The Relationship Between Spirituality and Neurodiversity

Japanese zen garden for relaxation balance and harmony spiritual

Last Updated on

April 30th, 2024 09:16 pm

The neurodiversity community has been exploring the intersection of neurodiversity, spirituality, and neurotypicality for years. In recent years, the numbers of neurodiverse individuals experiencing a spiritual awakening (including this author) has accelerated.

A growing awareness of neurodiversity combined with an increase in the number of late-diagnosed Autistic adults seeking support has opened up new discussions in the learning community around the connection between neurodiversity and spirituality.

Many neurodiverse people face unique challenges in day-to-day life that are not adequately addressed by mainstream society or even their own families. Lots of people turn towards unconventional sources of support throughout their spiritual awakening in order to cope with life experiences.

This article illustrates the importance of spirituality in the lives of all kinds of people, but in particular neurodivergent individuals by discussing the ways in which spirituality can help them make peace with who they are, and find support from those who understand their struggles.

What is Spirituality?

Spirituality is about embracing human diversity by connecting with the living world and all its inhabitants. It also encompasses a sense of belonging, purpose, and meaning. In contrast to religion, spirituality lacks a central authority that dictates what it means to be spiritual.

Remember, you can be spiritual without having a religious belief! It’s not just about mystical experiences, but also about common experiences that help us understand the world better.

Spirituality has been traditionally focused on the world around us, with emphasis on a personal relationship with a higher being. This emphasis is present in religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, where God is thought to be in charge of everything, including our own lives.

Another form of spirituality can be found in Eastern societies which focus on spiritual health and the idea of being interconnected with the natural world around them, such as in Buddhism.

3d spirituality concept word cloud

Spirituality means many different things to different people

Further, many cultures believe that nature has spirits or gods which they must respect and honor so that they may live harmoniously as one group. Today’s society focuses more specifically on understanding our place in the universe as part of a larger whole, which is where science enters the equation.

Why is Spirituality Important for Neurodivergent People?

The intersection between spirituality and neurodiversity is not an easy topic to discuss, because it can be difficult for some people to even acknowledge the concept of spirituality. That’s true whether for someone neurodivergent or a neurotypical person.

But many on the Autistic spectrum have been using their divergent thinking and exploring spiritual experiences for quite some time now. And, there are a lot of benefits associated with it – Even if you’re an atheist or agnosticist who uses science to support your belief system.

With these practices and spiritual experiences, some people believe that they will be better equipped to deal with difficulties that may come up in their life. Difficulties can vary from everyday sensory overload and eye contact struggles, to life-changing events such as bereavement and illness.

This is due to the fact that they have a sense of direction. It also allows them to have faith in a divine essence greater than themselves which helps them cope when they face these difficulties.

How Does Spirituality Benefit Neurodivergent People?

One of the benefits of spirituality is that it can help people with neurodiversity cope with extenuating circumstances in life that the average neurotypical person finds easy to manage. This coping mechanism may be the best way for an Autistic person to adapt to a society that often does not understand them and will sometimes dismiss their identity.

Embracing these spiritual experiences whether alone or with a spiritual teacher in tow can also can be a helpful tool for those who are struggling with depression or other mental health problems. It gives Autistic children and adults alike an outlet for their emotions and allows them to work through difficult situations that would otherwise prevent them from moving forward.

A Heightened Sense of Community and Belonging

Another advantage of spirituality and disability for many adults with disabilities, is that it can help provide a sense of belonging in a mainstream society full of neurotypical people that sees them as inferior .

When a person with Autism feels as though they have a community of support, they are more likely to feel accepted and less likely to adhere to societal norms like eye contact. Often these are imposed by neurotypical people in order to fit into “polite society” and conform to stereotypes and appease everyone.

Many people with Autism Spectrum Disorders find this especially challenging because they struggle with social anxiety, human experiences, sensory overload, and learned social skills such as eye contact. Many also struggle with mental health problems and other hidden disabilities that inhibit their ability to interact with others on a day-to-day basis.

When someone feels accepted by their spiritual community, it greatly increases their self-esteem. This helps mitigate some struggles faced their entire lives, and reduces the need for mental health treatment.

crystal ball surrounded by candles and fortune teller hands

Spirituality isn’t just about religion, but also a better understanding of how we connect with the world as a whole

How Does Spirituality Benefit Others?

Spirituality is often described as the journey to find meaning, spirituality, or peace within oneself. For many people, this journey to spiritual enlightenment consists of finding a higher power who they can connect with in order to make sense of the world around them and their place in it. This connection allows them to find comfort and strength when they experience life’s difficulties. It also helps people feel validated and connected when they are struggling with something.

It is possible that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders will resort to alternative means of spiritual growth because there is a lack of support in traditional places. As disability grows more prevalent, we will likely see more individuals turning towards unorthodox methods of spirituality in order to cope with the challenges that come along with disability.

Furthermore, when Autistic children embrace unconventional perspectives on spirituality like neurodiversity at an early age, their perspective on the world will be different from those without disabilities. With the right guidance, spirituality can help them become stronger as they grow older. As long as they are encouraged to follow their own beliefs and use critical thinking to support their spirituality.

yoga and meditation for spirituality

Practices such as yoga and meditation can help you connect with your inner spirituality

Should Everyone Be Spiritual?

In a world where it is often difficult to make sense of what is happening, as well as understanding the meaning of life, it can be helpful to know that people around you are thinking about the same things. These feelings often offer neurodivergent individuals a connection when they feel alone or disconnected in society. The importance of spirituality is something that many people struggle with today.

Yet it’s important to remember that everyone’s opinion is valid, irrelevant of their spiritual status. Some may think that spirituality shouldn’t be considered by anyone because they believe it makes them different from their peers, and that’s okay. It’s possible for someone to engage in critical thinking without being spiritual, in the same way that someone can be narrow-minded and spiritual.

All in all, it can be helpful for those who identify as spiritual to find ways to share their spiritual experience with others so that they don’t feel alone or disconnected from society.

leaves and running water in a zen garden

Zen gardens are a great place to practice spirituality in nature

Spirituality and Neurodiversity

Spirituality is a wide-ranging and complex topic, but for Autistic people it is not only important, but essential to their well-being. Neurodiverse people have a multitude of spiritual practices and beliefs that help them navigate the world. In turn, these practices and beliefs help everyone else.

However, not everyone should be a spiritual person. If someone prefers to avoid religion or spiritual practices, it is best for them to create their own meaning in life and to find happiness in whatever practices they do choose.

With that being said, you do not have to show Autistic traits, be a member of the Autistic community, nor be spiritual in order to appreciate these insights. You may find these ideas intriguing simply because a lot of parents wonder if there might be advantages to adopting a less conventional lifestyle of spirituality or identifying with something other than “normal” when they grow up.

After all, the world would be a boring place if we were all the same!


What is the Difference Between Neurotypicality and Neurodiversity?

The neurodiversity community, which focuses on the needs of all neurodivergent people, has been exploring this intersection for years. However, in recent years we have seen an accelerated pace of growth in awareness and a rise in the number of neurodiverse adults seeking support.

This is because as so many neurodivergent people such as neurodivergent individuals with Autism face unique challenges in day-to-day life that are not adequately addressed in mainstream society or even their own families, they are turning towards unconventional sources of support to cope. In many cases, they’ve had mental health professionals gaslighting them for years.

While there are some people who may view this as a negative instead of a positive, we believe it to be a necessity when society fails to adequately address the unique needs of all neurodivergent people.

What are Some Unique Challenges Faced by Neurodivergent People?

As neurodivergent people, we face unique difficulties, but each of us faces our own unique challenges. Many experience physical pain and anxiety attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder, sensory integration issues, anxiety and depression, social anxiety and paranoia, as well as a variety of dysfunctions like dyslexia, ADHD and OCD to name a few.

Other things many have experienced are social withdrawal or being “shutdown”, and heightened sensory processing issues. Neurodivergent people often face isolation because of our differences and how this may be viewed by another neurotypical person.

It’s an incredibly difficult topic to discuss with other people and because the world has little understanding or compassion for anyone different to the norm. So it should come as no surprise that many neurodivergent people choose to keep their struggles to themselves for fear of judgment or that their family may not understand or believe them if they do raise concerns or seek support.

But that needs to change, and by discussing these complex issues through our own personal experiences we can progress and move forward and create a healthy society for the greater good.

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Rob Butler
30-Something Millennial with ADHD and suspected Autistic and Dyspraxic. Thought leader behind this website. Big visions of a better future for everyone, but forgets where he is half the time.Loves Rugby, his kids, and anything silly. Hates U2 and Marmite.

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