We hear it on television, in magazines, and on the radio… Everywhere people are talking about celebrating neurodiversity. But what does it mean, and are there stereotypes or misconceptions associated with it?
After all, the term was only coined in 1998 by sociologist Judy Singer, and it can refer to a diverse range of conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and attention deficit disorder (ADD).
Let’s take a closer look at what it all means.
What Is Neurodiversity?
Research from Harvard Health Publishing defines neurodiversity as how individuals view and interact with the world around them. There is no one “right” way of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences are not considered deficits.
Individuals possess many talents and strengths, and neurodiversity encompasses every person and their diversity. In the 1990s, the neurodiversity movement started so that neurodivergent people could connect through different forums and online platforms. More information could be learned about neurodivergence, increasing acceptance and understanding, and ensuring everyone was included in various aspects of life.
Singer, an Australian sociologist, envisioned that individuals would receive equal treatment and inclusion in different activities and life experiences. This has also helped other medical professionals view neurodivergent people differently and in a more helpful way because they know more about the conditions and abilities.
What is Neurodiversity Celebration Week?
Siena Castellon, an autistic teenager with multiple diagnoses such as ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, founded Neurodiversity Celebration Week in 2018. Siena noticed how neurodivergent individuals’ potential challenges are what people typically focus on and wanted a change that provided a balanced view of their many strengths, skills, and talents.
Siena and her team provided opportunities to learn how to create a more inclusive environment that embraces learning differences and other neurological differences while celebrating neurodiversity and the many strengths and skills these individuals provide.
The purpose of celebrating neurodiversity is to educate so that it is easier for the world to understand neurodivergence better and to make it a priority that neurodivergent individuals feel that their skills and talents are valuable and celebrate them.
Why Are Stereotypes So Harmful?
There has been a long history of stereotypes that have attached themselves to differing abilities in different ways. As can sometimes happen, those stereotypes often change and evolve with the current time frame.
These can directly affect and alter the lives of neurodivergent individuals and their quality of life. Due to these outcomes, those individuals that are neurodivergent can tend to stay away from resources, activities, and services because of the potential that they could be stigmatized and grouped in with all other neurodivergent and people with differences. They don’t want that because they are individuals.
Seven Harmful Stereotypes?
The stereotypes below reflect some common misconceptions about neurodiversity.
1. Lifelong Care Is Needed
Not neurotypical people will need someone to care for them for the rest of their lives, which is a common misconception. Some individuals will require assistance throughout their lifespan, but others won’t. Furthermore, family members are not required to take on this responsibility because they are specialists who can assist in taking care of individuals with differing needs and neurodiversity.
2. Children Shouldn’t Ask Questions About Neurodiversity
It is okay for children to ask questions. The more questions they ask, the more they will understand the differences between people. They can start helping vanquish stigmas and stereotypes and allow the children to learn more about the people around them.
3. Differently-abled People Live Entirely Different Lives
People with differing abilities want the same things their neurotypical counterparts want. They have goals and aspirations, just like anyone else. Also, like anyone else, they are individuals, and what they want depends on who they are.
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4. Disability Is An “Illness” To Be Cured
Differing abilities have different underlying causes and symptoms and make up other parts of a person. It doesn’t define the person or take away individuality. Still, there are many neuro diversities and differing needs that, although there may be underlying causes, there are no cures because there is nothing to cure.
5. Neurodiversity Is A Burden
This is untrue, as many individuals can have relationships, work, and live full and productive lives. Some individuals need more financial assistance to take care of their needs; they also have strengths and abilities that can help with other aspects and live more fully.
6. Differently-abled People Are Dangerous
Although some individuals have impulse control issues that can lead to higher aggression, they are not inherently aggressive. There is no solid research to substantiate the claim that differently-abled people are dangerous.
7. Neurodiverse And Differing Needs People Are ‘Limited’
This is also untrue and depends on the individual. As with anyone, neurodiverse people have strengths and weaknesses and may be working on different skills. However, they may soar beyond one of their neurotypical peers in a subject or skill, like soccer.
This article examined the role and importance of celebrating neurodiversity and how harmful stereotypes can be. Our responsibility is to be aware of these stereotypes and avoid perpetuating them.
- Baumer, N. (2021). What is neurodiversity? https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/what-is-neurodiversity-202111232645
- Block, L. (2023). Education: Essay – Stereotypes About People With Disabilities. https://www.disabilitymuseum.org/dhm/edu/essay.html?id=24
- Easterseals. (2023). Myths and Facts About People with Disabilities. https://www.easterseals.com/support-and-education/facts-about-disability/myths-facts.html
- Neurodiversity Celebration Week. (2023). Celebrating Different Minds. https://www.neurodiversityweek.com/