Neurodiversity is the term used to describe the variations between different individual’s mental functioning. ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder), dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD, (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), would all be considered to be examples of neurodiversity.
The organisation of a nationwide ‘Neurodiversity Week’, signals society’s increasing acceptance of such conditions as differences rather than disorders; and an increased understanding of the advantage of neurodiversity to society.
Neurodiversity has existed since prehistoric times. The stone age woman with an attention ‘problem’ would be the individual staring out of the cave entrance who would notice the sabre tooth tiger looking in, (the rest of the tribe being focussed on lighting the fire.) The stone age man with an attention ‘disorder’ would be the hunter who spots the sleeping bison just off the main track, while the other hunters chase the woolly mammoth galloping out of their reach. The usefulness of those who think and behave in different ways has always been an advantage, and therefore not something that has been genetically pruned.
There are two sides to every coin and in school, a child may be reported as: –
- ‘Constantly out of seat.’ This would be undesirable in a chalk and talk lesson, but if the child’s behaviour is translated in a positive way as being energetic and lively, perfect for the Drama Studio or on the hockey pitch.
- ‘Deviating from what the rest of the class is doing.’ This would be seen asInappropriate in a chalk and talk Maths lesson, but independence of thought would be considered an asset in a philosophical, moral or problem solving debate.
- ‘Being poorly organised.’ This might lead to a detention in secondary school, but a pupil who is absorbed in their own ideas and thinks creatively, might be considered outstanding in an Art, Poetry or Design Technology class.
Neurodiversity brings strength. Different ways of thinking are an advantage when we need to devise ingenious solutions to problems.
The Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Nick Hine, (autistic), feels that the military needs more ‘neurodiversity’. Hine says that the only way the British military can compete with adversaries that have more advanced technology and larger funds, is through ‘thinking differently’.
Businessman Lord Sugar, (dyslexic), feels that independence of thought is essential for entrepreneurs. ‘Success comes more quickly to the entrepreneur who follows his instincts rather than the progress of his competitors.’
Climate change campaigner, Greta Thunberg attributes her intense and unrelenting focus on urging action on climate change, to her autism.
Neurodiversity is the way forward.
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