Celebrating neurodiversity

profile picture of Naomi Humber
Head of Mental Wellbeing, Bupa Health Clinics
02 March 2022
Next review due March 2025

We’re all very different in how we think, act and behave. It’s what makes us individuals, and what makes the human race so diverse. Here, we explain what we mean by neurodiversity – and why it’s something to celebrate.

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What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is a term used to describe the wide range of differences in how people’s brains work. It supports the view that differences in how we think, behave or process information aren’t ‘abnormal’ or something to be fixed. Instead, they can be seen as normal variations on a spectrum. Just as you may be born left-handed or with green eyes, there’s no right or wrong with neurodiversity. How your brain works and where you sit on this spectrum will be unique to you.

Most people are neurotypical, which means they think and behave in a way that society traditionally considers ‘normal’. But it’s estimated that at least one in 10 people have differences that make them ‘neurodivergent’. This means they behave, think, process or interpret information in ways that differ to most other people.

Types of neurodiversity

Neurodiversity covers many different ways of thinking, behaving or processing information. Some examples of conditions considered to be neurodivergent include:

  • autism – a condition that affects communication, social interaction and behaviour
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – which affects ability to control attention and concentration
  • dyslexia – which causes difficulties in reading or interpreting words, letters and other symbols
  • dyspraxia – which affects physical coordination
  • dyscalculia – which relates to difficulties in understanding numbers
  • dysgraphia – which relates to difficulties with writing
  • tic disorders such as Tourette’s syndrome – which is when you make sounds or movements that you can’t control

These conditions often exist on a spectrum and affect people differently. Some people may only have very mild difficulties, whereas others may be severely affected. It’s also common to have more than one of these conditions at the same time.

Benefits of neurodiversity

Everyone has things that they’re naturally good at and other things that they’re not so good at. People who are neurodivergent are no different. If you’re neurodivergent, you may struggle with certain activities, but find you have unique skills in other areas. For instance, someone with autism may be particularly good at performing repetitive tasks. A person with dyslexia on the other hand, may show strengths in creative and lateral thinking.

Other strengths may include things like problem-solving, attention to detail or risk-taking. Of course, this will be very dependent on the individual. Not every person with a particular condition will show strengths or weaknesses in the same area. But everyone will have their own personal qualities, and it’s important to recognise these.

Challenges of neurodiversity

Despite the benefits, there’s no denying that being neurodivergent can also present many challenges. This is often related to society’s expectations of how we should act or behave. Schools, workplaces and social settings are often designed with a neurotypical society in mind. This can make life difficult for neurodivergent people.

Someone with dyspraxia might find using office equipment challenging, for example. A child with ADHD may find it hard to concentrate at school. And a person with autism may struggle with the bright lights and noise of a busy shopping centre. These are all things that a neurotypical person may be able to do with ease.

Supporting neurodiversity

So what can you do to support neurodiversity? The important thing to remember is that neurodivergent conditions are all just variations of ‘normal’. Every person is a unique individual, with their own strengths and challenges. People who are neurodivergent should not have to change to suit a neurotypical society. Instead, as a society we need to do more to be accepting and supportive of all ‘neurotypes’. This may mean making adaptations in schools, workplaces and other environments. On an individual level, it means getting to know people for who they are. Then celebrating their differences, wherever they fall on the neurodiversity spectrum.

More information and support

If you’re worried about your mental health, our direct access service aims to provide you with the advice, support and treatment you need as quickly as possible. You’ll be able to get mental health advice and support usually without the need for a GP referral. Learn more today.

profile picture of Naomi Humber
Naomi Humber (she/her)
Head of Mental Wellbeing, Bupa Health Clinics

    • Neurodiversity guidance for managers. Royal College of Nursing., accessed 21 February 2022
    • Neurodiversity at work. National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), 2016
    • What does neurodiversity mean? Autism toolbox. Scottish Government and Education Scotland., accessed 21 February 2022
    • Neurodiversity and co-occurring difficulties. British Dyslexia Association., accessed 21 February 2022
    • What is autism? National Autistic Society., accessed 21 February 2022
    • About dyslexia. British Dyslexia Association., accessed 21 February 2022
    • Dyspraxia guidelines for employees. Dyspraxia Foundation., accessed 21 February 2022
    • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. NICE Clinical Knowledge Services., last revised January 2021

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