In understanding the concept of neurodiversity, we stand on the shoulders of many researchers and academics from all around the world, each contributing to this new field of knowledge. In this page the description, the principles and the movement circling neurodiversity. Wikipedia describes it as:
Neurodiversity is an approach to learning and disability that argues diverse neurological conditions are result of normal variations in the human genome. This portmanteau of neurological and diversity originated in the late 1990s as a challenge to prevailing views of neurological diversity as inherently pathological, instead asserting that neurological differences should be recognized and respected as a social category on a par with gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability status. Read more on wikipedia
A particularly interesting and relevant approach for discussion and understanding, is the ‘Eight Principles of Neurodiversity’, written by Thomas Armstrong. It covers the main concepts of the movement, as it makes clear why advocacy is logical, needed, and welcomed in creating a better future for all.
Eight Principles of Neurodiversity:
The Human Brain Works More Like an Ecosystem than a Machine.
Up until now, the most often used metaphor to refer to the brain has been a computer (or some other type of machine). However, the human brain isn’t hardware or software, it’s wetware. The characterization of the brain as an unbelievably intricate network of ecosystems is much closer to the truth than that of a complex machine. We should devise a discourse that better reflects this new conception of the brain.
Human Brains Exist Along Continuums of Competence.
Rather than regarding disability categories as discrete entities, it’s more appropriate to speak of spectrums or continuums of competence. Recent research, for example, indicates that dyslexia is part of a spectrum that includes normal reading ability. Similarly, we use terms such as autistic spectrum disorders, to suggest that there are different gradations of social ability that merge ultimately with normal behavior. This suggests that we are all somewhere along continuums related to literacy, sociability, attention, learning, and other cognitive abilities, and thus all of us are connected to each other, rather than being separated into “normal” and “those having disabilities.”
Human Competence is Defined by the Values of the Culture to Which You Belong.
Categories of disability often deeply reflect the values of a culture. Dyslexia, for example, is based upon the social value that everyone be able to read. One hundred and fifty years ago, this wasn’t the case, and dyslexia was unknown. Similarly, autism may reflect the cultural value that suggests that it’s better to be in relationship than to be alone. We should recognize that diagnostic categories are not purely scientifically-based but reflect these deeper social biases.
Whether You are Regarded As Disabled or Gifted Depends Largely on When and Where You Were Born.
In other times and other places, there have been different disability/ability diagnoses depending upon cultural values. In pre-Civil War America, for example, there was a disorder called “drapetomania” said to afflict blacks. Its meaning was “an obsession with the urge to flee one’s slave masters” and reflected its racist roots. In India, today, there are people who would be labeled in the West as schizophrenic, but who are regarded as holy beings by the local population. We should not regard diagnostic labels as absolute and set in stone, but think, instead, of their existence relative to a particular social setting.
Success in Life is Based on Adapting One’s Brain to the Needs of the Surrounding Environment.
Despite Principles 3 and 4, however, it’s true that we don’t live in other places or times, consequently the immediate need is to adapt to our current contemporary culture. This means that a dyslexic person needs to learn how to read, an autistic individual needs to learn how to relate to others socially, a schizophrenic individual needs to think more rationally and so forth. Tools such as psychoactive medication or intensive remediation programs can help achieve these aims.
Success in Life Also Depends on Modifying Your Surrounding Environment to Fit the Needs of Your Unique Brain (Niche Construction).
We shouldn’t focus all of our attention on making a neurodiverse person adapt to the environment in which they find themselves, which is a little like making a round peg fit in a square hole. We should also devise ways of helping an individual change their surrounding environment to fit the needs of their unique brain.
Niche Construction Includes Career and Lifestyle Choices, Assistive Technologies, Human Resources, and Other Life-Enhancing Strategies Tailored to the Specific Needs of a Neurodiverse Individual.
There are many tools, resources, and strategies for altering the environment so that it it meshes with the needs of a neurodiverse brain. For example, a person with ADHD, can find a career that involves novelty and movement, use an iPhone to help with organizing his day, and hire a coach to assist him with developing better social skills.
Positive Niche Construction Directly Modifies the Brain, Which in Turn Enhances its Ability to Adapt to the Environment.
In experiments with mice, neuroscientists have shown that a more enriching environment results in a more complex network of neuronal connections in the brain. This more complex brain, in turn, has an easier time adapting to the needs of the surrounding environment.
The Neurodiversity Movement
The Neurodiversity movement, of which this foundation is a part of, is described by Wikipedia as:
There is a neurodiversity movement, which is an international civil rights movement that has the autism rights movement as its most influential submovement. Sharing the Disability Rights slogan, “Nothing About Us Without Us“, the movement promotes self-advocacy of its members. Neurodiversity advocates promote support systems (such as inclusion-focused services, accommodations, communication and assistive technologies, occupational training, and independent living support) that allow those who are “non-neurotypical” to live their lives as they are, rather than being coerced or forced to adopt uncritically accepted ideas of normality, or to conform to a clinical ideal. Challenging pervasive social norms and stigmas, it frames autism, ADHD/ADD, dyslexia, bipolarity and other neurotypes as a natural human variation rather than a pathology or disorder, and rejects the idea that neurological differences need to be (or can be) cured, as they believe them to be authentic forms of human diversity, self-expression, and being.
- Armstrong, Thomas. The Power of Neurodiversity: Unleashing the Advantages of Your Differently Wired Brain.Cambridge, MA: DaCapo Lifelong/Perseus Books, 2011..
- “Better, faster … and no office politics: the company with the autistic specialists.” The Independent, May 31, 2009.
- Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE. Prevalence, Severity, and Comorbidity of Twelve-month DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27.
- Singer, Judy. “Why Can’t You Be Normal for Once in Your Life,” in Mairian Corker and Sally French (eds), Disability Discourse, Buckingham, England: Open University Press, 1999, p. 64
- Wikipedia. Url: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurodiversity