The human brain is a complex organ, and no two brains are identical. We all think, process information, and perceive the world in our particular ways. However, the way some people’s brains work differs from the majority.
The term “neurodivergent” refers to people whose brains develop or function differently for a variety of reasons. It’s not a medical term; instead, it’s an alternative classification to terms like ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal.’ On the other hand, people whose brain functioning is seen as typical or within the expected range are referred to as “neurotypical.”
In this blog, we’ll discuss the differences between the neurodivergent and neurotypical groups, what they signify, the symptoms they exhibit, with some examples and techniques for assisting loved ones.
Definition of Neurodivergence
An umbrella term, “neurodivergence,” includes a variety of medical conditions that influence how people receive information, engage with others, and communicate. This encompasses conditions like:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Dyspraxia, and
- Tourette’s syndrome, among others
These conditions usually appear during childhood and adolescence. Thus, they are sometimes referred to as “neurodevelopmental disorders.”
A study published by the National Library of Medicine estimated that 15% to 20% of the population worldwide are neurodiverse. This means that many people experience and interact with the world around them differently. However, being self-aware of developmental disorders does not compel people born with them to cut or ignore their difficulties. In contrast, it aids in their success and adaptation.
Neurodivergence can manifest in various ways. These people may struggle because of structures or procedures that prevent them from showcasing their talents or posing new, difficult tasks. However, making the proper accommodations for neurodiverse people can aid them in overcoming their specific difficulties. These are not just a way or method to acknowledge their differences or challenges but also to provide them with a tool or chance to succeed.
The signs of neurodivergence can vary significantly depending on the condition. But some common signs may include:
- Difficulty with social interactions and communication
- Sensory processing difficulties (such as sensitivity to light, sound, or touch)
- Repetitive behaviors or routines
- Difficulty with organization and time management
- Challenges with emotional regulation
- Difficulty with learning and academics
Keep in mind that not all neurodivergent individuals will exhibit all these signs. Some people with this condition may show signs not listed here as well.
Some examples of different types of neurodivergence conditions include:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Down syndrome
- Tourette syndrome
- Williams syndrome
- Prader-Willi syndrome
- Intellectual disabilities
- Sensory processing disorders
- Dyscalculia (difficulty with math)
- Dysgraphia (difficulty with writing)
- Dyslexia (difficulty with reading)
- Dyspraxia (difficulty with coordination)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social anxiety (a particular type of anxiety disorder)
- Mental health conditions like bipolar disorder and more
However, these individuals exhibit more competitive advantage than the typical person due to behavioral traits that might be unique to each of them, such as:
- Concentration, etc.
To put their potential to the greatest use, being aware of the signs they exhibit is of utmost significance.
For instance, according to the National Autistic Society, autistic people have a wide range of exceptional skills. They can succeed in the workplace as a computer programmer, journalist, statistician, or sales assistant.
Some of the famous and prosperous individuals who exhibited developmental milestones despite having neurological differences are:
- Temple Grandin—author and an animal biologist
- Sir Anthony Hopkins—actor and Oscar winner
- Florence Welch—Singer-songwriter
- Simone Biles—Olympic gold medalist
- Greta Thunberg—Green campaigner
Definition of Neurotypicality
Neurotypicality is when someone doesn’t display any neurodivergent conditions. Neurotypical individuals exhibit typical brain functioning. They are society’s “neurological standard” with “normal” mental functions.
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Since neurotypicality is believed to be the norm, no specific signs or symptoms define it. In the real world, those with neurotypical brains—brains that operate “normally”—might display any of the following traits or behaviors:
- Have a comprehension of abstract ideas
- Able to effectively communicate with others
- Can pick up on body language
- Can easily adapt to changes without feeling overly stressed or anxious
- Able to process information quickly and accurately
- Can navigate social settings fast,
- Can comprehend humor and sarcasm
- Able to read and interpret social cues
- Have a typical manner of processing information and an excellent memory for specifics.
- Effective multitasking strengths
- Be undistracted while focusing on one job for long periods
- Have exceptional time management, planning, organization, and social skills
- Maintain good physical balance, coordination, and fine motor skills in general.
- Can adjust to change and novel circumstances
One important point to remember is that not all neurotypical people exhibit all these characteristics. Most of these may also exist in neurodiverse individuals. However, their unique condition might provide them with additional skills and challenges.
It is a bit of a challenge to state examples of neurotypical individuals precisely. But here are a few approaches to categorize someone as a neurotypical person:
- Individuals without any neurodivergent conditions
- People with neurological conditions that do not impact their daily functioning (like mild anxiety or depression).
How to Support a Loved One
Now, we have come across all the signs and examples of the term neurotypical and the term neurodiversity. The next step as a caregiver is to realize that having or not having these neurological conditions doesn’t define a person’s worth or potential. It’s simply a way to describe how their brain functions. Understanding and supporting neurodivergent individuals can help create a more inclusive and compassionate society. If you have a neurodivergent loved one, there are several ways you can support them:
- Educate yourself: If you’re a caregiver, take the time to learn about your loved one’s condition. Try to understand their perception, what they feel, and how it affects them. This will surely help you offer better support and communicate with them effectively.
- Openly listen to them: Create a safe space to ensure they can express themselves. Allow your loved one to communicate their feelings and concerns without passing judgmental opinions. Active listening is compulsory in building a strong and supportive relationship.
- Be patient: You must make note that people with neurodivergent conditions may need more time to:
- Process information
- Hold a conversation, or
- Complete tasks.
Patience and understanding can go a long way in building a positive relationship.
- Support their needs: Ask your loved one how you can best support them. Try to offer accommodations to ease their special challenges, such as
- Using noise-canceling headphones
- Providing extra time to complete tasks
- Seek professional help: You might feel overwhelmed or unsure how to support your loved one. Don’t worry! You can seek help from a trusted doctor. Ensure that they have hands-on experience working with neurodivergent individuals and their families. They could offer you more direction and help.
Get Help From a Trusted Therapist With DocVita Today
If you or a loved one needs professional help to manage a neurodivergent condition, DocVita is here to help. Our online forum connects patients with licensed therapists and counselors specializing in it. With DocVita, you can receive the support you need from the comfort of your own home.
If you are struggling with a neurodivergent condition, know that there is help available. Reach out to a trusted therapist today and start your journey toward a happier, healthier life.