Neurodivergence as defined by a neurodivergent person, is a variation in thought processing and behaviours that differ from the norm. Neurodivergence is often a divergence from normal brain activity, brain shape or may be identified by different social behaviours. It encompasses a wide variety of divergences in the brain but the type of neurodivergence I will be talking to you about is when a person has Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, the list goes on. These are people whose brains are primed in a different way. They may have different ideas or ways of doing things or different ways of processing information. This is simply because their brains prioritise different things and have different adaptive qualities. People who are neurodivergent often have great creative abilities, an unprecedented ability to focus (i.e., hyperfocus is common for ADHD), and may be able to understand complex concepts such as in mathematics or observe patterns in data that allow them to see the world more clearly. People with autism in particular can have exceptional memories, being able to know a lot about any chosen topic.
As a neurodivergent person I’ve often heard that neurodivergence is a disability. I do find it challenging to focus, to stick within a certain time frame or structure. I tire easily of social situations and this allows for many mistakes when communicating with others. However, I personally know I am not incapable of functioning better. As a lot of neurodivergent people have said it is not my neurodivergence that makes me disabled, it’s my environment.
Issues such as sensory overload and a possible inability to communicate along the same vein of thought as neurotypicals can be a social and economic barrier. However, studies have shown that neurodivergent people are perfectly capable of speaking with other neurodivergent people. It seems there is not a barrier in communication, rather a different form of conversing and sharing ideas. Another issue that neurodivergent people often suffer from is sensory issues. This occurs when we take in too much from our senses and our brain cannot handle it. I personally feel physical pain being exposed to natural or fluorescent light during the day or loud noises. A good comparison would be the effects of light pollution which can affect people’s chrono rhythms or sleep cycles, which highlights the fact that we live in a world designed to not even fit neurotypical comfort.
Neurotypical people are those who have none too little brain or thought divergence and they encompass the majority of the world’s population.
For neurodivergent people, diagnosis is important in understanding our body’s natural adaptive qualities and shortcomings to allow us to understand what works for our specific needs in a world not designed to suit our way of functioning. As a neurodivergent person I know I have a history of not focusing well. I will often listen to music that matches a certain situation. I have numerous playlists for study, sleep, and relaxation. I personally listen to ADHD relief music which can be found on YouTube. The way my brain understands this is that the sounds are comforting to a mind like mine and I’ve linked the music to being productive which allows me to focus much easier when it's important. Another strategy I use is controlling my environment. I will quite commonly test out different spots in my home, the library (as I am a student), or in the workplace to see which locations make me most productive. For example, a brightly lit area would give me a head and eye ache, but less intense sunlight such as in the morning hours would be perfect in keeping me awake. Fluorescent lighting is a productivity killer for me, I will often relocate or find a room which is naturally lit. I may also dim the lights in the room if possible. My biggest helper in productivity is taking breaks. Also, a personal account: it may seem unorthodox to take a 40-minute break from work to sit on a bench and listen to music. However, I returned refreshed and finished all my work in the next hour and a half. Neurodivergent people are able to finish work and complete tasks set, they simply do so in an unorthodox but no less productive way.
My final piece of advice that I hope facilitates conversation and helps you if you are a neurodivergent or neurotypical person is to give yourself a lot of grace. We all work in different ways with different ideas of what makes us productive. We must accommodate for our discomfort whether that be stress or sensory overload and strategize for our productivity. I am lucky to be around people who understand my work is not affected by my brain but rather that I am motivated to do things in different ways and have different ways of thinking and understanding the world. I believe with proper support from myself and others, I am a productive, functioning human being.
At the end of the day give grace to your neurodivergent friends, parents, and yourself if you fall under this diagnosis or if you haven’t been diagnosed yet. We aren’t limited by our uniqueness; it is simply a different way of experiencing evolution, and humans are nothing but innovative.
Resources for further learning:
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