Neurodiversity is a relatively new term. It only really emerged in the 90s, and we’re just now seeing the widespread use of the term throughout our society.
So, don’t worry if you’re not completely familiar with the ins and outs of Neurodiversity. You might have recently been diagnosed, or you possibly have a child or loved one who is Neurodiverse, either way, you’re here to unpack the question “what is Neurodiversity.”
Neurodiversity can be a movement, an umbrella term, a way to describe a community, and a self-identity.
In this blog, we’ll break down how Neurodiversity has turned into a movement, how we use it as an umbrella term, when the term was coined, and some of the diagnoses that fall under Neurodiversity.
When was the term Neurodiversity coined?
In 1998, an Australian sociologist, Judy Singer, coined the term Neurodiversity in hopes to promote equality and empowerment for Neurological minorities. Singer herself was an Autistic woman. She used the term for the first time in her sociology thesis. Singer claims through her research, that she’s never wanted to make capitalism more productive, but she’s wanted to make it more humane for people.
While Singer is credited for the term, it was first published later in 1998, when Jim Harvey, published an article for the Atlantic, where he argued against mother-blaming theories for Autistic individuals.
The term itself only originated in 1998, but it’s very important that we establish one thing. Neurodiverse people have always existed, with or without a term.
This term has allowed Neurodiverse people to verbalize their experiences, find communities, and receive appropriate resources and support. However, the term Neurodiversity did not create Neurodiverse people.
Neurodiversity: The Movement
Neurodiversity is both a term and a movement. Before we launch into how we use the term, it’s crucial to understand the origins of Neurodiversity.
The Neurodiverse movement started in the 90s to promote the acceptance and inclusion of all Neurodivergent people.
However, the movement was born out of the 80s and 90s movement focused on Autistic acceptance and anti-mother blaming theories. Without people like Jim Sinclair and Martjin Dekker advocating for the Autistic Community 20 years ago, Neurodiversity as a movement, a community, and a term would not be where it is today.
By the 2000s, Autism and Neurodiversity had a larger understanding by the medical community, society, parents, and educators. However, it hasn’t been until the last few years that Neurodiversity has finally received the conversations, attention, and policy changes it deserves.
Here at Theara, we refer to Neurodivergent people as the Neurodiverse Collective. The Neurodiverse Collective includes every single person who falls under the umbrella of Neurodiversity regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.
We are all in this together. And we’re advocating, empowering, and embracing Neurodivergent people, just like you, every day.
Thankfully, we are seeing Neurodiversity at the forefront of social justice and intersectionality as more doctors, employers, and families address the diverse ways of thinking, learning, and behaving.
No longer are these diverse ways of navigating the world considered defects or disabilities. Here at Theara, we always remind our Collective that you’re diverse, not disabled. There is no right way to learn, think, or interact with the world.
Neurodiversity: The Umbrella Term
Neurodiversity is most commonly used as an umbrella term for 3 common learning disorders plus other processing disorders. These disorders are Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), most commonly known as Autism, Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder (ADHD), previously referred to as ADD, and Dyslexia.
However, the term also includes Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Dysgraphia, Giftedness, and Dyscalculia.
Theara has pages of resources and life hacks to manage and empower each unique Neurodiverse diagnosis.
Neurodiversity can be used in several ways such as self-identifying as a Neurodiverse person without sharing your specific diagnosis. The term, also, creates an inclusive community for people that have diverse ways of navigating the world to come together collectively.
Whether someone chooses to use the word Neurodivergent, Neurodiverse, or their specific diagnosis is completely up to their discretion and comfort.
If you’re interested in learning more about the unique diagnosis under Neurodiversity, keep reading.
Neurodiversity and Autism
AustimSpeaks defines Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as “a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and non-verbal communications.” Autism also includes Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.
Autism is a complex experience that tends to be first seen in early childhood. Early diagnosis help children, teens, and adults receive the resources and support to live a thriving and full life. The Autism experience has no one singular trait for everyone, and it can be experienced through a variety of behaviors and traits. This is often referred to as where someone falls on the Autistic Spectrum.
About 1 in 44 children have been identified with Autism spectrum disorder. It is estimated that about 1 in 160 children has ASD. This estimate represents an average figure, and reported prevalence varies substantially across studies.
It is also pivotal to state that there is not one single cause of Autism.
Neurodiversity and ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder (ADHD) is the official medical term. Many people may be familiar with the term Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). This is a now-outdated term that is typically used to describe inattentive-type ADHD, which has symptoms including disorganization, lack of focus, and forgetfulness.
The National Institute of Mental Health state that ADHD is “one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and into adulthood.”
Symptoms of ADHD include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity. The CDC found that “about 6.1 million children in the United States (9.4) between ages 2-17 are estimated to ever been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD or ADD).”
A study from August 2020, found that ADHD diagnosis in children ages 4-17 increased from 6.1% in 1997-1998 to 10.2% in 2015-2016.
And the National Institute of Mental Health found that “the overall presence of current adult ADHD is 4.4%,” and “the estimated lifetime prevalence of ADHD in US adults ages 18-44 was 8.1%.”
ADHD can be experienced vastly differently by each person.
Neurodiversity and Dyslexia
Yale University describes Dyslexia as “an unexpected difficulty in reading for an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader. It is most commonly due to a difficulty in phonological processing (the appreciation of the individual sounds of spoken language), which affects the ability of an individual to speak, read, spell, and, often, learn a second language.”
Dyslexia affects 20% of the population, and it represents 80-90% of all those with learning disabilities. It is the most common of all neurocognitive disorders.
Some 5-17% of all school-age children in America have been diagnosed with dyslexia.
The Neurodiverse Collective
Around 20% of the world’s population can be considered Neurodiverse.
The Neurodiverse Collective is full of people from all walks of life, all genders, all races, and all ages. Here at Theara, we fundamentally believe that Neurodiversity is the central point of intersectionality to create a more just society.
Diverse not disabled.
While Neurodiversity is being covered under America’s Disability Act, and many people refer to certain diagnoses as learning disabilities, we want to reshape the language we use around Neurodiversity.
Neurodiverse people are just that, diverse. Just like any other minority, they have a series of challenges and obstacles they need to overcome due to society being created and tailored to Neurotypical people.
The way you think, visualize and navigate the world is a divergent experience compared to the Neurotypical experience.
Theara is lighting the way to a brighter future for the Neurodiverse Collective.
Our mission is focused on the 3 Es: efficacy, equity, and empowerment for the Neurodiverse Collective.
We offer an innovative acronym-based system of courses through The Theara Academy.
The Theara Academy
Here at Theara, we have 4 unique courses to support Neurodivergent people.
Know the Way at Home is a resource for parents of Neurodivergent children.
Know the Way at School is a resource for parents, teachers, and educators to navigate the Neurodivergent academic journey.
Know the Way at Work is a resource for employers, business owners, and HR representatives wanting to create a more inclusive and accommodating workplace for their Neurodivergent staff.
E.M.E.R.G.E. ND is for people wanting to remove the mask, heal the trauma and grief, reach their goals, and navigate their Neurodiversity.
Each course is tailored to a different stage of the Neurodivergent experience. Whether you’re a parent seeking to support your child, an educator wanting a more inclusive classroom, an employer ready to create a more diverse workforce, or a Neurodiverse person wanting to be themselves, then we have a course for you.
Let’s build a bridge to a brighter future, together.