What Is Neurodiversity and How Could It Affect Your Teen’s Wellbeing?

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The word neurodiversity is frequently used nowadays, with more children and teenagers using it to define themselves. However, what does the term “neurodiverse” actually mean, and where did it come from?

Neurodiversity Meaning

Embracing neurodiversity and its meaning means acknowledging that everyone’s brains function differently. In other words, there is no right or wrong way for the human brain to function. Instead, neurological differences exist in how people interpret and react to the outside environment.

In the 1990s, the phrase neurodiversity was developed to combat prejudice and advance acceptance within the autistic community. However, it also covers other ailments involving developmental disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and learning disabilities like autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia and dyscalculia.

The Neurodiversity Movement

Judy Singer, an Australian sociologist who is also autistic, founded the neurodiversity movement. Singer viewed the campaign for neurodiversity as a social justice movement to advance equality for those she referred to as “neurological minorities” – individuals with neurodevelopmental differences in how their brain functions. This included those with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and other learning disabilities. Singer believed that these normal variations in how brains function should be seen as natural and even beneficial rather than as deficiencies.

One of the main objectives of the neurodiversity movement is to bring attention to the advantages of individual differences. For instance, spontaneity, bravery, and empathy are all highly developed traits in people with ADHD. 

On the other hand, autistic people have excellent attention to detail, strong memories, and often exhibit unique talents. According to experts, this may be advantageous in certain professions like music or computer programming.

Finally, research has found that certain kinds of visual information can be grasped more efficiently by people with dyslexia than those without this learning difficulty.

Neurodiversity As Identity

Particularly at schools and universities, the concept of neurodiversity has expanded from focussing on people who have been formally diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, or a learning disability, to a broader population, many of whom self-identify as neurodiverse students.

Neurodivergent individuals are becoming more at ease identifying with the term neurodiversity. The theory can help young people with social difficulties understand what they are going through and provide them with a neurological diagnosis.

To justify their experiences, some young people are increasingly diagnosing themselves with diseases that fall under neurodiversity. A diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder may or may not be given to these children, but getting tested is a crucial first step in assisting them in feeling better and overcoming their difficulties.

Neurodiversity and Behaviour

Children are not the only ones who find comfort in the possible benefits of neurodiversity. According to research, parents occasionally use the term to refer to kids whose actions, particularly their intense emotional states, don’t seem to have any other plausible explanations.

Frustrated parents are left searching for an explanation when children exhibit extreme rigidity or react with outbursts or meltdowns that appear out of context to the situation. Although other variables can cause mood swings, this is typically what prompts parents to request an evaluation for autism.

What Should You Do If Your Child Thinks They Are Neurodivergent?

The most encouraging reaction is to be open and empathic without passing judgement your child comes to you about concerns that they are neurodivergent.

Getting evaluated is a good next step, but it’s best to avoid promising your child that the evaluation will inevitably result in the diagnosis they’re looking for. The review will mark the beginning of the treatment process for the problems that trouble them.

The results of the evaluation ought to provide an in-depth analysis of your child’s difficulties. Additionally, it should determine whether those difficulties meet the criteria for a formal diagnosis, even if it is not the one they were hoping for.

However, if your child doesn’t meet the criteria for a disorder, it is important to acknowledge their struggles and find a solution that will help them.

Disorder vs Difference

Identifying neurodivergent people as having “differences” rather than “disorders” is likely to reduce issues relating to low self-esteem and poor mental health and help children flourish and reach their full potential. Furthermore, adopting the concept of neurodiversity and celebrating brain differences in schools and modern workplaces is more inclusive and less stigmatising.

However, when people, especially teenagers, exhibit severe symptoms, it is still important to concentrate on the actual diagnosis, even though the tendency to use the term differences rather than disorders offers advantages. This is because the diagnosis is the foundation for understanding the individual’s condition and what support services and treatments might be required.

Contact Us

At The Wave, we are passionate about young people overcoming mental illness difficulties and proud to be able to treat our neurodivergent community. We know how vital mental health is, so our therapy programmes create solid foundations for anyone struggling with medical disorders such as ADHD, autism, and other learning difficulties.

Starting with an accurate diagnosis, our specialists can help you and your child overcome the difficulties associated with having neurological differences through neuropsychiatric treatment and family support programs.

There is no such thing as a ‘normal brain’. Neurological conditions are extremely common and can be helped. Your well-being is important to us, so contact us today to improve your child’s quality of life.

Further information on related topics can be found via our blog ADHD in Teenage Girls and Young Women.

Fiona - The Wave Clinic

Fiona Yassin is the founder and clinical director at The Wave Clinic. She is a U.K. and International registered Psychotherapist and Accredited Clinical Supervisor (U.K. and UNCG).

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