There is a growing push to focus on our brain differences, not deficits. This broader view of “normalcy” is a big part of what’s called neurodiversity. Proponents hope the idea will broaden the way we think about developmental disabilities, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
If the concept becomes mainstream, it could lead to big changes in education and work standards, says Alecia Santuzzi, PhD, an associate professor at Northern Illinois University who specializes in socio-industrial and organizational psychology.
“It encourages people to take a step back to think more creatively about all the different ways of doing work or school tasks,” Santuzzi says.
Judy Singer, an autistic sociologist, started using the term “neurodiversity” in the late 1990s. It refers to the concept that certain developmental disorders are normal variations of the brain. And people who have these characteristics also have certain strengths.
For example, people with ADHD may have problems with time management. But they often show high levels of passion, drive, and creative thinking.
“Even their impulsiveness can be an advantage,” says Sarah Cussler, associate director of undergraduate writing and academic strategies at the Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning. “Because they will say things that other people are afraid to say.”
Neurodiversity is not the same as disability. However, people who have neurodivergent characteristics may need accommodations at work or school.
“Neurodiverse students are wonderful students,” says Cussler. “They can be really creative, see the big picture and think outside the box. But with certain types of classic assessments, they have a harder time.”
In addition to ADHD, neurodiversity generally refers to people with:
Whether it’s elementary school or middle school, Cussler says it’s important to think about a student’s learning profile. It’s the idea that people process information in different ways.
But some children may fall through the cracks when it comes to getting tutoring.
Cussler says the neurodiversity approach casts a wide net that “catch ’em all.”
“On campus now, there’s a shift to the term neurodiversity as opposed to the term disability,” Cussler says. “There’s some value in that because we don’t just want to focus on legal definitions of disability, but include broader groups.
“This includes people with or without a documented learning disability or difference.”
People with neurodivergent characteristics can spend a lot of time trying to adapt to their work environment. They may need to manage their social impressions or find ways to block out distractions.
Over time, Santuzzi says that extra effort can negatively affect job performance and physical and physical performance. Mental Health.
“It really creates an unfair situation for the worker,” she says.
If the modern workplace embraces the concept of neurodiversity, Santuzzi thinks it could alleviate some of the stigma and stress that affects these workers. This includes people who are reluctant to receive help because they fear judgment from co-workers or their boss.
“They don’t want people to think they’re trying to cheat the system,” Santuzzi says.
If you are an employer, here are some tips to adapt:
- Create jobs for different types of workers.
- Allow different working hours and environments.
- Create a flexible work design (when, where, and how work happens) that welcomes people.
Neurodiversity advocates suggest there’s too much focus on the impairments that come with conditions like ADHD. They think a better approach is to focus on what someone is good at, not what they lack.
For example, there is evidence that:
People with ADHD have high levels of spontaneity, courage, and empathy. They can concentrate on certain tasks.
those with autism pay attention to intricate details, have fond memories, and demonstrate some “specialty” skills. Experts believe it can be an asset in certain professions, such as computer programming or music. As noted by one researcher, Wolfgang Mozart had a strong musical memory and absolute pitch.
People with dyslexia can perceive certain types of visual information better than those without. This skill can be useful in jobs like engineering and computer graphics.
We need more research, but experts believe the genes for these developmental “disorders” persist because they have evolutionary advantages. For example, behaviors like hyperactivity and impulsiveness could have helped our ancestors find food or stay away from danger. And strong soft skills, like the ones some people have autism have, were good for our prehistoric ancestors who lived in nature.
Medical experts and people with neurodiverse characteristics don’t always agree on what neurodiversity means. Some think that conditions like autism are always
disabling. And people vary widely in how they want to identify themselves. Some prefer identity language first while others do not.
“There are autistic workers and there are autistic workers,” says Santuzzi.
And while there is a distinction between neurodiversity and disability, right now “some people want to retain the identity of disability to recognize that the workplace and school have not yet accommodated” , says Santuzzi. “And they’re still at a disadvantage.”