Apr 12


By Sterling Gray, WSU Vancouver Neuroscience student

If you would have asked me what neurodiversity was a couple months ago, I would most likely guess that it had something to do with the study of neurological variation. While that is not entirely wrong, the meaning of neurodiversity that has more currently been used has a much more social aspect associated with it than I had originally expected.

Neurodiversity, in the most literal sense, is the neurological differences that arise due to the natural genetic variation within the human race. This is a fact that cannot be disputed as no one person has the same neurological status as the next. Recently, in the last 20 years or so, this term has been used as a concept that the neurological differences are to be recognized as any other human variation such as eye, hair, and skin color.  This new use of the term neurodiversity is more specifically known as the neurodiversity paradigm, and relates less to the fact that every person is different and more to the idea that neurological differences should be seen as equivalent.

Currently, society seems to view others with neurological disorders such as autism and other intellectual disabilities as being neurological problems to be cured. The neurodiversity movement was founded in response to this ideology, and is actively trying to get society to accept neurological disorders as a simple variation of functioning rather than labeling people with the term “disabled”. The neurodiversity movement was founded off the autism rights movement (ARM) which began in the late 1990s, focusing on including autistic culture in society as a minority group and convincing others to accept autistic behaviors. The neurodiversity movement is mostly trying to accomplish the same goals as the ARM, but encompass all neurodiverse groups rather than autism alone.

In the past and even currently, therapies have focused on having people with neurological disorders to conform to society rather than including and accommodating for them. People with autism for example are usually expected to undergo therapies that focus on teaching neurotypical (“normal”) behaviors as opposed to teaching them coping skills. Until recently, this fact had not occurred to me, as I assume it hasn’t for many people. This is not because I have anything against people with disabilities, but rather the fact that this issue has not been readily discussed or brought up in general. If this topic were more often discussed, then inequalities among neurodiverse people would not be as prominent. I believe spreading the awareness neurodiversity is the best way to combat this issue that has been rooted into society. The more individuals aware of this problem, the more support this ideology will be able to gain; allowing for society to address the changes that need to be made to include all neurodiverse peoples.

There are a number of way you can spread awareness that do not take very much effort.

  1. Social media. Many people use social media on a day to day basis. Posting a informational video on Facebook or Twitter would be a great way for your friends and family to learn about neurodiversity.
  2. Lead by example. Just by others observing you treating neurodiverse people with respect and equality can have enough of an influence to change the way others view and treat neurodiverse people.
  3. Support those hosting events. People that are actively spreading the idea of neurodiversity in the community could always use help. Those hosting events could use volunteers or donations to support the movement and allow word to spread even more readily.

Rather than seeing neurodiverse people as having an issue, but as being different as all humans are, allows for a peaceful coexistence for everyone. The terms “retarded” and “handicaped” are becoming phased out for the negative connotation they hold against those that have neurological differences. This way people will not look down upon others that are different from the norm and others that are different don’t have to feel bad about the way they are.


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