What is Neurodiversity? An Accessibility-Friendly Guide

We can’t be a site about Neurodiversity without asking “What is Neurodiversity?”, can we!

Neurodiversity as a word is less “what” and more “how” we talk about differences in the brain. It used to be that many people saw these differences as a bad thing. But today, sites like Neurodiversity Matters (that’s us – hi!) are here to teach everyone that Neurodiversity has its benefits as well as challenges.

It’s not about telling people they are wrong for saying “I’m so OCD” or “that guy with ADHD is lazy”. If you tell someone they’re wrong, they’ll only think they are more right than you are.

It’s about educating on the reasons why someone might think this way.

In this series, we’re going to post a new post each week that makes Neurodiversity easy to understand for everyone. But we’re going to start off with something that everyone wants to know… What is Neurodiversity?

What Is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is a word that describes brain differences in a way that is positive and doesn’t judge. It is a general term, so people interpret it in different ways.

The use of biased terms in medical diagnosis haven’t helped. Disorder, disability, deficit and hyper are all terms that are seen as negative. If it starts with “dis”, it usually means it’s missing. If it starts with “hyper”, it’s still negative because there’s too much of it.

Of course, we aren’t going to change the medical journal overnight. But by changing the tone of the language we use, we can embrace Neurodiversity, not penalise it.

What Language Should I Use?

Okay, so there are times when some terms can’t be avoided. If you tell someone Executive Function is a daily struggle and you can’t focus, chances are you will end up using the term ADHD or ADD somewhere in the next five minutes you spend trying to explain to someone that you don’t have a deficit of attention, you aren’t hyperactive, and you don’t have a disorder.

Yes, that’s a real problem we face every day.

Neurodiverse language is supportive, doesn’t judge, and is inclusive. You can read more about the different aspects of neurodiversity language here (once we’ve written the article!)

Neurodiverse or Neurodivergent?

Well, taking this from a language perspective, the two are misused a lot by everyone. Neurodiverse refers to a group of more than one person who is Neurodivergent. The sentence below explains it best:

“I am neurodivergent, but my whole family is neurodiverse.”

Make sense? Don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense straight away. By the end of this series of articles you’ll know everything there is to know about Neurodiversity, including the terms used.

How Can We All Support Neurodiversity?

Easy. Embrace it.

It is that simple. It doesn’t matter whether you believe you are neurodivergent yourself, or you know someone who is. What matters is that when people ask “what is neurodiversity?”, we support each other and learn to embrace neurodiversity for its strengths, as well as supporting its weaknesses.

How many of you knew that Ingvar Kamprad, Ikea’s owner and chairman struggled with product codes? Instead of struggling with letters and numbers, he named every product range based on the names of materials used and Scandanavian locations.

Kamprad may not have known until later in life that he was neurodivergent (we’ll come to that word in a minute), but his struggles didn’t hold him back. He overcame them by finding a solution to a problem that never should have been a problem in the first place.

About This Guide

We’ve tried to keep the language easy to understand for anyone neurodiverse. But also, we want to make it inspiring and informative for anyone who wants to know more, as well. So, stick with us, and we’ll work through this complicated world together so nobody is asking “What is neurodiversity?” anymore!