The word “neurodiversity” was coined by Australian sociologist Judy Singer in 1998. Simply put, the nonmedical term simply recognizes the fact that every person’s brain develops in a unique way. No two brains are exactly alike, and differences are just that — variations that are neither positive nor negative.
The word refers to all people everywhere, and the neurodiversity movement was meant to increase acceptance and inclusion of everyone while embracing neurological differences. However, “neurodivergent” is now used to describe people whose brain develops or works differently than most. It is commonly used in reference to autism or other neurological/developmental conditions or learning disabilities.
This can be confusing to those who aren’t familiar with these conditions and disorders, and/or are not clear on the meaning of neurodiversity. An uninformed person might assume, for example, that everyone who is neurodivergent also has autism — though that is clearly not the case.
If you have friends, family, or coworkers who are neurodivergent, we offer the following tips to make your interactions as pleasant and friendly as possible:
- Respect sound sensitivity and communicate any anticipated loud noises. For children or employees, consider providing noise-cancelling headphones if needed.
- Respect tactile needs. A neurodivergent person might wish to avoid being barefoot or walking on grass, sand, or carpet. Certain types of clothing items could be found bothersome, too.
- Communicate clearly by avoiding the use of sarcasm and euphemisms. In writing, ensure you are concise and direct.
- Discuss proper workplace or social etiquette. If it seems like someone is being rude or breaking rules, it may not be intentional.
- Try not to change plans at the last minute. Give ample notice if plans are changing; and when they do, offer a reason for the change.
- Allow for movement. A neurodivergent person might need flexible seating, breaks from sitting for long periods of time, or fidget toys.
- Above all, never make assumptions about a person’s needs, goals, and preferences. Be patient and be kind.
For more information about neurodiversity, autism, or other neurological/developmental conditions or learning disabilities, call Heartfelt Solutions at (502) 915-8343.