What Is Neurodiversity and Why Do We Need It?

The term ‘neurodiversity’ was first used in the 1990s by Judy Singer, a sociologist who played a huge part in the Autistic Rights Movement at this time, yet neurodiversity encompasses more than Autism. It is the word that we use to acknowledge and describe all the differences in the ways that we think, learn, perceive, process and make sense of the world and our experiences.  People who consider themselves as neurodiverse might include: those with neurodevelopmental conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC), Tourettes, Bipolar Condition or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD);  people with Learning Differences, such as Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, working memory difficulties or differences in working memory or processing.  The concept of neurodiversity can be useful to support us in moving beyond seeing differences in how we think and learn as deficits.  

 

‘The differences in how we think about, understand and approach learning increases the myriad ways that we can work together through collaboration. Our differences reveal new ways for us to work together.’

 

Recognising and valuing differences in thinking and learning can be hugely advantageous to our learning communities. Parallels with other kinds of diversity can help us to deepen our understanding of why this is the case. Genetic diversity within a population leads to higher resilience to disease and decreases the likelihood of inherited physical defects. In a similar way, when we have members of our learning communities who think and learn differently, they can lead us to new or innovative ways of approaching a problem, guiding us to solutions we might not have seen otherwise. 

‘When we have members of our learning communities who think and learn differently, they can lead us to new or innovative ways of approaching a problem, guiding us to solutions we might not have seen otherwise.’

 

Our differences help us to be more adaptable:  in an ecosystem, plants and animals are essential to one another’s survival. The biodiversity within an ecosystem has developed in response to the ways that species thrive alongside one another in an intricately balanced system.  In our learning communities we are all similarly interconnected. The differences in how we think about, understand and approach learning increases the myriad ways that we can work together through collaboration. Our differences reveal new ways for us to work together. 

A higher level cultural diversity in workplaces has been directly linked to increased creativity and innovation.  When colleagues with different perspectives and beliefs work together they find new ways of thinking, approaching and solving problems. Differences in how we think compared to others can help us to reconsider, reevaluate and reflect on what we are learning about and indeed how we are going about this learning.  Our differences make us more innovative.  

 

‘Neurodiversity is the word that we use to acknowledge and describe all the differences in the ways that we think, learn, perceive, process and make sense of the world and our experiences.’

 

Neurodiversity in our learning communities similarly fuels innovation and creativity, shows us new ways to work together and helps to make this work more flexible and dynamic.  It helps us to recognise the differences in how we think and learn, as well as to realise just how valuable these differences really are.  

Neurodiversity Celebration Week is a nationwide event taking place from the 21st – 27th March, with GDST schools taking part in a range of activities to celebrate the neurodiversity within their individual school communities.