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Neurodiverse Vs Neurodivergent

When we’re working with diverse groups of people, it’s common to face terms we don’t recognise or aren’t comfortable using. Particularly when it’s language describing a group we aren’t a part of. That’s fine, but as HR professionals and leaders, it’s important we familiarise ourselves with the terms we need to support our people. Today we’re looking at the terms neurodiverse vs neurodivergent in detail.

Neurodiverse vs neurodivergent

Here at The Happiness Index, we think it’s really important that every individual is able to bring their whole selves to work. That means that they’re able to be themselves and ask for what they need to succeed and thrive in their job. We call this giving people the Freedom to be Human. This isn’t only good for the individual, which should of course be your main priority, but it’s also great for your whole organisation.


What Does Neurodivergent Mean?


Neurodivergent is a term used to describe individuals whose brains process, learn or behave differently from what we may consider “typical”. It may be used by those with formal diagnoses like dyslexia, ADHD or those on the autism spectrum, to describe themselves and their needs. It may also be used by those without formal diagnoses, but who experience behaviours or traits that impact their daily lives and so they identify as being part of the wider community.


It’s important to remember that neurodivergent individuals aren’t “ill”, and there’s nothing inherently “wrong” with having a brain that works differently. In fact, as many of the diagnoses are on a spectrum, like autism, many people will show some traits or behaviours which are associated with neurodivergent individuals without meeting the full criteria for a diagnosis.


By creating a workplace that is friendly to neurodivergent individuals, especially when it comes to cultural norms and processes within your organisation, you’ll be supporting everyone - not just neurodivergent individuals. This is because many people experience similar traits and behaviours even without diagnoses or truly realising themselves.


What Does Neurodiverse Mean?


A neurodiverse group, community or organisation includes, accepts and celebrates people with a variety of different ways of thinking, processing and learning. A Neurodiverse Community is often referred to in the same way that we may talk about the LGBTQ+ community.


Of course, the neurodiverse community isn’t a monolithic group; no community really ever is. However, many neurodivergent individuals describe facing similar problems - discrimination, and oppression to name a few. This is why people with different forms of neurodiversity, from epilepsy to autism to ADHD feel a sense of community and find strength in the label.


Estimates of the size of the neurodiverse community differ. This is because it depends on which diagnoses, syndromes or differences researchers choose to include. However, estimates range from 15-40%, meaning that a large proportion of the working population is likely to have some neurodivergent behaviours or traits. You probably have someone working within your organisation who identifies as neurodivergent.


Neurodiverse or Neurodivergent?


Understanding when to use neurodiverse vs neurodivergent can trip people up. To a certain extent, it’s a case of grammar. An individual may be neurodivergent, while a group can be neurodiverse.


As with other forms of diversity, an individual cannot be diverse. Instead, many members, potentially with different forms of neurodivergence would make a neurodiverse organisation. For example, you would not be able to have a single neurodiverse hire, but you would be able to create a neurodiverse team by hiring from a diverse pool of talent.


Remember, within an organisation a neurodiverse team will include those we may think of as neurotypical.


What Does Neurotypical Mean?


Neurotypical is used to describe those who are not neurodivergent. Always remember that neurotypical is a better description than “normal” since no one’s brain is entirely “normal” - neuroscience shows us that there is no such thing as a normal brain. There is a wide range of differences, and the bell curve of experience has a very narrow peak.


If you want to discover more about neurodiversity and creating an inclusive, neurodiverse organisation, why not check out our eBook?

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Elle Whitehead-Smith

"Elle is happiest when given plenty of puddings, popular novels and, particularly, perfect grammar."

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