to being autistic.
Autistic employees are often assets to their employers. Some have amazing in-depth knowledge and focus on their areas of interest and are also detail oriented and very creative. They tend to be rule followers, have excellent memories, and can be quite honest and direct. However, there are some individuals that may need additional support to be successful in their careers. For example, the interview process can be quite challenging, or there may be sensory input in the work environment that is too overstimulating.
Currently, technology companies are directly recruiting and supporting autistic adults. It's a win-win situation as autistic individuals historically have been underemployed, but with the right supports, they are often excellent employees and have so much to contribute.
The diagnosing of neurodiverse individuals can actually be very beneficial. "Labeling" people has been seen as negative; that it means something is wrong and deficient. And, that the label can follow a person through the rest of their lives.
However, everyone can benefit from understanding their own strengths and weaknesses. Having a "label" can actually be very clarifying. It's not unusual for an adult to be very relieved when they find out they are autistic, or that they have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And it is up to them who they want to share that with. Although in my experience, most people choose
to let others know, as they learn to understand that there is nothing shameful about how they are "wired".
Women on the Autism Spectrum
Autism manifests differently in females compared to males. Autistic girls and women are estimated to be significantly under diagnosed. If they do get diagnosed, it's more common to happen during adolescence or adulthood. For more information, read our blog - Autistic Girls and Women, What You Need to Know
Most autistic people have always known that they are "different", even when not diagnosed. They often have low self-esteem from not being successful in school and not "fitting in" as a child - maybe even bullied.
Knowing that your brain is wired differently can be a huge relief. Then, it's a matter of understanding your particular gifts and challenges. By identifying and accepting your challenges, you can learn to adapt and cope differently, versus thinking that you are somehow less than others.
For example, you may find that being in a crowded or noisy environment is overwhelming. So, instead of seeing that as a flaw or problem, accept that it has to do with how your brain processes input. Then, you can make the decision to spend less time in those environments, use ear plugs or headphones to minimize the external noise level, etc. You are not defective. It's a matter of taking care of yourself, and making choices that support you versus cause you more stress.
By understanding how your brain is "wired", your life can significantly improve. You can move from surviving to thriving!
Autism 360 Support
offers personalized coaching and mentoring for parents, couples and individuals on the autism spectrum (and related challenges). We are here to help you by getting to the heart of your challenges, and provide practical and effective solutions. Most problems don't occur in isolation. We use an integrated, whole person approach that includes focusing on your strengths and challenges, and any aspects that contribute to your difficulties. For more information, please visit our website at Autism360Support.com
. If you think you may be "neurodiverse", or are interested in coaching, we offer a free 15 minute introductory phone call to see if we seem like a good fit. Sign up for our newsletter: Autism360Support.com/newsletter-signup
Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.
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