Neurodiversity is the concept of embracing the differences in the way each of our brains are wired. John Elder Robison, author of Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger’s, wrote an article for Psychology Today. which really described it best, “neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome.”
Through the neurodiversity lens, ADHD, among other neurobiological conditions, does not become something that needs a cure. These individuals are not seen as broken or in need of fixing. Indeed, this idea is becoming increasingly supported by science where ADHD is considered only as some deviation from the standard in the range of cognitive differences.
That’s what I’d like to address right now, our standard of cognitive thinking. I think Jonathan Mooney; author of Learning Outside the Lines, and public speaker, best detailed this in his presentation, The Gift: LD/ADHD Reframed. How we have come to value education, especially reading and spelling, has only come about since the Industrial Revolution. Before that, farming was considered a far more accurate measurement of how smart and successful one was. And before that, back in the times of Greek philosophers, heck, even in biblical times, a talented orator was far more valued than a writer. In other words, these measures of success and value are self-imposed by cultural norms, not objective truths.
How smart are you?”
“How are you smart?”
Neurodiversity identifies different types of intelligence: artistic, teaching, mathematical, interpersonal, and kinesthetic, among many, many others. This concept is so freeing because it embraces everybody without prejudice. Now, everyone has value, not just the spelling-whiz-kid, and possibilities for contribution and purpose become infinite! As John Elder Robison put it, “Asserting that I am different – not defective – is a much healthier position to take. Realizing the idea is supported by science is even better.”
So, the whole conversation changes. Neurodiversity does not suggest that culturally inappropriate behaviors be accepted, but that the treatment of individuals with cognitive differences should include help and accommodations. Even these will be unique to individuals; there is no cookie-cutter solution for any issue. This is, in part, why I became an ADHD coach. Coaching addresses each individual uniquely so that they may figure out for themselves what solutions will work for them.
Solution: Embrace the concept of neurodiversity. Find out all you can on the subject, it’s made me a convert.
There are so many people out in the world doing great work in the areas of neuroscience, cognitive behavioral therapy, cultural awareness, education, disability policy, special education (SEPTA), other health clinicians, and community support; there are too many areas to mention in this space.
Suggestion: Go online and search these and other categories for information, just try and stick to reputable organizations, like TED, and individuals, like John Robison and Jonathan Mooney. Ask your doctor, counselor, or others with cognitive differences what they know about neurodiversity and keep that conversation alive using what you learn with your friends and family. Remember, it takes a village.
photo credit: Issue 17. (2011, September 28). Retrieved April 15, 2014, from http://www.bluesci.org/?page_id=4703