By: Natalie L. Boehm, MBA, RBLP-T

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What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is the diversity between human brains and minds, the variation in cognitive functioning in humans. In the 1990’s Judy Signer a sociologist rejected the thought that individuals with autism were disabled. Signer who is on the spectrum, began to advocate to show that individuals with autism were not disabled. Their brains functioned differently compared to individuals who are not on the spectrum.

Since then, other learning conditions and disorders have been added under neurodiversity. The goal is to help destigmatize conditions to prevent discrimination, promote self-advocacy, and help those who are neurodivergent be able to handle their challenges in education, employment, and well-being.

Neurodivergent vs. Neurotypical

Neurodivergent is defined as differing in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical or normal. Neurotypical describes individuals of typical developmental, intellectual, and cognitive abilities. Listed below are characteristics that are common in people who are neurodivergent. Even though a lot of these characteristics are common for people on the spectrum, they can also be characteristics for other conditions that fall under neurodiversity.

Characteristics of Neurodivergent Individuals in Children:

Lack of babbling or pointing by the age of 12 months

Poor eye contact

No smiling or social responses

Not responding to their name

Fixation on lining up toys or objects that appears more than typical

No single words by the age of 16 months

No two-word phrases by age of 2 years

Characteristics of Neurodivergent Individuals in Adolescents and Adults:

Low social interaction

Inability to initiate or hold a conversation

Lack of social play

Repetitive language

Intense, focused interest, usually on an object or subject

Fixation on certain routines or rituals

What conditions fall under Neurodiversity?

There are several conditions that fall under neurodiversity. Some common neurodiverse conditions are:

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)






Tourette Syndrome

ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning and development.

Autism is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges.

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.

Dyspraxia is the inability to utilize voluntary motor abilities effectively in all aspects of life from play to structured skilled tasks or motor difficulties caused by perceptual problems, especially visual-motor and kinesthetic motor difficulties.

Dyscalculia is a learning disability that affects one’s ability to understand, learn, and perform math and number-based operations.

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that results in impaired handwriting. Impaired handwriting can interfere with learning to spell words in writing and speed or writing text.

Tourette Syndrome is a disorder that involves repetitive movements or unwanted sounds (tics) that cannot be controlled.

In researching neurodiversity, Tourette Syndrome was acknowledged as being a neurodiverse condition, whereas other resources did not consider it to be neurodiverse. Further research and education are needed to help find what conditions need to be under neurodiversity so individuals can get the support and accommodations that they need.

Challenges with Neurodiversity

One of the biggest challenges for individuals who are neurodivergent is finding a good physician to help put the right treatment plan together. Many patients go years having challenges and not having a proper diagnosis.

Many students with autism and dyslexia struggle with timed tests because it can take them longer to read and understand their assignments. In the K-12 system in the United States, the IDEA Act protects students who have learning disorders and allows an Individual Education Plan (IEP) to be put into place to allow additional time or to take a test in an environment that is not distracting.

People with Tourette Syndrome may have difficulty processing what they hear or see. Many have problems with writing, organizing, and paying attention.

Despite having challenges, many individuals who are neurodiverse can have a successful career and be an asset to a company. In the article, Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage, the author points out that neurodiverse individuals have higher than average abilities, have special skills in pattern recognition, memory, or mathematics. Companies such as Microsoft, Dell Technologies, JPMorgan Chase, and UBS have reformed their human resources processes to gain access to neurodiverse talent. 

Do neurological disorders fall under Neurodiversity guidelines?

Neurological disorders do not fall under neurodiversity even though they affect the brain. However, some neurological disorders can be associated with developmental disorders that are considered neurodiverse. Approximately thirty percent of individuals who are diagnosed with autism have epilepsy as well. These people would be considered neurodivergent. Neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis are not considered neurodiverse because they are affecting the body in a very different way. Parkinson’s disease affects movement, resulting in tremors, slow movement, rigid muscles, impaired posture and balance, loss of automatic movements, speech changes, and writing changes. Multiple Sclerosis develops due to the deterioration of the myelin sheath, a protection around neurons. The myelin sheath is attacked by the immune system, resulting in communication problems between the body and brain. Numbness, weakness, electric-shock sensations with certain neck movement, partial/complete loss of vision, prolonged double vision, slurred speech, fatigue, dizziness, and complications with sexual, bowel, and bladder functions are common symptoms. Looking back at the characteristics of neurodivergent individuals, it is clear none of those symptoms are linked to Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis, resulting in them not falling under the guidelines of being neurodiverse.

Resources for Neurodivergent Individuals

For individuals battling neurodiverse conditions, many local organizations offer services to help families in the area in need of assistance. Many will offer support groups, scholarships, and educational materials. Larger organizations are more heavily involved in research and development, helping to support and work with academic organizations to help promote the research needed in these areas. Both are important and play a major role in helping those battling neurodiverse conditions.


Neurodiversity is the diversity of human brains and minds, the variation in cognitive functioning in humans. Neurodivergent is differing in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical or normal whereas neurotypical describes individuals of typical developmental, intellectual, and cognitive abilities. ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and Tourette Syndrome are conditions that fall under neurodiversity. Neurological disorders do not fall under neurodiversity. However, some people with conditions that fall under neurodiversity can also have neurological disorders. Despite the challenges that neurodiversity conditions can bring, there are resources available to help those battling conditions live a productive life.


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