Neurodivergence, a term frequently linked with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and ADHD, refers to a difference in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical or normal. In contrast, “neurotypical” individuals have brains that work quite similarly to most of their peers, developing skills at roughly the same pace as others their age.
Neurodivergence encompasses a spectrum of conditions, including:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)
- Tourette’s Syndrome
- Down Syndrome
- Chronic mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), borderline personality disorder, anxiety, and depression.
Is neurodivergence a pathology or is it just different?
Western medicine pathologises neurodiversity and thus if it’s possible, the ‘deviations from the norm’ are seen as something to fix. However, the social theory perspective of neurodivergence and disability is challenging the western medicine view point to see neurodivergence as a ‘difference’ that allows for different ideas and contributions to society.
Social Theory Perspective on neurodivergence
From a social theory perspective, neurodivergence is a concept that challenges traditional norms and expectations regarding neurological and cognitive diversity. It emphasises the idea that neurological differences, such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and others, are natural variations of the human brain rather than inherently pathological conditions. Neurodivergence in this context highlights the need to embrace and celebrate these differences, recognising that they contribute to the richness and diversity of human experiences.
Through this lens differences are seen as a form of diversity, similar to other forms of diversity like race, gender, or sexual orientation. It promotes the idea that society should accommodate and support individuals with various neurological profiles rather than trying to normalise them.
This aligns with the social model of disability, which suggests that disability is not an inherent trait of an individual but is instead the result of the interaction between an individual’s abilities and the barriers present in society. To understand this more deeply think of a person in a wheelchair who is faced with a public building that lacks wheelchair ramps or accessible entrances. The physical disability is their mobility impairment, which the wheelchair compensates for, but the societal barrier arises when infrastructure and facilities are not designed to accommodate them. This exclusionary architecture and infrastructure hinder their access to essential services and limit their participation in various aspects of society, reinforcing a system of discrimination based on physical differences. It’s not the wheelchair that disables them, it’s the lack of accessibility and inclusivity in the built environment that does so.
In this framework, neurodivergent individuals are also disabled by societal barriers rather than by their neurological differences. For example, an ADHD individuals may struggle with traditional job interviews due to challenges with executive functioning under pressure and/or responding to open-ended questions. Interviews are often the initial gateway to employment and if the interviewer is not aware and thus does not adapt the questions so they are more specific, this person could come accross as undesirable for the position even when they are able to accomodate their ADHD traits and thus would be a perfect fit.
The diagnostic perspective of neurodivergence is rooted in the field of clinical psychology and medicine. It involves the formal diagnosis and categorisation of neurodevelopmental conditions and psychiatric disorders based on standardised criteria. Diagnostic perspectives are primarily concerned with identifying and treating individuals who meet specific diagnostic criteria.
This perspective often views neurodivergent conditions as medical or psychiatric disorders that may require treatment, therapy, or interventions to alleviate symptoms and improve functioning.
Which one is right?
These two perspectives on neurodivergence are not mutually exclusive. They can coexist and complement each other, as the social theory perspective challenges societal norms and stigmas while the diagnostic perspective provides a framework for understanding and addressing individual needs. The growing recognition of neurodiversity in both social theory and clinical practice reflects a broader shift toward a more inclusive and accepting approach to neurological and cognitive differences.
So the question remains… while:
- Someone with ADHD may struggle to keep the house tidy because they are hyper focused elsewhere… The person with ADHD can achieve monumental tasks in a short amount of time that neurotypical people would struggle with because everyday norms would get in the way.
- Or someone with autism may have difficulty gauging neurotypical social norms & cues because their mind does not naturally focus there… The person with autism will observe things in the environment and make connections that the neurotypical person would fail to see because they are naturally inclined to focus on social cues.
- Or the Highly sensitive person (HSP) may shutdown from too much stimulus because their brain is deeply processing everything that is coming in… The highly sensitive person will understand deeply and come up with solutions that the neurotypical person would brush by because their mind filed away the input too quickly.
- Or Someone with dyslexia will struggle to learn to read (at least in traditional systems)… The person with dyslexia will excel at finding differences from enormous quantities of visual data, where the neurotypical person would see no differences because their brain would filter it out.
Every Neurodivergent Journey Is Unique
It’s crucial to remember that within these neurodivergent categories, no two individuals are alike. As the saying goes, “If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.” There’s remarkable diversity even within specific neurodivergent conditions, leading to unique strengths and challenges.
Navigating Neurodivergence and Its Challenges
Neurodivergent individuals often face increased risks of various challenges, including addiction, abusive relationships, eating disorders, and more. It’s worth pondering whether these challenges stem from the nature of neurodivergence itself or from the effort to conform to a neurotypical world. We’ll delve deeper into this topic in an upcoming post and podcast about masking neurodivergence.
Different Isn’t Better or Worse; It’s Just Different
Neurodivergence represents a variation in thought processes and behaviours that deviate from the norm. It doesn’t imply superiority or inferiority; it’s merely a different way of experiencing the world. When your brain is primed in a different way you have access to different skills, ideas and processing power and this leads to different ways of expressing the connections and ideas formed. Imagine a world where we all experience, think, process and express everything in the same way. The result would be that nothing ever changes. Our unique differences all for innovation, creativity and diversity. And just as diversity is the key for a healthy natural environment, so too is it key for a healthy society.
This diversity can bring about several positive aspects:
- Unique perspectives that lead to innovative ideas and opinions.
- Entrepreneurial creativity and artistic talents.
- Innovation stemming from hyperfocus, an understanding of complex concepts, exceptional memory, and empathic qualities.
Diagnosis and Its Significance
Diagnosis plays a pivotal role in understanding one’s neurodivergent traits and challenges. It helps individuals recognise their natural strengths and areas that may require additional support. However, the diagnostic journey isn’t always straightforward.
For instance, in cases of conditions like ADHD, diagnosis often leads to medication as a primary solution. Yet, many neurodivergent individuals continue to face significant challenges even with medication. This prompts us to question the adequacy of our support systems and whether they truly help individuals understand and accommodate their unique needs.
A difference to be celebrated
Neurodivergence underscores the importance of embracing and celebrating neurological and cognitive diversity. It encourages us to reevaluate societal norms and barriers that may hinder neurodivergent individuals. By understanding neurodivergence as a natural variation rather than a pathology, we can move towards a more inclusive and accepting world—one where differences are not just tolerated but celebrated as unique facets of the human experience.
While I cannot help you with diagnosis (you will need to see a Clinical Psychologist or Psychiatrist for that), I can offer you support through the Sensitive Being App and/or via Counselling/Therapy and Coaching.
Sensitive Being App
The Sensitive Being app is where you will be able to find solutions & support for all your sensitive and neurodiverse needs.
Whether you are feeling overwhelmed, or angry… or perhaps nervous system fried or just can’t sleep – Within the app you will find solutions ranging from 5 minutes to 1 hour (depending on your needs) including breathwork techniques, Kundalini yoga, body/somatic exercises, creative exploration, lifestyle guidance (diet, herbs, habits) and deeper understanding through yogic philosophy and elemental wisdom.
No matter what is troubling you, you can easily pull the right tool for yourself in any moment of the day.
Hi I’m Michelle Marsh and I am a coach, therapist, Kundalini Yoga teacher and lover of life.
As Mum with ADHD and highly sensitive person who is also a sensation seeker, I understand what it’s like to have your sensitivity running your life instead of aiding it. But I also know from experience that there is light at the end of the tunnel if you are willing to do the work. For myself, I was never afraid of doing the work… I just couldn’t work out WHAT to do! After years of searching, a few burn outs/breakdowns and intense study I became clear on what works and what doesn’t.
But I am not just sharing with you from an experience point of view. I am also teaching from a professional stance as someone who has studied and integrated teachings from biological, psychological and esoteric traditions. These include Creative Therapies, Kundalini Yoga (KRI), Registered Nursing, Clinical Hypnotherapy, Plant Medicine and Natural Living.
I combine my naturally enthusiastic belief in EVERY BODY with my natural empathic talents to provide you with just the right amount of space and direction so you can go deep and resurface anew.
During the time that I am your coach, I will not leave you hanging between sessions as I am available via email to answer questions and provide support as needed.
If you are unsure whether working with me is right for your unique circumstances, please reach out and I will help you to find clarity. I don’t do sales calls so our chat will be very casual and I will refer you in the right direction if I see that Aromanosis is not right for you at this time.
Registered Counsellor (ACA)
Registered Kundalini Yoga Teacher (KRI)
Bsc (Nursing), Grad Dip Creative Therapies, Kundalini Yoga Teacher Cert, Clinical Hypnotherapy Cert