My teachers once said, “It takes all types of people for the world to go round.” Assuming the world is ‘going round’ at the moment, it must mean that all types of people really do exist.

Unless my teachers lied to me, though this certainly wouldn’t be the first time. (Dear Mrs. Sanders: yes, you can subtract a larger number from a smaller one.)

Other than a little snippet of teacherly wisdom, the phrase does ring partially true. While there aren’t any studies as of late that prove that diversity allows the world to spin, there is a fascinating amount of diversity amongst the people across the world. From situational differences to differences that we were born with, diversity can be observed in many different ways.

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What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is a difference in the way the brain functions. This can include sociability, learning, attention, and many other mental functions. Neurodiversity often includes autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, bipolar disorder, and more.

With a growing push to acknowledge the idea that brains have differences rather than deficits, many now consider neurodiversity to be a variation rather than a disability. 

There are often multiple facets to different conditions, and detrimental and valued traits can both be observed. For example, those with dyslexia can find themselves with global visual-spatial abilities, and those with Williams syndrome can have heightened musical abilities. 

This can be an explanation as to why these conditions still exist today―as traits detrimental to well-being in society today were likely valuable when hunting, constructing shelters, or ensuring reproductive success. 

Autism activist Temple Grandin once surmised: “Some guy with high-functioning Asperger’s developed the first stone spear; it wasn’t developed by the social ones yakking around the campfire”.

In simpler terms, Neurodiversity is essentially a variation in the way the brain functions, with some parts underdeveloped or overdeveloped. This can result in behaviours that are considered “abnormal”, the differences stemming from differences within the brain.


The term neurodiversity was coined in the late 1990s by Judy Singer, an autistic sociologist. She was likely inspired by the other movements at the time based on race and gender, and used her autistic standing to rally together others that were neurodiverse. At the time, the term “neurodiverse” applied to individuals with ADHD, autism, DCD and dyslexia.

The neurodiversity movement’s roots come from the Autistic Rights movement. After Singer created the new term, it was quickly picked up and expanded within autistic activists.

Nowadays, the term has been expanded. It includes a far wider range of conditions, and forms a movement based on its philosophy of difference, not deficiency. The term neurodiversity offers a more nuanced perspective on the conditions, viewing them as variations of “normal”.


Neurodiversity affects how a person thinks. Because of this, many neurodiverse students need special accommodations in order to thrive in a school environment. Even so, given the proper environment and support, a neurodiverse student can still thrive. 

For example, a student with ADHD may find themselves having trouble with time management. They may request additional time on exams or explain to teachers that flitting eyes did not indicate cheating. 

In all levels of school, the importance of understanding a student’s preferences and profile in learning cannot be underestimated. Many students that are higher functioning―meaning that they are able to function mentally or physically at a higher level than others with the condition―may not be identified by the system, and may suffer as a result.

Thus, there is more of a shift to use the term “neurodiversity” rather than “disability” in schools of all levels. Many feel that the value comes from including larger groups within the conversation, and allowing all sorts of people who may process information differently to thrive.

This shift may allow schools to better accommodate neurodiverse people, giving them the opportunity to explore their capabilities and adjust aspects of the system to help benefit all. 


An neurodiverse employee may find themselves with trouble adjusting to a workplace environment. For example, some might find the noises of printers, typing, and coffee to be overstimulating, and may request headphones as a result. 

Thus, at work, neurodiverse people may find themselves needing to put extra effort into being able to perform duties with equivalent efficiency as someone that is neurotypical. This extra effort may result in increased stress, and can take a detrimental toll to mental and physical health. 

Dr. Alecia Santuzzi, an associate professor at Northern Illinois University, says that “”It really sets up an unfair situation for the worker.”

She believes that if modern workplaces adopt the concept of neurodiversity, they may be able to alleviate some of the stress that affects neurodiverse workers. Additionally, this may not be the only benefit.

Often, hiring a neurodiverse worker can be met with resistance. However, neurodiverse people are often very qualified for positions―and can have skills that are very beneficial to an employer or company. For example, in the field of STEM, there has been a recent push to build a neurodiverse workforce. 

Due to different brain function, people who are neurodiverse think differently than others, who can also be called “neurotypicals”. Neuro-Diverse Centre of Excellence leader at EY Hiren Shukla explained how a separate thinking process can allow them to identify problems or inefficiencies that neurotypicals may not catch. 

“Their thought process and their delivery are different to what we are used to,” Hiren said.

There are many ways to help assist neurodivergent people in the workplace. Adopting the concept of neurodiversity in the workplace may ease a portion of the stigma against neurodiverse workers.

Controversy *a little side note in advance*: This one is the longest section by far. I’d finished writing it and only hit about 1200-1300 words, and couldn’t for the life of me find more information about the others. The internet being the internet, it gave me plenty of controversy and debates about the topic―so here we are! :’)

Because neurodiversity consists of many branches, there is a wide range of opinions from both within and without the community on how to tackle the topic. Much of the controversy comes from the idea of the neurodiversity paradigm.

The neurodiversity paradigm is essentially a view of autism―specifically that it should be treated as a different mindset with strengths and weaknesses rather than a disease to be cured. The root idea is that neurodiverse people can accomplish and succeed just as well as neurotypical people.

Advocates strive for the reconceptualization of neurodevelopmental conditions by acknowledging that being neurodivergent needs no cure and changing current nomenclature that uses the words “condition, disease, disorder, or illness”.

This mindset is commonly applied to neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD, developmental speech disorders, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyssomnia, intellectual disability, Tourette syndrome, and schizophrenia. They can also be applied to mental health conditions such as schizoaffective disorder, antisocial personality disorder, dissociative disorders, and obsessive–compulsive disorder.

The main issue with the viewpoint is that it could ignore people with more serious mental conditions and illness, thus opposing the reason the viewpoint was created for―acknowledging all those with conditions under the neurodiversity umbrella. This can be because the majority of its endorsements come from people with higher-functioning conditions, thus negatively affecting those with higher support needs.

In particular, the neurodiversity paradigm is controversial amongst autism activists. A large majority of advocates treat autism as a medical disability, pathologizing one’s brain from what society deems is “normal”. Advocates of this view, also known as “dominant paradigm”, view autism as a disease or disorder that requires treatment. 

In general, there maintains a common criticism—that the neurodiversity paradigm should exclude those who are more severely affected and need true medical attention. 

One autistic advocate Nick Walker suggests the idea that neurodivergencies refer specifically to “pervasive neurocognitive differences” which are “intimately related to the formation and constitution of self.” 

A study was conducted in 2009 surveying 27 students with dyslexia, ADHD, autism, and other learning disabilities. What emerged was two general views about their identity as someone “neurodiverse”.

The first view was one of “difference”, where neurodiversity was seen as a difference with strengths and weaknesses, and amounted to 41% of the participants. These students “indicated higher academic self-esteem and confidence in their ability and nearly 73% expressed considerable career ambitions with positive and clear goals.”

The second was one of “medical/deficit”, where neurodiversity was seen as a disadvantageous medical condition. This view was associated with the process of obtaining Disabled Students Allowance or DSA. All of these students were also reported to seek out online support groups and neurodiversity advocates. 

A separate 2013 online survey surveyed 657 people including autistic people, relatives, friends, and people with no specified relation to autism. 

The study found that both self identification as autistic and neurodiversity awareness were associated with viewing autism as a positive identity that needs no cure. Additionally, the support of practices that improve symptoms of autism but do not attempt to “cure” autism did not differ based on relation to autism or awareness of neurodiversity. 


Neurodiversity includes conditions that affect how the brain functions, examples being ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and more. Having these conditions can mean that it is more challenging to do everyday tasks and be able to learn and work. However, these conditions are not the end-all of success. With proper understanding and support, neurodiverse people can become just as successful as neurotypicals and can bring value to the world.

It is important to communicate and respect the opinions of those who live with these conditions every day. Through this, neurotypicals can assist those who are neurodivergent in giving them a voice and allowing all experiences of neurodiversity to come to light.

No matter a person’s background or circumstances, respecting their story in regards to their condition is an important part to making strides to improve the lives for neurodiverse people.