What does it mean to be neurodiverse or in a neurodiverse family?
Especially with April World Autism Month upon us, you may notice a lot of buzz online about the “neurodiversity movement.”
Neurodiversity refers to differences in the way some peoples’ brains process information. A person who is neurodivergent could be autistic, like myself, or dyslexic, ADHD, a combination or many other things related to the way the brain works. We may experience learning differences, or be different from the “norm” when it comes to mood, attention, socializing, organization skills, fine or gross motor movement skills, and more.
When you really think about it, everyone is technically “neurodiverse” — since every person thinks and acts a little differently than every other person. No two people will have identical brains, right?
But where the term neurodiverse comes in handy for conversation is when someone experiences enough differences in the way that they think and interact that it gets in the way of everyday life. I feel like I’m swimming upstream most of the time, because my brain just doesn’t flow the way the mainstream does.
What Makes a Neurodiverse Family?
My family identifies as neurodiverse because at least half of us are on the autism spectrum.
I’m autistic. My husband is not. He’s what many would refer to as “neurotypical,” though that term is also a little problematic in that no brain is in fact “typical” and all brains are different. But again, for simplicity sake, it’s helpful to have the generalized term of neurotypical for someone who does not experience autism, ADHD, or other brain differences. Our oldest child, now 5, is also autistic, and our youngest, nearly 2, remains to be seen.
Because we are neurodiverse, meaning our brains are wired differently enough to be noticeable, we have some very unique strengths and challenges as a family.
- We end up with a lot of miscommunications, but that helps us all become more empathetic, and exercise forgiveness.
- We often have the benefit of two or more different ways of looking at a situation or coming up with a solution, which can be confusing but is also very helpful!
- We can have very different needs when it comes to relaxing or recharging; my husband wants to go out and talk to people, I want to stay home and read.
- We have an insider’s perspective of what it means to be autistic, and to be raising an autistic child.
So as you come across terms like neurodiverse and neurotypical, know that they can mean different things to different people, but in the end, you’re looking at how brains that are wired differently interact with the world and each other.
About the Author
Sarah Nannery is Director of Development for Autism Programming at Drexel University. She holds a master’s degree in conflict transformation, and was recently diagnosed with Autism. Learn more at her website.