What is neurodiversity?

By Amanda Morin

At a glance

  • Neurodiversity is a viewpoint that brain differences are normal, rather than deficits.

  • Neurodivergent people experience, interact with, and interpret the world in unique ways.

  • This concept can help reduce stigma around learning and thinking differences.

What would happen if the world viewed neurodevelopmental differences like ADHD, autism, and learning disabilities differently? If everyone noticed the strengths that can come from these differences first, instead of the challenges?

That’s the basic idea of neurodiversity — that differences don’t have to only be looked at as weaknesses. They’re not problems that need to be “fixed” or “cured.” They’re simply variations of the human brain. 

The neurodiversity view is also personal. Being neurodivergent can help shape identity and how people see themselves and their value in the world. Neurodivergent people experience, interact with, and interpret the world in unique ways. That can sometimes create challenges. But it can also lead to creative problem-solving and new ideas — things that benefit everyone. 

The concept of neurodiversity isn’t new. Judy Singer, a sociologist on the autism spectrum, began using the term in the 1990s. Singer rejected the idea that people with autism are disabled. Her view was that their brains just work differently from others.

Some activists in the autistic community and beyond embrace the term. They and others have used it to reduce stigma and promote inclusion in schools and in the workplace.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.