What Is Neurodiversity: Everything You Need to Know

What Is Neurodiversity: Everything You Need to Know

Throughout history, people have existed without being what society in each generation considered “normal.” However, today’s generation includes a world that thrives on inclusivity for everyone, so the term neurodiversity is spoken now more than ever.

So, what is neurodiversity, and how does it manifest itself in society? The guide below will tell you the essential details about neurodiversity and its importance.

Basics of Neurodiversity

If you ask yourself, “What is neurodiversity,” you are not alone. The term comes from Judy Singer, a sociologist with autism who coined the term in 1998. She coined the phrase to distinguish between people with typical and atypical thought processes, behaviours, and development. However, neurodiversity does not mean one group is greater or lesser than another.

The two groups under the neurodiversity umbrella are neurotypical and neurodivergent.

Neurotypical People

A neurotypical person possesses typical or standard brain functions, behaviours, and thought processes. These individuals usually don’t know they are neurotypical because they do not have to address their mental, social, or emotional processes like a neurodivergent person.

Neurotypical people often hit developmental and behavioural milestones on time without significant trouble. Their development is generally unremarkable because it meets the expected standard. When adulthood is well underway, neurotypical people seldom wonder if their brains function normally.

Neurodivergent People

Unlike neurotypical people, those with neurodivergence have brains that function differently than the general standard in one or more ways. There is no single way to exhibit neurodivergence; it can take many forms.

For instance, neurodivergence can manifest mildly, making it less apparent that a person’s development or behaviour does not align with societal standards. However, other neurodivergent people may exhibit obvious differences. That does not mean the differences are bad or wrong.

Many neurodivergent people require alternative learning methods but can still live meaningful lives. Examples of neurodivergent conditions include people with autism, dyslexia, and ADHD. Despite their learning differences, individuals with these diagnoses are not flawed or unintelligent.

Types of Neurodivergence

Neurodivergence is a broad term because it encompasses many neurological and behavioural conditions, such as chronic mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. It also includes synesthesia, Down syndrome, and Tourette’s. Below are three of the most common neurodivergent conditions.


Autistic people are part of a spectrum disorder that ranges from mild to severe. Previous subcategories of autism included Asperger’s and Pervasive Developmental Order. However, the new classification for autism subtypes is Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Because people with autism can display their neurodivergence in many ways, it is not always apparent that someone has the condition. In most cases, people face varying challenges developing social skills. They may also embrace repetitive behaviours or communicate nonverbally.

Despite the apparent social setbacks, autistic people can be excellent visual learners with impressive creativity. They may also have keen attention to detail and strong focusing skills.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is a condition that affects a person’s attention span, emotions, behaviours, and thoughts. It is an executive function dysregulation disorder that can cause people to:

  • Become restless
  • Zone out or display disinterest
  • Having trouble focusing
  • Display inappropriate behaviour when emotional

However, people with ADHD are great out-of-the-box thinkers, making them good problem solvers. People often view their high energy as fun, and they tend to be sympathetic and empathetic to others.


Dyslexia is a learning disability that focuses on language skills. People with the condition may struggle with reading, writing, spelling, and pronouncing words. Dyslexia can affect people at any stage of life, but it’s usually prevalent in students who may need special accommodations and, in severe cases, additional education.

Despite the language learning disability, people with dyslexia tend to excel in visual processing and are big-picture thinkers. They are also creative and have excellent spatial awareness.

The Neurodiversity Movement

The neurodiversity movement started in the 1990s to help increase the acceptance and inclusion of people with neurological differences. It centers around the idea that every brain is different and deserves to be celebrated, not shamed.

This movement also has political roots by aligning itself with disability rights. The hope is to remove all stigmas surrounding neurodivergent people and bring awareness to the social and medical maltreatment that they experience.

The autism community is the primary neurodivergent group within the association. However, the neurodiversity movement aims to include the vast scope of neurological experiences, including migraines, hallucinations, mania, etc. The understanding is that no two people will experience the same condition the same way because each brain is unique.

Misconceptions About Neurodiversity

Though the neurodiversity movement considers neurodivergent people as worthy of a good life as neurotypical individuals, it doesn’t ignore that some neurological conditions are disabilities. Some people misunderstand the movement by ignoring the disability aspect many people face while solely concentrating on neurological differences.

It’s important to remember that neurodivergent people should receive the tools they need to succeed in life. However, that doesn’t mean people should shame or look down upon individuals who cannot live independently. Other truths about neurodiversity include:

  • Some neurological variations such as autism and learning disabilities are disabilities and not flaws.
  • Having a disability does not mean a person can’t live a full, meaningful life.
  • Neurodivergence is part of the human experience and is no different than people having different hair colours or personalities.

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Now that you know the answer to “what is neurodiversity,” you can help your neurotypical and neurodivergent employees live healthy lives with group benefits. As a leading insurance broker in Canada, Group Enroll representatives can help you select the best group insurance products to include in your benefits package.

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