Celebrating Neurodiversity

Written by Dimity Blank Family and Child Therapist

Neurodiversity is a term you may or may not be familiar with. Below are some definitions to support you in learning more. Before we can celebrate neurodiversity, we need to understand it!

Neurodiversity: Neurodiversity is the normal variation among brains that naturally exist within the human species. Just like there is biodiversity in plants – there is natural diversity in how human brains work!

Neurotypical (NT): A neurotypical person is a person whose brain wiring doesn’t diverge from the statistical norm. This represent the majority of the human species brain types and functions. Most of society and institutions are built by and for neurotypical people.

Neurodivergent (ND): A Neurodivergent person is considered not neurotypical. Neurodivergent brains diverge away from the statistical norm. Some examples of neurodivergent ‘neurotypes’ are autism and ADHD. Being neurodivergent means that you may experience and perceive the world in a way that is different to neurotypical people.

Neurodiverse: refers to a group of people with different types of brains – a group that has both neurodivergent and neurotypical brains. An individual cannot be neurodiverse though they may be multiply neurodivergent e.g. ADHD and Autistic.

Neurodiversity Paradigm: This is a social movement that functions under the fact of neurodiversity. This paradigm seeks to shift the view of the neurodivergent as disordered, impaired or as needing a cure, and advocates for supporting and celebrating neurodivergent brains. It advocates for civil rights, equality, inclusion, accommodations, adaptations, programming, and access for all neurotypes.

Why celebrate Neurodiversity?

Celebrating Neurodiversity is all about challenging misconceptions and stereotypes about Neurodivergent individuals along with celebrating the amazing strengths and talents of Neurodivergent people. Celebrating Neurodiversity doesn’t diminish the challenges of being Neurodivergent in a world designed for neurotypical individuals, it celebrates the resilience and wonderful impact Neurodivergent individuals have in our society!

How can we celebrate neurodiversity in our communities?

  • Listen to lived experience (the experiences of neurodivergent people) and raise up neurodivergent voices, especially in spaces that impact them!
  • Think about the language you are using and the impact this language may have – is it inclusive? Does this language celebrate differences?
  • Celebrate, foster and encourage neurodivergent social and emotional development and communication including – stimming, use of visual communication and other AAC, sharing of special interests, parallel play, natural expressions of affection etc.
  • Encourage and celebrate neurodivergent expressions of joy – stimming, engagement in special interests, encourage natural play.
  • Foster authentic connections among neurodivergent individuals.
  • Create space for Neurodivergent people to be included and safe, with their individual needs accommodated for.

How can we celebrate neurodiversity in our practice?

  • Focusing on respectful and authentic relationships with the children we work with.
  • Celebrating the unique perspectives, strengths, talents and needs of all of our clients.
  • Supporting the development of practical skills and activities of daily living.
  • Setting goals that affirm the child’s natural way of being.
  • Fostering authentic social connections in groups and not trying to teach uncomfortable social skills.
  • Using affirming, strengths-based language.
  • Creating strengths-based goals centred around the child’s everyday routines and interests.
  • Providing accommodations and advocating for accommodations in community settings.
  • Advocating for access to communication for all!

Simple language swaps:

Instead of thisTry this
Disorder / deficitDifference
Symptom / red flagTrait
High or low functioningHigh or low access needs / support needs (or you could describe specific supports and strengths)
Special needsAccess needs
Autism Spectrum Disorder / person with autismAutistic (this is based on research, however, everyone is different so please ask!)

How can we celebrate neurodiversity at home?

  • Introduce your children to the concept of Neurodiversity, whether they are neurodivergent or neurotypical.
  • Talk about different types of brains the same as you would talk about different animals, plant and people.
  • Read books about different brains
    • Some Brains by Nelly Thomas, Illustrated by Cat MacInnes
    • The Brain Forest by Sandhya Menon, illustrated by Kushla Ross
    • Neurodiversity! What’s That? By Nadine Ramina Authur
  • If your child is Neurodivergent, talking about their amazing brain and how it might work.
    • Just Right for You by Melanie Heyworth, Illustrated by Celeste Josephine
  • Accept and celebrate the different needs of all your family members

Written by Dimity Blank

Family and Child Therapist

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