You may have heard a person be described as neurodivergent and thought to yourself “what does neurodivergent mean?” Don’t feel foolish – the phrase was coined less than 30 years ago and has only been prevalently used for much less. Being neurodivergent is a way to describe someone whose brain processes, learns, and behaves differently than someone who is considered ‘typical’.
In this guide to understanding neurodivergency, we’ll cover:
- What does it mean to be neurodivergent?
- What is neurodivergence in simple terms?
- Is someone with autism neurodivergent?
- Signs of a neurodivergent person
- Can you test for neurodivergent brains?
Using this information, we hope you gain a better understanding of what it means to be neurodivergent and how you can better relate to someone’s situation.
What Does it Mean to be Neurodivergent?
Neurodivergence is the term for when someone’s brain processes and behaves differently from what has been considered ‘typical’. For many years, someone who is neurodivergent would have a label as ‘abnormal’, or ‘having problems,’, but we are learning more about how neurodivergence can have benefits and does not mean that someone is disabled or should be pitied.
However, we are also learning more about how to accommodate the needs of neurodivergent people and share our world and communities in ways that are not damaging to them. Just like any other difference that people are born with, we must respect their needs and look to help out whenever possible.
What is Neurodivergent in Simple Terms?
The best way to think about someone who is neurodivergent is that people’s brains and nervous systems are all different – neurodivergence is just a more noticeable difference in output at times.
This is reductive, but a good way to frame how we should look at and treat neurodivergent people. The goal is to foster environments where we accept everyone for who they are while understanding our respective differences.
Is Someone with Autism Neurodivergent?
Yes – people with autism are neurodiverse. The more we learn about autism and realize the scope of the spectrum, the more applicable the term neurodivergent becomes. We use it to recognize the diversity, abilities, and strengths of people with autism; not as a negative label.
It is also important to note that all people with autism are considered neurodivergent, but not all neurodivergent people have autism.
Signs of Neurodivergence in Children
In most cases of neurodivergence, it is recognized through a broader diagnosis. However, neurodiversity exists in many people who are not properly diagnosed. There are no finite signs, as neurodivergence has many overlapping symptoms with developmental issues, but there can be signs in children such as:
- Poor or no eye contact
- No babbling or pointing by 1-year-old
- No phrases by 2 years old
- Lack of smiling or social responsiveness
- Not recognizing their own name
While none of these definitively means your child is neurodivergent, you should take note of any of these that are occurring and consult a pediatrician if they recur.
Challenging Symptoms of Neurodiversity
Past infancy and young childhood, there are some attributes of neurodivergent people that can be issued to them in daily life. These include:
2. Struggling to read, write, or follow spoken language.
3. Extra-sensitive to sensory inputs such as light, sound, or crowds.
4. Difficulties in social settings.
5. Tics, rocking, shouting, or blurting things at unexpected times.
These symptoms can apply to many different neurodiverse people, though they are most associated with people who have autism.
Positive Symptoms of Neurodiversity
One of the reasons it is so important to celebrate and understand neurodiversity is that it can produce exciting and exceptional ways for people to think. Some of the helpful symptoms of neurodivergence include:
1. Heightened attention to detail
2. Increased ability to stay focused on specific topics of interest
3. Pattern recognition and code-breaking abilities
4. Deep feelings of sympathy, empathy, and understanding
5. Strong skills in specific scholastic areas such as math, science, or technology.
There are tradeoffs to being neurodivergent, and these positive symptoms are reminders that it is a difference, not a disability. The best way to accommodate a loved one who is neurodivergent is to play up their strengths while helping to mitigate their challenging symptoms for a successful life.
Can You Test for Neurodivergence?
In the broadest sense, it is very difficult to test for the label of ‘neurodivergent’. However, as we learn more about neurodivergence and are able to link it with certain other conditions that you can test for, that can define neurodivergence. Here are several conditions that are defined as neurodivergent:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
These common conditions are among a growing list of identified neurodivergent conditions. If you believe your family member or loved one might be neurodivergent, please reach out to your primary doctor, pediatrician, or a local autism clinic near you.
Ally Pediatric Therapy is Here to Help
At Ally Pediatric Therapy, we know it can be difficult to recognize the signs of a neurodivergent person and accommodate them through challenges in life. We specifically work with families of people with autism, and our main focus is building life skills and support systems to help the whole family.
If you are looking to learn more about ABA therapy for autism or enroll your child in Arizona’s leading autism clinic, please reach out to us today. One conversation could change your loved ones’ life for long-term growth.