Diversity: what is a neurodivergent person?

Find out what this concept means, which is under the umbrella of neurodiversity

The concept of diversity also extends to the way our brain works, and in this context it is common to hear the word “neurodivergent” — but what does it mean?

A neurodivergent person is simply one who who has a neurological condition other than what is considered neurotypical (who has brain functions and ways of processing information that are seen as standard).

Therefore, neurodivergent people think, process information and communicate differently than would be expected. This is, therefore, not a negative condition, but rather a different way of reasoning and living experiences. 

This term was created by the activist Kassiane Asasumasu to include in the conversation all people who have a brain that diverges from what has been established as the norm. This includes everyone from people with learning difficulties to those with conditions such as autism and multiple sclerosis, according to an article that neurodivergent Robert Chapman wrote for Psychology Today.

What is neurodivergent?

Neurodivergent people are individuals whose brain functions are different from those considered “normal” by society. 

Thus, a neurodivergent person can be a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), dyslexia, among other conditions. 

Thus, this person will process information, communicate and interact with other people in a unique way, each having a specific characteristic.  

However, it is important to highlight that this does not prevent them from having great skills and being notable people in certain areas. Furthermore, it also does not mean that the person has a negative health condition. 

Understand the difference between neurodivergent and neurotypical

As mentioned previously, a neurodivergent person is a person with some brain characteristics that are different from those considered “normal” by society. 

Meanwhile, the neurotypical is the person with the “standard” development of brain functions and thoughts.

However, there is no condition of superiority or inferiority between the terms, they only represent a diversity of conditions within society. 

But there is some confusion when we talk about neurodivergent. Check out:

Neurodivergent is not a well-known expression among the population. Because of this, some doubts arise about the relationship of the term with some conditions. 

Therefore, check out some confusion that is made about neurodivergent people:

Is ADHD neurodivergent?

Yes and no. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is considered a neurodivergence. However, not all people with ADHD identify as neurodivergent.

A person with ADHD can be considered neurodivergent, but it is important to highlight that there is great diversity among people with this disorder. Therefore, it is crucial not to generalize. 

Is bipolarity neurodivergent?

No. Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric disorder that involves sudden changes in mood, ranging from depression, happiness and mania. 

In this way, bipolarity is characterized as a mood disorder, not as neurodivergence, which is defined as a brain condition.

Is anxiety neurodivergent?

Here the case is similar to bipolarity. Anxiety is an emotion that can affect anyone, with different neurological profiles.

Because of this, anxiety can affect anyone, regardless of their neurodivergence, which is why it is not included in this concept.

How do I know if I'm neurodivergent?

It will be necessary to carry out some psychological and neuropsychological assessments. 

The aim of these tests is to deeply understand each person's cognitive, emotional and behavioral functioning. Thus, the result will provide guidance for the development of an appropriate intervention strategy. 

This process will involve questionnaires, interviews, standardized tests and time for clinical observations. 

Understand better how this test works:

Neurodivergent: test

During neurodivergence testing, it is common for different aspects of brain functioning to be explored, such as cognitive abilities, sensory processing, language, attention, memory and executive functions. 

Furthermore, the assessment may take into account the person's developmental history, interviews with family members or caregivers and the observation of characteristic behaviors. 

It is important to highlight that neurodivergence testing is not intended to label and stigmatize people, but rather to provide valuable information to help understand and support their individual needs.

Examples of what it means to be neurodivergent

The word “neurodivergent” was created by the autism awareness movement to be used as an alternative to the term “autistic person”. Over the years, it has come to be used for other conditions that fall under the umbrella of neurodiversity.

According to Kassiane Asasumasu, some examples of neurodivergent people are:

One study carried out by the consultancy Deloitte points out that, although estimates vary, around 10% to 20% of the world's population is considered neurodivergent. “Many business leaders have openly discussed being neurodivergent, but there is room for more effort in this area,” the study reports.

And what does this have to do with diversity?

When we talk about diversity, we are not just taking into account issues such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and physical disability. Neurodivergent people are part of neurodiversity, which encompasses a wide range of mental orientations, including those mentioned in the item above.

Raising awareness about this type of diversity is important so that parents, teachers and co-workers know how they can collaborate to create inclusive environments at home, at school and in companies, for example.

According to the Deloitte study, research suggests that teams that have neurodivergent professionals in some roles can be more productive. And that including and integrating neurodivergent professionals can increase team morale.

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