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Types of Neurodiversity and Neurodivergence

What is Neurodiversity? What is Neurodivergence? Neurodiversity resources.

More than half a century ago, the campaign for equal rights and social justice led to a more inclusive environment in society. People belonging to minorities and other diverse groups were given equal opportunities in school and the workplace. Discrimination against them was prohibited, and society educated people to eliminate biases and prejudices against them.

The stigma attached to the minorities, marginalized, and discriminated against were slowly being erased. As the fight for diversity and inclusion gains further ground, more and more people who were once stigmatized fought for their rights, too, resulting in broadening the spectrum of diversity and inclusivity.

Among those who successfully fought for their rights were the stigmatized people who had psychological or mental disorders. The fight against stigmatization resulted in inclusion and acceptance into the society of people once characterized as having suffered from mental disturbance.

The fight against the stigmatization of those people is a fight for “neurodiversity.” But what does neurodiversity mean? And who are the people that stand to benefit in the continuing fight for neurodiversity?

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is the idea that previous categorizations of mental abilities and disabilities, which led to severe disadvantages among various groups of people, are nothing but differences in mental functions. Neurodiversity is one of many types of diversity. As such, they should not lead to discrimination and marginalization, and those who are different must not be at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the rest.

That fight for neurodiversity started at the turn of the millennium. Some sectors believed that the classification of mental abilities led to unfair treatment of others. Specifically, those suffering from some disabilities or are mentally challenged were stigmatized and thus denied opportunities for career advancement and other benefits from society.

Categorizing those differences as disabilities and pathologies led to stigma and other forms of exclusion and discrimination.  Recognizing them as differences is part of the overall strategy for inclusivity and recognition of their rights.

What is neurodivergent?

The differences which the advocates of neurodiversity are pointing out are due to what they call neurodivergence. Neurodivergence is when a brain process of a person is different from that of others, either due to genetic or environmental factors. This difference accounts for what they previously recognized as mental disabilities, disorders, or pathologies.

People who fall into types of neurodivergence are called neurodivergent. They behave differently from others. The differences could be mild and unnoticeable. It does not at all affect them as functioning individuals in a society.

The word neurodivergent originally refers to people with autism, but with time it has included those who are mentally different from what we consider “neurotypical” persons. It includes a broad spectrum of those previously considered as mental pathologies, disabilities, and deficiencies.

The reason is that there are nearly countless ways in which brain processes could differ from what we consider to be normal ones. We have to account for all those differences and make sure that no one is left behind in rights and opportunities just because one is considered to be different from others.

What is neurotypical?

We mentioned the word “neurotypical.” Neurotypical is the exact opposite of neurodivergent. It is in connection with autism that the term first came to public attention. And the term emerged in the light of the fight of neurodivergent for greater rights, acceptance, and inclusivity, particularly those of autism advocates.

The term initially denotes that spectrum outside of autism, those who do not have or share the same brain process. Neurodivergence and neurotypical are nothing but just differences in the broad spectrum of people having different brain processes, of which autism is one of the more extreme variants.

Later, the term was used to describe those whose brain processes differ from those of neurodivergent in general. Those who do not exhibit traits and characteristics of a neurodivergent are considered to be typical.

But the idea as it was developed during the fight for the rights of persons with autism remains the same: It is nothing but a variation in, and hence, in itself should not lead to privileges and benefits of neurotypicals, nor the disadvantage, exclusion, and denial of rights among the neurodivergent.

Types of Neurodivergence

Here are the variants, examples, and types of neurodivergence.

Autism

In the fight for greater rights and inclusivity of people with autism, we now have this concept of neurodiversity. With the advocates’ victory, it became possible to broaden the spectrum, and now neurodivergent are reaping the fruits of inclusivity and de-stigmatization.

By pointing out that autism is nothing but differences in the spectrum across different brain processes and that the deficits in communication and other behaviors could be bridged by inclusivity, the battle for recognition was ultimately won.

Persons with autism exhibit various symptoms, including lack of communication, repetitive gestures, and intense focus, among others. If channeled correctly, those traits could be used extensively, in the workplace, for instance, and could significantly help society.

Hyperlexia

Hyperlexia is the children’s incredible ability to read at a surprisingly early age. Usually falling under the category of autism, one who has it usually sacrifices other skills, such as communication, due to their obsession with letters. But as one grows older, one can mitigate the symptoms and effects through applications of various techniques and the skill of reading itself.

ADHD/ADD

Those who have this condition exhibit difficulty paying attention, staying focused, and having less control over their behaviors and emotions. They have difficulties being organized. However, they are playful and fun, and therapists usually use these tendencies to work on them and make them wholly functional individuals.

Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia is the difficulty of controlling motor coordination.  Some activities are affected, like doing sports activities or requiring excellent motor coordination like biking, skiing, and driving. However, it does not affect one’s intelligence, cognitive ability, and analytical and logical skills.

Dyslexia

One who has dyslexia has difficulty reading, writing, or speaking in a way neurotypicals do. They have problem organizing letters and are confused about it. Nevertheless, most of them Aare known for their creativity. People with dyslexia abound, and their differences do not impede in having a career or excelling in one. Don’t miss our complete dyslexia resources.

Dyscalculia

The phenomenon is about difficulties in understanding mathematical processes and some of the concepts. One who has it will have problems solving fundamental operations like addition, and as such, may have difficulties concerning higher mathematics and other deeper math problems.

But as most of us know, even difficulties with mathematics will not impair the ability of anyone to have a distinguished career in other fields.

Dysgraphia

It is the difficulty of putting one’s thoughts or ideas clearly, usually in written form. The difficulties are spelling, using punctuations, or structuring concepts and ideas themselves, and putting them on paper. Though it is due to neurological processes, one can mitigate its effects through education and some techniques.

Synesthesia

One of the more mysterious types of neurodivergence is when you experience a sensation using other senses. Here, one can smell music, and hear colours. Hearing a word could also mean tasting it or seeing some shapes. Since it involves senses, it is instantaneous, causing some annoyance among those who have it.

Tourette syndrome and tic disorders

Tics are twitches or jerks in some or several parts of the body. Tics could either be in some parts, like the eyebrows or may involve some jerking in the arms or feet. Some have those mannerisms like throat clearing.

It is popularly known as TS, and it falls under tic disorders, a general term encompassing all those tics problems. Body and vocal tics are uncontrollable, but one can manage the tics through behavioral therapies and some medications. Those who undergo treatment are due to the tics interfering with their everyday lives, like school or work.

Obsessive-Compulsive disorder

People who are driven to compulsion may have this type of disorder, whether in thoughts, ideas, or sensations. They engage in repetitive behaviors and may have obsessions concerning things or ideas. Engaging in these behaviors is due to the need to relieve themselves of stress or tension usually associated with the obsession. Hence the term.

Epilepsy and seizure disorders

Epilepsy is normally associated with seizure disorders and is sometimes called such. Seizures are due to some abnormalities in the electrical activities of our brain. Other types of seizures may be due to other factors such as stress or psychological factors.

All seizures, epilepsy included, have all the same symptoms and features and have origins in said brain activity. Treatment varies depending on the causes, and medicines are available to treat the condition. Methods and psychological treatment are also applied to help those people deal with it and live everyday lives.

Intellectual disabilities

In general, those with problems with learning, solving problems, exercising judgment, or communication and adaptive functioning are said to have intellectual disabilities. Causes could be hereditary or due to other factors like having a sickness that eventually affects the brain, such as meningitis.

Developmental language disorder

This condition impairs an individual’s hearing and talking with people having difficulties doing both., and as such, is implicated in other neurodivergence such as dyslexia. It is more common than other types of neurodivergence but is treatable and more manageable using educational techniques and methods to boost concentration.

Developmental coordination disorders

It is about problems with motor skills coordination. Problems regarding balance, quick movement, and learning other activities associated with moving are common problems. Dyspraxia is just one among many DCD.

Anxiety

We often hear the word, but in this context, we refer to chronic anxiety, which is the feeling of fear, worry, or general unease. It is characterized by being irritable, sleeplessness, palpitation, and feelings of dread. Both genetic and environmental factors could cause it.

Treatments, from various medications to techniques and psychotherapy, are available. Helpdesks in the net and others abound to help those who have this tendency.

Bipolar disorder

Also known as mood swings, those who have them experience highs and lows in moods and energy. They experience episodes, the highs known as “mania”, a feeling of good mood and joy, and the lows are depression or feeling of being sad and low energy. It could vary from person to person and could occur frequently or less.

Depression

This phenomenon is probably the most common, and people talk about it all the time, in movies and literature. However, as a type of neurodivergence, it is that chronic feeling of sadness for an extended period, usually for no apparent reason. Though it could be debilitating, people have been known to work their way out and through it.

Trauma

It is a response to unfortunate or cataclysmic events that happened to someone, either death, accident, loss of loved ones, or disasters. Those under it are under severe emotional and psychological distress and have physical symptoms such as dizziness and headaches.

Unlike other types of neurodivergence, it is wholly environmental, but as such, it could be treated through a combination of medications and therapy.

Down Syndrome

People born with extra chromosomes could suffer physical and mental developmental issues, which is the case for Down Syndrome. Persons with it behave impulsively and have a short attention deficit. Some physical ailments are also associated with it, like heart ailments and hearing problems.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Alcohol exposure could affect the child’s physical development during pregnancy, including the brain. Among the adverse effects are delayed mental development and some learning disabilities. Early detection is a must to prevent long-term and lifelong effects on the child.

Personality disorder

People with it have difficulties in their relationships with people and others due to the inflexible pattern of thinking and behavior. It includes schizoids who are not interested in others, narcissists, and people with antisocial behavior, among others. Hereditary and environmental factors are both implicated in the phenomenon.

Giftedness

Some who are blessed stand out because of their inherent abilities. They exhibit more than average capabilities compared to their fellows, be it in arts, academics, or science and mathematics. Because of their talents, sometimes they require attention specific to their needs and skills.

Sensory integration disorder

The failure of the brain to process the information coming from the senses is called this. Either the brain does not respond or overreact to the stimulus, sending wrong signals to the body. Despite the condition, those who have it do not suffer from any pathologies, nor it derails their ability to learn, have skills, and be productive.

Auditory processing disorder (APD)

It is the condition when there is a gap between what one hears and what the brain processes. It is common among kids, and one could improve significantly with proper techniques, such as an ideal room listening situation.

Irlen Syndrome

It is to the eyes what APD is to the ears. One is too much sensitive to light, and the brain has trouble processing it. Symptoms could be treated using some intervention, like using certain kinds of glasses.

Cerebral Palsy

It is a condition where abnormal brain development leads to difficulty in muscle movement, posture, mobility, and balance. In worst cases, one could not even walk or stand. However, mild symptoms allow one some degree of movement and do not adversely affect one from engaging in productive activities such as studies or career.

Apraxia

It is the condition when a person cannot move as desired because of brain disturbance. It affects brain-muscle coordination, failing to perform the desired movement. It usually occurs in persons with head trauma or brain injuries. Therapies are often used to correct brain-muscle coordination.

Parkinson’s disease

It is a degenerative disease that affects the muscles as well as movement. It is due to the damaged cells in the brain, resulting in its impaired function and ability to control movement and motor skills. It is an affliction that is common among older people and men.

Multiple sclerosis

Damage to the nerve fibers causes signal problems from the brain to the muscles, causing numbness, tremor, or tingling sensation to the muscles and some body parts. The severity depends on how much nerve damage one has, and one may still do activities depending on the progression of the disease.

Agenesis or Dysgenesis of the corpus callosum

The condition when the nerve fibers in the brain so crucial for our functioning do not form or become malformed. It could result in some so-called brain anomalies and several syndromes. It occurs during pregnancies, during the crucial stages when the child begins to develop the brain. Some who have this condition, however, are known to be gifted and have special abilities.

Conclusion

Looking at the types of neurodivergence, we can surmise why there is the need to de-stigmatize them and fight for their inclusivity. Most of them do not impose severe limitations on the capacity of the individual to fulfill his potential.  Some are gifted and can contribute much to society.

Differences in brain processes do not mean that there is a significant difference in what we can do. And if ever there are limitations, techniques, methods, medicines, and treatment are available. Most of them are productive individuals. Strictly speaking, there is no reason to deny them what everyone has and to stigmatize them just because they are different.

The literature about people having those conditions but still becoming successful abound and need not concern us here. Suffice it to say, we must erase the stigma and fight for neurodiversity and further inclusivity in society.

Neurodiversity Sources:

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ocd/what-is-obsessive-compulsive-disorder

https://www.understood.org/articles/en/understanding-developmental-coordination-disorder-dcd

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/intellectual-disability/what-is-intellectual-disability

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/depression-and-anxiety

https://www.healthline.com/health/down-syndrome

https://www.apa.org/topics/trauma

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fetal-alcohol-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20352901

https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Bipolar-Disorder

Types of Neurodiversity

BC

What is Neurodiversity?
Types of Neurodiversity
Types of Neurodivergence
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About the author

BC

Brian is the Managing Diversity & Inclusion Lead (Chief Diversity Officer) at Diversity.Social. Brian has years of experience working at Fortune 500 companies in diverse environments and building diverse teams in Asian, Europe, America, and Canada.

Brian believes that building diverse and inclusive working environments isn't a luxury for resourceful organizations only, it should be leveraged and start from the grassroots.

Brian is a serial entrepreneur and has founded high technology ventures throughout his career. Diversity Leadership Directory