Why "Neurodiversity?"

Dec 12, 2023

Sometimes it’s hard to come into a new learning space and bump up against vocabulary that doesn’t make sense yet, or worse, rubs you the wrong way.

When I first started the Equine Gestalt Coaching program in 2013, there was one word that just felt icky: “resonate.” It felt so 1980s Valley Girl, “I like, totally resonate with that idea.” I really did not resonate with it. Strangely, Mom felt the same way and over the years we would tease that something really resonated with us, laughing our heads off. But eventually we both realized that using “resonate” in that way actually really was the word we were searching for and it really did just fit. LOL, love it when that happens!

My current word that has been hitting me funny is “neurodiversity/neurodivergence.”

The word divergent will forever be bound up in the Veronica Roth Divergent books! It's hard for me to say it and not see this:

I have to reframe this!


Because my family (and me of course) are all neurodivergent and as I begin to learn more to help all of us live more happy and full lives, I need an umbrella term to call these differences rather than label them individually. (I'll be writing about labeling later I'm sure!)

I went on the hunt to find out more about where this term came from:

Judy Singer, a sociologist who also has autism, coined the term “neurodiversity” in the late 1990s. The concept is that certain developmental disorders aren’t actual disorders but just normal variations in the human brain. Instead of calling things like autism and ADHD “disorders” and thinking of them as only deficits, the focus leans toward the fact that autistic people and ADHD people also have certain strengths.

Singer saw that people with different brains were oppressed in the same way gay people, people of color, and women were and thought neurologically diverse folks needed a movement of their own too—a movement that says: Look, this is who we are, we can't help but be this way, and we deserve to live our lives too.

What this means is, like sexuality and gender, autism for instance, is a part of who the person is, it cannot be "fixed." Activists reject the idea that autism needs to be cured but instead advocate for appreciating autistic forms of expression and promote support systems that allow them to be who they are.

But what to call this movement?

Singer said, “The word “neurodiversity” was part of my response to the waning authority of psychotherapy, which had given those of us ‘on the spectrum’ so much grief, and to the rise of the ‘stronger medicine’ of neuroscience. Neurodiversity is really just a new word for a very old adage: ‘From each according to their ability; and to each according to their need.’

Neurodiversity is not a word about autism alone. It is a word that embraces all neurological uniqueness, all rhythms of neurodevelopment and all the forms by which humans can express themselves and contribute to their world."

The term “neurodiversity” doesn’t just address the brain differences of certain groups of people, but of all people. The differences in all of our brains makes humans interesting. Giving it a name and a social category (similar to ethnicity, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, gender) is just a way to put it on the map.

Let me give you a big ol' hug!

Join a group of like minded folks who get weekly letters that feel like a great big hug, ranch videos, and free goodies from me.


50% Complete


Sign up to receive a digital version of my Angel Horse Crown Chakra! I'll let you know when new artwork and workshops become available!