The term Neuro-Diversity was first coined in the USA in the nineties on a computer list for people with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome and Internet searches on the term tend to direct you to sites dealing with these conditions. It was also used by dyslexics on one of their lists in the USA. Unlike most names for ‘medical’ conditions, it was not chosen by the professionals. However, many have now adopted it.
Definitions and Explanations:
Neuro-Diversity refers to the spectrum of neurological profiles describing how effective an individual is in processing information. This information comes in many forms, including written and spoken language, sounds, visual images, light, temperature, touch, texture and taste – as well as movement and co-ordination signals from the brain. The processing of all these things includes not only receiving and interpreting, but also transmitting, concentrating on and storing information. For most people, i.e., the Neuro-Typical (NT), the cognitive profile is relatively smooth, with little variation in effectiveness of information processing. This is in line with their general level of intellectual and reasoning ability.
In contrast, a minority of people, i.e. the Neuro-Diverse (NDs), have a cognitive profile, which shows many peaks and troughs, denoting significant disparity between the best and worst of their information processing (NB This is different from the case of having a uniform low level of performance throughout). The processing differences are present from birth, and are independent of any basic physical malfunctions, for example, of eyes, ears or limbs. It is thought that 10% of the population are significantly ND, with many more having some degree of neuro-divergence.
Put simply, ND people have had a condition from birth, which gives them difficulties in some basic skills areas, which cannot be explained by any physical disability or by their level of intellectual or reasoning ability. Specific Learning Difficulties and the, possibly more preferred term, Multi-Specific Processing Difficulties, are other ways of describing these problems.
NDs are more likely to be ‘extreme machines’ than NTs, that is, they are either brilliant or useless at things and rarely mediocre. They may, on occasion, appear to be average at some tasks. However, this may be due to brilliance at one aspect being cancelled out by being useless at another aspect of the same activity.
The rules of easy and difficult tend not to work for NDs, and in many cases are actually reversed. For some, complex mathematical analysis is ‘a walk in the park’, whereas an actual walk in the park (if they have to cross a busy road to get there and then cannot find the exit, when they remember that they should have been somewhere else half an hour ago, and the temperature is too hot for them to cope with) can be a nightmare.