New ideals, more than often, require new language and that is the case with the term Neurodiversity. It is used to describe a community of people whose members are neurodivergent. The concept of neurodivergence has been around for a while. Neurodiversity is an approach to educate and spread awareness about the fact that various neurological conditions are the effect of healthy changes which take place in the human genomic sequence. In simple terms, it means that neurological differences or brain differences are just that, differences. They should be recognized and respected similar to the other social categories like ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
What is Neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity refers to the diversity of the human mind or the differences in an individual’s brain functions and behaviour which is regarded as a normal part or variation of a human being. So, the conditions that are considered as “abnormal” are simply the differences of a human brain.
Neurodiversity is a biological truth, rather than a belief or perspective or approach. There are many neurological variations that are known and recognized as any other human variation. These variations include:
- Dyslexia: One of the most common neurodivergence, Dyslexia is a learning difficulty which basically affects the individual’s ability to read and spell words fluently and accurately.
- Bipolar: Officially known as manic depression, it is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings which include emotional highs and lows. These mood swings affect an individual’s sleep, energy, activity, judgement, behaviour and their ability to think clearly.
- Dyspraxia: It is a specific learning difficulty which affects an individual’s motor functioning such as simple coordination of hand to eye, balance or spatial consciousness and organizational abilities.
- Autism: It is a neurological condition which is characterised by repetitive patterns of behaviour and the struggle of communicating socially, dealing with changes or required and necessary actions.
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder): ADHD is another form of neurodivergence with features like inactiveness, impulsivity and hyperactivity.
- Dyscalculia: This is a learning disorder which is characterised by deterioration in learning basic arithmetic facts, processing numbers and performing correct and precise calculations.
Aforementioned variations are some of the common neurological differences seen in a human being. Others include OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Dysgraphia, Meares-Irlen Syndrome, Hyperlexia, Tourette Syndrome and Synesthesia.
Birth of Neurodiversity:
The term Neurodiversity was first coined by Judy Singer, a sociologist, in the late 1900s, who was on the autism spectrum herself. She introduced this term to challenge the prevailing views of neurological diversity, asserting that these differences should be recognized and respected similar to other social categories, and the term was quickly embraced and welcomed by neurodivergent activists. She believed that the mind of neurodivergent individuals worked differently from that of other people. She rejected the notion that people with autism or other neurological conditions are disabled.
The typical perspective surrounding neurodivergence is that these individuals are ‘undesirable’, ‘are less than’ and even ‘tragic’ or ‘fate worse than death’. These negative perspectives or depictions reinforce stigma around disability. The ableist idea of normalcy is that individuals with neurological deficits, which they have no control over, are regarded as disabled. This notion that there is a ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ type of mind, or the ‘right’ type of neurocognitive functioning is no more valid. The idea of trying to reach an ideal, a socially accepted ableist ideal, adds on to the individual’s already existing troubles. It puts pressure on them to “fit in” and if they are unable to do so then the society puts the “disabled” label on them.
In other words, a neurocognitive condition is a part of who the individual is and to take away that aspect or to invalidate it, is to take away the person. Hence, the neurodiversity activists rejected the idea that neurocognitive conditions should be ‘cured’, instead they should be celebrated as a diverse form of communication and self-expression. Neurodivergent pioneers are promoting support systems which allow those who are neurodivergent to live the way they want to, the way they are, rather than being forced to conform to the socially accepted ideas ‘normality’.
Neurodiversity Paradigm is a certain perspective on neurodiversity which believes that neurodiversity is a natural form of human diversity and that the ‘normal’ or ‘right’ or ‘healthy’ style of neurocognitive functioning is baseless now, just like the other social dynamics (gender, race, culture and sexual orientation).
Neurodiversity and Intersectionality:
Disabled individuals have been de-sexualised and de-gendered in the media. They often experience negative assumptions about their identities and abilities. They have often been ostracized from important conversations and discussions. Throughout history queers, trans, women, disabled and neurodivergent individuals have been marginalized, policed and oppressed, and they are often forced to ‘closet’ their important lived experiences. The idea or notion that neurodivergent individuals are neither gendered or sexual, leads to invalidation of these individuals, further marginalizing them. And if they identify with sexualities deemed non-normative, then their identities become more contentious. There is historical evidence where queer and disabled identities have been pathologized, medicalized and denied. The language surrounding neurodivergence constitutes them as innate “problems” which need to be solved or fixed. Something that can only be validated if perceived by society’s notion of normalcy or able-bodiedness, which leaves the neurodivergent individuals without agency. In spite of this, they have created families and cocooned communities in safe spaces of their own while dealing with mental and physical health issues along with sociopolitical and socioeconomic oppression where the generalized society dictates value and meaning to their bodies and identities as a way of hegemonic social control.
At Pause for Perspective we believe that everyone deserves spaces where they can be themselves, be held, validated and accepted for who they are. No matter which term is used to describe these neurodivergent variations, it is important to recognize and acknowledge the different abilities and strengths that neurodiverse individuals have. Looking for support groups or going to therapies or getting help from medical providers is okay and can help one realize some of the strengths of being neurodiverse. We believe that there is a higher perspective always present, our inner wisdom, and all we need is to pause and stay present with ourselves. We also believe that mental health counseling is intersectional, hence our approach is mindful and affirmative of LGBTQIA+, neurodiversity, social justice and transformational justice based. Although neurodivergent individuals are polied, discriminated, oppressed and marginalized, they still continue to create safe spaces for themselves and provide a platform and agency for younger neurodivergent individuals.
Our faboulous writer Insha Fatima has written this article.