The social model of disability says that disability is caused by the way society is organized, rather than by a person’s impairment or difference. Thanks to the Social Model, the world has slowly caught up with this thinking.
Conditions like Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD, and more – for
so long pathologized as medical conditions to be mitigated, and even cured – are now seen as natural forms of human neurocognitive variation. What has been termed the ‘flip side’ strengths of neurodivergent individuals – from problem-solving to creative insights and visual-spatial thinking – are belatedly being recognized.
The realization has grown that many of the challenges that have previously defined and stereotyped neurodivergent individuals are the results of navigating societies – and workplaces – shaped solely for ‘neurotypicals’.
We have made an effort to include all the information vital to obtain a healthy understanding of neurodiversity and its hard-to-ignore value in the workplace.
Definitions relating to neurodiversity are contentious and not uniform. Here we provide ‘working definitions’ to help develop the neurodiversity conversation in the workplace along consistent – and not confused – lines.
Such definitions may be subject to modifications over time because of changing cultural perspectives, or through patterns of popular usage. Most important in practical terms is likely to be the spirit of the endeavor – a good-faith effort to use inclusive terms and act (whether as an organization or as an individual) in an inclusive way. Taking this approach is most important – especially as the terms and lexicon around this topic remain fluid.
The biological reality of infinite variation in human neurocognitive functioning and behavior, akin to ‘biodiversity’ in the natural world. The term ‘neurodiversity’ is now also being used to describe the fast-emerging sub-category of workplace diversity and inclusion that focuses on including people who are neurodivergent.
This term is often used instead of ‘neurodivergent’, yet is potentially problematic (akin, perhaps, for example, to refer to an African-Caribbean person as ‘racially diverse’). A group can be neurodiverse – an individual is likely better described as neurodivergent.
Having cognitive functioning different from what is seen as ‘normal’ – while the term appears to reflect the ‘medical model’ associated with disorder or impairment requiring mitigation or cure, it is a term that most neurodivergent people are comfortable with. Here we focus on neurodivergence that is largely or entirely genetic or innate
Given the biological fact that there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ brain, neurotypical is best thought of as ‘not neurodivergent’ – that is, within parameters of neurocognitive style that have not been either medically defined as ‘disorders’ or culturally defined as ‘neurodivergent’.
The state of being neurodivergent. It’s worth noting that a common misuse of language is to talk of ‘an individual’s neurodiversity’ – better would be ‘an individual’s neurodivergence’. It is also used as a suitable term used when referring to an individual’s level of degree or intensity of that particular divergence.
A group such as autistic people, or dyslexic people, defined by sharing the conditions of a similar form of innate neurodivergence. It is important to note here that there is invariably great variety within each neurominority demographic.