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When It Comes to Neurodiversity, Awareness Isn't Enough

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Neurodiversity has been around since the existence of humankind. According to Natalia Lyckowski, Global Neurodiversity@IBM Business Resource Group Co-Chair at IBM, “Even in the earliest communities, the NDers (those who are neurodivergent) in many cases may have been the Holy People – or the Medicine Workers of the community. People who had the capacity to remember which exact leaf could cure or kill, that could hear predators or prey coming before others, those that had big ideas. Somewhere along our human timeline, many such individuals became outcasts…and that’s a bit where we are still stuck today.”

Currently, it is estimated that approximately 30-40 percent of the population is neurodivergent, meaning their brains are not neurotypical. Neurodivergent conditions include autism spectrum disorderADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, Tourette’s, and more, and can often co-exist with mental health disorders.

Coined in the 1990s by Australian sociologist Judy Singer, neurodiversity encompasses the belief that these neurological differences in the brain aren’t deficits but rather are normal and natural deviations in the human genome.

As a mother of an autistic son, I appreciate the term neurodivergent. It helps to remove the stigma that often surrounds individuals who are not neurotypical.

If you don’t have a neurodivergent family member, they are in your communities, neighborhoods, places of employment, and schools. A clear understanding of their challenges and strengths can help us as a society meet these individuals where they are while capitalizing on the contributions they can make in the world we all share.

According to an article in Harvard Business Review titled Neurodiversity is a Competetive Advantage, “Many people with these disorders [neurodivergent conditions] have higher-than-average abilities; research shows that some conditions, including autism and dyslexia, can bestow special skills in pattern recognition, memory, or mathematics.” The article also says that even though these employees might require some accommodations such as noise-canceling headphones, a quiet-private workspace, or others, the return is worth it.

Embracing the Neurodiversity Movement means individuals with neurodivergent conditions no longer must mask their differences to be seen by society as a whole. It means moving from passive awareness to actively accepting neurodivergent individuals and advancing the cause for full inclusivity.

“The culture change we need to accept neurodivergent people is just like getting a garden ready. Most seeds and plants can’t grow in sand alone. We need fertile ground. If you change the environment and get rid of the rocks and sticks, new seeds can take root and the plants already trying to grow there can blossom.” – Natalia (La Duca) Lyckowski – Global Neurodiversity@IBM Business Resource Group Co-Chair at IBM

Getty photo by monkey business images.

Originally published: April 1, 2022
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