Neurodiversity is a term used to represent the differences individuals have in brain function that affect daily mental tasks. 
Neurodiversity is a broad term that has recently been adopted, especially on social media, often used in reference to people on the autism spectrum disorder, those with ADHD, learning disabilities, and other neurological conditions according to Harvard Medical School. The neurodivergence term is based on inclusion, understanding, education and acceptance of the diverse ways that people perceive and process the world around them.

How does neurodiversity manifest or present?

Since neurodiversity is a diverse collection of conditions and disorders, the way it manifests or presents does vary greatly, according to Harvard Medical School. There are some commonalities seen amongst the neurodiverse, although it is important to understand that none or all of these may indicate neurodiversity and no symptom or behavior is one-size-fits-all:
  • difficulties with verbal communication
  • difficulties with expressing emotions
  • self-harmful or negative behaviors
  • dependence on support in multiple areas of life or with daily living skills
  • social barriers, exclusion and inequity
With proper accommodations and support, many neurodiverse individuals can meet their desired levels of happiness, quality of life, productivity, and inclusion, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

How to be a neurodiversity ally

Compassion, understanding, and a willingness to make proper accommodations are all key to being supportive for anyone neurodiverse. Compassion involved in a response to neurodiverse issues or struggles can boost the likelihood of increased independence, better education, improved communication and productivity, according to a 2023 study of neurodiverse students in Frontiers of Psychology
Offering inclusion and acceptance are incredibly important as an ally. According to the same study, many neurodiverse individuals carry trauma from past experiences where they were made to feel shamed or isolated, and that can add to the stress and anxiety surrounding current or future struggles they may have.
Many neurodiverse individuals may deal with depression anxiety not as a symptom of neurodiversity, but as an outcome of social barriers, or difficulties with communication or independence, according to a 2019 study in Autism Research. Some tips on how to be a better ally and communicator for the neurodiverse include:
  • Check your own personal biases and assumptions.
  • Communicate clearly and unambiguously.
  • Be flexible with their needs and accommodations.
  • Ask what they need and listen.
  • Be inclusive and welcoming.

How does neurodiversity affect quality of life?

Without proper understanding or education for both the neurodivergent and the community around them, quality of life can be affected negatively for neurodivergent people.
As part of the understanding and education around neurodiversity, it is important to note some accommodations may be needed to meet these quality-of-life markers. Some things that some people take for granted, such as verbal communication and spoken language, social inclusion, material well-being including employment and housing, and acclimating to new environments, all can present unique challenges to those with ASD, ADHD, learning disabilities, and other conditions commonly referred to under the neurodivergent umbrella.

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