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What is Neurodiversity?

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Published by Mahima

2 years ago

Imagine a society of birds where pigeons are considered to have the ideal and standard type of body. Now, an ostrich, a large flightless bird, and a sparrow, a little birdie might feel self-conscious living in the same society with them. So, they decide to go to a psychologist. The doctor diagnoses both of them with some disability. The ostrich is labeled as a species suffering from ‘Gigantism’ and the sparrow is labeled as a species suffering from ‘Dwarfism’.

These metaphors point at the way the differences in human brains are considered in our society. Based on the differences, the individual is labeled as having autism, ADHD. learning disability etc.

We need a new field of neurodiversity that regards human brains as the biological entities that they are and appreciates the vast natural differences that exist from one brain to another regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood, and other important mental functions. (Thomas Armstrong, 2010)

According to a widely accepted definition on the Internet, neurodiversity is “an idea which asserts that atypical (neuro divergent) neurological development is a normal human difference that is to be recognized and respected as any other human variation.” Neurodiversity can be described “the whole of human mental or psychological neurological structures or behaviors, seen as not necessarily problematic, but as alternate, acceptable forms of human biology” (2004).

The idea of neurodiversity brings a change in viewing children in special education in the light of old-fashioned ways. Instead of thinking that these children lack something, or there is a deficit, disease, or dysfunction, neurodiversity suggests that we look at their strengths.

Principles

  • The human brain works more like an ecosystem than a machine.
  • Human beings and human brains exist along continuums of competence.
  • Human competence is defined by the values of the culture to which you belong.
  • Whether you are regarded as disabled or gifted depends largely on when and where you were born.
  • Success in life is based on adapting one’s brain to the needs of the surrounding environment
  • Success in life also depends on modifying your surrounding environment to fit the needs of your unique brain (niche construction)
  • Niche construction includes career and lifestyle choices, assistive technologies, human resources, and other life-enhancing strategies tailored to the specific needs of a neuro diverse individual.
  • Positive niche construction directly modifies the brain, which in turn enhances its ability to adapt to the environment.

ADHD symptoms can be looked at positively in a variety of ways. For example, a person who is labeled ADHD is considered impulsive, whereas the person can be looked at as being spontaneous, which is a needed trait for a creative person. It is known that people with ADHD get distracted easily, creative people call this Divergent mind”. This helps people explore all possibilities and think out of the box. Persons with ADHD are seen as individuals who cannot pay attention. This is untrue, as these individuals observe things that most people miss. Not only can they observe minute things, they also have passionate interests, where they can focus on activities for long periods of time. For children with ADHD it's very essential to provide them with a stimulating environment. They require surroundings that are interactive and that keeps them engaged.

People with Autism spectrum disorders have a great strength that is the ability to see details. It has been found that they score higher than “normal” individuals on tests such as block design wherein the person is required to manipulate blocks to match a given two-dimensional pattern. Persons with ASD have special interests. This has been portrayed effectively in a series on Netflix, called ATYPICAL. Sam, the protagonist, has autism spectrum disorder. This character has a strong interest in penguins and invests a whole lot of time to study, read, and research about them. It is essential to protect the special interests of people with ASD, as it helps to keep themselves calm during an episode or motivated while doing some activity. It can also help them negotiate their difficult relationships with others. It can serve them as a pathway to a career in adulthood.

Disorders such as ADHD, Autism, does cause a lot of impairment in the lives of individuals who have the disorder. Neurodiversity and focuses on how some of these difficulties can be seen as differences rather than deficiencies.

References:

Armstrong, T., (2010). Neurodiversity: Discovering the extraordinary gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia and Other Brain Differences. USA: ASCD publications: USA

Armstrong, T., (2012). Neurodiversity in the classroom. USA:ASCD publications: USA

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