Neurodiversity: What does it mean and why it being used?

The Infinite U has chosen to change its language recently and use the term "neurodiversity" or "neurodiverse" instead of "has autism" or "on the autism spectrum."  Like most things, there are varying opinions on this word and the movement it represents. The term neurodiversity stems from the autism community and is a movement to promote acceptance and appreciation for neurological diversity and reduce stigma. There is no one right way to think, behave, or be social. In fact, neurological diversity is an asset to the health of the population. 

"Neurotypical" refers to mainstream neurology, or said another way, understanding and adhering to mainstream expectations and social norms. Rather than "normal" or "not normal," which reinforces a pathology mindset and marginalizes and isolates anyone who is seen as different, neurodiversity embraces and celebrates difference. The Infinite U believes that language is powerful and needs to be used with awareness and sensitivity. Rather than expecting neurodiverse people to change in order to "fit in" to the mainstream, the mainstream is being asked to expand its mindset from being fear-based and rejecting of difference, to an attitude of inclusivity, acceptance, and appreciation of difference. We all win when neurodiversity is embraced. We all get more freedom to be our unique, creative, and quirky selves. Just like, as a white person, the more that I embrace racial difference, the more connected I feel to myself, to my ancestral roots, and to others. 

The world's problems need new, creative solutions, and it is essential that we value diverse ways of thinking and behaving. This is the only way we can move forward with creating a nation-and world- with greater harmony, love, and freedom for all living beings. 

The Infinite U uses the term "neurodiverse kids and teens" to be inclusive of kids and teens with a wide array of neurological difference, not just autism. Certain programs are geared toward individuals with (what is formerly referred to as) Asperger's, other similar form of gifted/sensitivity, or challenges with social engagement. The Infinite U also works with individuals who are "more severely affected by autism" or other neurological difference. The Infinite U avoids using terms like "high functioning autism" or "low functioning autism" as it believes that both of those terms reinforce pathology and devalue human beings.

On a personal note, in spending time with and supporting neurodiverse kids, teens, adults, and families, I continually witness immense creativity, originality, kindness, empathy, gentleness, respect for and love of nature and animals, sensitivity, a desire for "realness," passion, aliveness, and commitment. As a sensitive person who values depth, gentleness, kindness, has big feelings, has a hard time with small talk, appreciates original thinking, has historically felt "different"-like an alien on this human inhabited planet-and can easily be self-deprecating, neurodiverse individuals have been my greatest teachers. They have taught me that my sensitivity is a gift, that my passion, depth, and seriousness are beautiful, that "there is nothing wrong with me," and that "I am the best me there is." Embracing neurological difference has gifted my life with greater self-acceptance, trust in my own uniqueness and inner wisdom, confidence that my original thinking is necessary and important to creating change, appreciation for my innate gifts, and ultimately, self-love. ~Nicole       

Additional resources:

Neurotribes by Steve Silberman  

Front Range Center for Neurodiversity (coming soon to the Boulder/Denver area) 

Call 720.316.8130 or email nicole@theinfiniteu.com to discuss how The Infinite U can support your neurodiverse loved one to embrace their infinite self.

The Infinite U