The term neurodiversity was coined by Judy Singer, an Australian sociologist, in the late 1990s.
Rather than seeing neurodiversity as a disorder or deficit, she recognised it as a perfectly natural difference in the human population: ‘Neurodiversity refers to the virtually infinite neuro-cognitive variability within Earth’s human population. It points to the fact that every human has a unique nervous system with a unique combination of abilities and needs.’
The way we interact with the world is conditioned by environmental factors, such as culture, family and peers. In addition to these environmental influences, someone who is considered neurodiverse may interpret information differently.
Neurodiversity is a broad term that encompasses a range of variations in brain function. It is generally understood to include autistic spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, Tourette syndrome and tic disorders.
It is possible to become neurodiverse as a result of a physical or emotional injury or trauma, but typically neurodiversity exists from birth.
Previously, these neurological differences would have been seen as a medical issue, requiring to be treated or cured.
These differences are increasingly seen as a social issue, requiring adaptations and adjustments rather than treatment.
People’s brains work in very different ways. People think about things differently, have different interests and motivations, and are naturally better at some things and poorer at others.
There is no single ‘right’ way of thinking, learning and responding, and differences should not be viewed as deficits.
It is estimated that approximately one in seven people in the UK are neurodivergent – so it is very likely that you may have neurodiverse colleagues. Although neurodiverse people may face some challenges in the workplace, they also bring a lot of strengths – for example, technical skills, creative insights, lateral thinking and problem-solving abilities.
They often excel in careers such as medicine, mathematics, chemistry and engineering. They may also see things that others may miss as they are more likely to pay attention to detail and minimise risks.
Those with neurodivergent conditions are often more at risk of suffering from mental ill-health or poor wellbeing.
This is often due to a lack of support and the stress of ‘masking’ – acting neurotypically to avoid negativity. It is important that organisations and their peers are aware of how to offer support to colleagues with neurodivergent conditions.
Many neurodiverse people are sensitive to sensory input. Professor Mark Williams of Oxford University states that we are all in an age of experiencing sensory overload due to the nature of our fast-paced world and the pressure of multi-tasking.
Can you imagine how this extra sensory overload can impact someone with a neurodiverse condition?
Workplaces can incorporate reasonable adjustments – for example, limiting background noise, smells, interruptions, expectations of small talk, etc. creating quiet workspaces or periods without interruption.
Make allowances for any other requirements of your neurodivergent colleagues – there is a huge amount of diversity and no single stereotype.
Inclusion benefits everybody. By finding out more about neurodiversity and being aware of people’s needs, we can all improve our understanding and promote peer support for our neurodivergent colleagues.
If you are interested in finding out more about the healthcare solutions offered by International SOS and how we can support your health and wellbeing, please contact Nicola Yates – email@example.com – or visit my.internationalsos.com/ukhealth.