The term neurodivergent is used for people that have an alternate way of brain functioning and development. This influences the way that someone processes information and the world around them, as well as how they engage and behave with others and their environment.
Neurodivergance may also impact someone’s attention, language, memory, and social and sensory experiences.
Changes are often manifested in early development and are often noticed during this time, however, this is not always the case.
Many adults are diagnosed or identify as later in life. This is particularly evident in women, as they are more likely to engage in masking behaviours (suppressing neurodivergent behaviours).
Neurodivergent is a term used for a range of individuals who may experience any of the following official diagnoses including:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder)
- Intellectual Developmental Disorders
- Global Developmental Delay
- Intellectual Disability
- Language Disorder
- Speech Sound Disorder
- Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder
- Unspecified Communication Disorder
- Tourette’s Syndrome
In Australia around 15-20% of individuals are neurodivergent, however, there is a wide range of misunderstanding that is often attached to such diagnoses. This is often due to the little information others have on the different ways individuals’ brains can function.
It is important to remember that no two people who are neurodivergent will present in the same way and further education is required in order to reduce the stigmatisation.
How can I support a neurodivergent person?
One size does not fit all
No two people are the same, and therefore it is important to understand the individual you are supporting to do your best to accommodate their specific needs.
Neurodivergent individuals are a large proportion of our population, and it is important that others educate themselves on their unique experiences. All individuals have strengths and abilities that need to be recognised.
It is not something to “fix” or “cure”, however, if required, being able to assist friends and family through personalised support services can help people reach their full potential and aid in their overall well-being.
Other things you can do include educating yourself on specific conditions in order to develop a greater understanding of the many way and techniques you can use to behave supportively.
Neurodivergent affirming environments
Foster an environment that is supportive, non-stigmatizing, and accepting of those who identify as neurodivergent. This can include seeking affirming supports as well as using non-stigmatising language.
Individuals may require support in making sure others can respect their boundaries. They may have sensory needs or social boundaries that should be respected.
There are many different ways that neurodivergent individuals may communicate. Learning to find the best way the individual feels comfortable communicating can be extremely beneficial.