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  • Writer's pictureRMTC Team

What is Neurodiversity and Why Should We Celebrate It?


Diversity

The term neurodiversity was first used to describe the differences in the way that people’s brains work. There is a wide range of ways that people can interact and respond to the world, and no one way should be considered right or wrong (Miller, 2024). These differences are something to be celebrated and encouraged. The concept of neurodivergence was realized to fight the stigma faced by people with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and others. 

 

The term has grown into a movement that aims to support people who are neurodivergent, meaning their brains work outside the mainstream. The movement intends to help neurodivergent people focus on developing their unique strengths and talents (Miller, 2024). 

 

Understanding Neurodiversity 

 

There are three main conditions that are typically described by the term neurodiversity- autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is considered a developmental disability, and it is caused by differences in the brain (CDC). ASD can look very different from person to person, but it typically involves challenges with socialization and interaction skills, restricted or repetitive behaviours, and delayed development. ADHD is typically characterized by persistent difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviour (Mayo Clinic). Dyslexia is a learning disorder involving difficulty with written and spoken language including reading, writing, spelling, and comprehension (Understood Team). It is crucial to note that the presence of any of these conditions does not indicate a lack of intelligence. 

 

A common misconception in society is that neurodivergent people are flawed and making their way through life despite dealing with crippling challenges. The neurodiversity movement aims to fight just that and educate people on the fact that neurodivergent people are not worse in any way, simply different. This is not to downplay the challenges they face, but to remind us that the way their brain works is not worse compared to the mainstream brain. In fact, many neurodivergent people excel far above the mainstream person in one or a few niche ways. This could be musically, in attention to detail, mathematically, etc.  

 

The Benefits of Embracing Neurodiversity 

 

This notion that diversity is a good thing can be seen in many different areas. Diverse cities are celebrated, diverse workplaces are commended, diverse skillsets are sought after, and diversity in neural functioning should be no different. Armstrong writes that with differences come strengths, not only weaknesses. He goes on to discuss the fact that these strengths are likely why neurodiversity still exists in the gene pool. It is something that should be seen as beneficial to us, not something to eliminate.  

 

The world is becoming more accepting and inclusive all the time, and though we often think of racial and sexual inclusion, neural inclusion is something to strive for as well. By embracing neurodiversity, we can further this movement of inclusion and acceptance beyond the way people usually see it. It is common for neurodivergent individuals to experience discrimination in the workplace, which can lead to fewer job opportunities and a much more difficult time finding appropriate employment. Over half of neurodivergent individuals who are employed feel that their skillsets are being under-utilized (Wallace, 2023). We encourage you to consider neurodivergent people when considering inclusion and acceptance the same way you work to combat racism and sexual stigma. 

 

Challenges and Stigma 

 

It’s no secret that neurodivergent individuals face challenges that neurotypical people do not. It is important to remember that the challenges that neurodivergent people face can vary drastically. Some people need full-time care, while others live a life that would look no different from that of a completely neurotypical person. While these physical challenges can vary, all neurodivergent people face some sort of challenge. Some of these challenges include discrimination at work and in everyday life, dealing with issues around language, and societal norms.  

 

As discussed above, many neurodivergent people are not being used to their full capacity at work, and many more are not able to find work at all, despite being more than qualified (Wallace, 2023). Neurodivergent people also must navigate language that others use. One of the most difficult things for people to adopt and understand is the distinction between person first or identity first language. It is understood that for people with disabilities, person first language is preferred. That is to say, “a person with a disability” rather than “a disabled person.” You might notice that throughout this blog I have been saying “neurodivergent people.” That is identity first language and is often preferred by the neurodivergent community. This lack of clarity and uniformity in language can be particularly challenging for the neurodivergent community to navigate.  

 

Celebrating Neurodiversity in Mental Health Clinics 

 

So, what can mental health professionals do to celebrate neurodiversity? Something that is especially important to us here at RMTC is professional development for our clinicians, and this can involve neurodiversity too. Clinicians can take the time to further their understanding of neurodiversity and the conditions it includes and learn about why we need to eliminate the stigma involved. We also have an opportunity to promote acceptance by creating a warm, welcoming environment where people’s neurological differences simply do not matter.   

 

We can celebrate our neurodivergent clients’ successes to help boost self-esteem and reinforce positive behaviours, use inclusive language to decrease stigma and focus on their strengths, and use our platform for community outreach. Lastly and most importantly, we have a platform for advocacy and empowerment. Our therapists can work with neurodivergent individuals to help empower them and advocate for themselves. This includes providing information about rights and accommodations and supporting them in their self-advocacy efforts.  

 

Neurodiversity is something to be celebrated and encouraged, by helping neurodivergent people focus on their strengths and talents, instead of viewing themselves as different or inferior. This is the main goal of the neurodiversity movement, including embracing neurodiversity, acknowledging, and easing challenges and stigma, and celebrating neurodiversity in the mental health field. We hope this was an interesting and informative read, and that you learned something from it! 

 

As always, if you are looking to book an appointment with any one of the therapists at Relationship Matters you may contact us via email at admin@relationshipmatterstherapy.com, or by phone at (226) 894-4112. 

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