What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity can sometimes be difficult to define because it is related to how we all may identify across many domains, as well as how we identity from our own uniquely different way of being.

What is the difference between Neurodivergence and Neurodiversity, and why does this matter?

The term neurodivergence was first defined by Judy Singer (1998), where she stated that individuals with neurological (brain) differences often become marginalised, but that the difference is more about how we interact with the world.

The term neurodiversity is a term that encompasses all neurotypes, from neurotypical to neurodivergent individuals.

What are some examples of Neurodivergent experience?

People may identify as neurodivergent when they believe they have a thinking process that is divergent to that of many others around them. Although there are a number of diagnoses that are sometimes referred to as neurodivergent experiences, some may identify as neurodivergent without a diagnosis for a range of reasons. 

Some of these diagnoses are:

  • Dyslexia
  • Dyscalculia
  • Dyspraxia
  • Autism (some may identify as different terms under the diagnosis Autism e.g.  Autistic experience, Autistic, ASD, ASC and other variations)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

What are some examples of Neurodivergent individuals being misrepresented?

Research on neurodivergent experience (inclusive of autistic experience) has often been misrepresented from a deficit medical model, which can be pathological and focus on ‘fixing’ rather than understanding neurodivergent experience.

Neurodivergent advocates report a culture of imposing power dynamics on neurodivergent and autistic individuals, resulting in exacerbated mental health difficulties (Adams, 2016), which is particularly relevant in today’s struggle for social justice. 

What does the Neurodiversity movement wish to improve?

There is an argument that there is a need for a social model of neurodiversity that encompasses neurodivergent individuals, where we can acknowledge and support all neurodivergence.

The term ‘impairment’ can be disabling when we live in a society that can consciously/unconsciously create barriers for equal and independent participation within society. This does not necessarily mean that impairment is due to neurodivergent experience, but that there is an interplay between one’s neurodiversity and how accessible and neurodivergent-friendly society is when it has been built to serve specific neurotypes, mainly neurotypicals.

How to help against misinterpreting and misrepresenting Neurodivergence within a Neurodiverse understanding.

See the individual as being disabled by not having equal access to society and reach their full potential, rather than seeing autistic or neurodivergent experience itself as being the disability. This difference removes the disability as being rooted within an individual and places it within the context of how society interacts with the neurodivergent individual. It is necessary to ensure that bridges are built to encourage society to be more interactive with neurodiversity as part of the norm, whilst recognising the neurodivergent experience within that context and the impact of that on individuals. 

What are some exceptions to how we view Neurodiversity and Neurodivergence?

Neurodiversity is a community of many different identities.

Every neurodiverse person may have their own unique identity, and that includes neurodivergent individuals. Therefore, we respect everyone’s unique identity which means we are not taking away from anyone’s unique experience in how they experience their world.

What is Neuro-Affirming Language, and why is it important to sign up to this approach?

‘Several recent publications recommend use of alternative neuro-affirming language (ANL) instead of traditional medical language (TML) with the aim to increase acceptance of autistic people and reduce prejudice. Examining language use within recent autism literature. Researchers and practitioners should consider the potential for their language use to impact individual and societal views of autistic people.’

Bottini, Morton, Buchanan, and Gould (2023)



Why do we use identity-first language when we speak about Neurodivergent individuals?

We respect that there may always be a difference in opinion as to what is a respectful way to refer to, for example, autistic experience. However, in order to reduce stereotypes and discrimination many practitioners such as myself follow research guidance in recognising that autistic individuals have consistently shown a significant desire to use identify first language (Taboas et al, 2022):

Autistic individuals and their families are beginning to support the use of identity-first language that embraces all aspects of one’s identity.”

Neurodiversity Definitions & Terms Summarised

Neurodivergent – An individual who considers their brain function to be divergent from the norm.

Neurodiversity – The continuous evolving development of human thinking.

Neurodiversity movement – The social justice movement that recognises that all people will have different types of thinking and encourages acceptance while embracing neurological difference.

Neurotypical – An individual whose brain function is considered part of the norm.

Neurodiverse – A group of individuals with different types of brains, inclusive of all the above.

Our Services

UK Mainland, Northern Ireland & ROI counselling, psychotherapy and clinical supervisory services. Neurodiversity practitioner with specialisation in therapeutic support for individuals who identify as autistic and other neurodivergent ways of being. Trauma informed and attachment based support.