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 considered "neurotypical" (individuals that are considered to be of typical or average developmental, intellectual and cognitive abilities), and those considered neurodiverse, such as people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
, dyslexia, dyspraxia and Tourette's 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 another such condition. A person can have autism to such a severe degree that they are nonverbal and need total care. And there are also people on the autism spectrum that are highly skilled, successful, social and have long term partners and children. For these people, being on the autism spectrum is basically a variation in "wiring" - not a disability.
Similarly, a person with ADHD can be so significantly impacted that without additional support, they have difficulty learning and maintaining healthy relationships. 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 are often considered deficits to their advantage, such as jobs that require multitasking.
Some people that can be considered neurodiverse are truly gifted. Among the famous and successful individuals suspected to be on the autism spectrum, or who have actually received that diagnosis, are Emily Dickinson, Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Jane Austin, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Jerry Seinfeld, Greta Thunberg, Michelangelo, Wolfgang Amadeus 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 people on the autism spectrum 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 on the autism spectrum.
These people are often assets to their employers, as some have amazing in-depth knowledge and focus on their areas of interest, and are detail-oriented and 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. In fact, technology companies are directly recruiting and supporting people
on the spectrum. It is a win-win situation as people on the spectrum are often excellent employees.
The diagnosing of neurodiverse individuals can actually be very beneficial. "Labeling" people has been seen as negative, as if it means something is wrong and they are deficient. And, that label can follow them 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 on the autism spectrum, or that they have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And, it is up to them who they want to share that with. In my experience, most people choose to let others know, and understand that there is nothing shameful about how they are "wired."
Women on the Autism Spectrum
Autism manifests differently in females compared to males. Girls and women with autism 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 - Girls and Women on the Autism Spectrum, What You Need to Know
Most people on the autism spectrum have known that they are "different." They often have low self-esteem from not being successful in school and not "fitting in" as a child - maybe even having been bullied.
Knowing that your brain is wired differently can be a huge relief. Then, as it is for everyone, 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 because of that. 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 neurodevelopmental 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, so 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.
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