We’ve recently seen an increase in the number of people talking about neurodiversity and at long last this is beginning to get the attention it deserves. However, accompanying the increased awareness it would appear we are also seeing an increase in the number of people who are simply seeing this as a business opportunity which I believe is a less than helpful situation ...not least because if people are brave enough to speak out and seek support we should ensure the information and support they are provided with is appropriate and of the highest quality.
As well as seeing this increase in people ‘getting on the band wagon’ as a business, I believe there is also a degree of confusion over what the word actually means. The lack of clarity has prompted me to write this post because in this situation when seeking support services etc there is the risk of taking a provider ‘on face value’ and we may commission someone without really checking their credentials, which may result in getting either incomplete or inaccurate information and guidance.
So, firstly let’s look at what the word neurodiversity actually means and then look at the current use of the word.
The word neurodiversity relates the diversity of human brains and minds – the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species. (Which when viewed in the wider context, actually relates to each and every one of us…because we are all individuals and therefore every brain is different). However, there are those individuals who have a brain that functions in ways that diverge from the dominant societal standards of ‘normal’ and these you may also see referred to as being Neurodivergent depending upon who has written the article.
Neurodiversity is a natural and valuable form of human diversity and as such should be accepted and respected just as diversity of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age and physical abilities.
However, here are a couple of quotes which indicate the currently accepted usage of the word:
‘Neurodiversity is a concept where neurological differences are to be recognized and respected as any other human variation. These differences can include those labelled with Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyscalculia, Autistic Spectrum, Tourette Syndrome, and others'. (2011 US National Symposium on Neurodiversity).
Neurodiversity is a relatively new term that refers to people who have dyslexia, autism, ADHD, dyspraxia and other neurological conditions'. (ACAS 2017).
Whilst these statements have become acknowledged and accepted, often when we read articles about neurodiversity we see reference to only one or two of the neurodivergent ‘conditions’ which also adds to the confusion. This is especially the case with regards to Autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder / Autistic Spectrum Condition) as the term is thought to have first been used by Judy Singer, an Australian social scientist who herself has Autism. (The word neurodiversity first appeared in print in an article by journalist Harvey Blume in 1998).
In light of this, it is important to understand that neurodiversity-related posts and articles are commonly either written from the perspective of the author’s own areas of specialism or they may be written by someone who gives their own personal perspective of what they feel neurodiversity is – both of which can be useful but will not necessarily give a comprehensive and accurate overview of this multifaceted subject. So, my advice, when reading posts about neurodiversity, is to check the authors background and their credentials and/or check the credentials of those they are quoting within the article.
As with any subject area, ideally if you are seeking specialist advice & training services or searching for speakers etc there is an essential 'triune' of ingredients to consider, as seen in the diagram below – however this is especially important in relation to neurodiversity as it is essential that what you ‘buy’ should if possible include the various recognised neurodivergent ‘conditions’.
Ideally, your chosen neurodiversity-related services should be a service provider who sits in this ‘sweet spot’ where all three of these areas overlap (indicated with a heart in the diagram).
So, when buying-in to either post & articles or neurodiversity-related services it is important to check for authenticity, experience & quality...it's too important to get wrong.
Caveat Emptor - buyer beware.
Janette Beetham MIC FRSA
Right Resources Limited....for a thriving and productive neurodiverse workforce.
Janette is an experienced consultant & coach specialising in dyslexia & neurodivergent conditions in the workplace. She is the Staff Dyslexia &SpLD Consultant at Imperial College London and Senior Consultant to the BDA (British Dyslexia Association, 2017). She works with individuals and organisations across all sectors providing solutions-focused consultancy and support.
In 2017 she published a paper entitled:
Workplace Dyslexia & Specific Learning Difficulties―Productivity, Engagement and Well-Being
She is also the founder of the Dyslexia Champions training & accreditation programme (a training programme which covers 7 neurodivergent 'conditions').