Updated: Apr 9, 2022
April is Autism Acceptance month (previously Autism Awareness month) and we think it’s terrific to have a whole month dedicated to increasing our collective understanding of autism and the visibility of autistic people. But acceptance is only a beginning! Some have said it can feel like “Put up with us” month while others have noted that taking a more celebratory approach can cloud the significant challenges faced by autistic people.
Can we observe Autism Acceptance month without promoting an unhelpful view of autism? We believe it’s possible and our approach is to honour both the challenges and the pride of being autistic. To that end, please enjoy this article by our Clinical Neuropsychologist, Holly Nelson, on celebrating neurodivergence. And stay tuned for a follow up article on some of the challenges faced by autistic people.
Please join us this month, and every month, in creating a world where neurodivergence is celebrated, visible, included, consulted, and understood.
What is neurodivergence?
Physiologically, all brains are nearly identical. Brains are made up of the same regions and have the same neurochemical processes. All brains have the same basic function – to operate the body. However, no two brains work in the same way. That’s because we each have our own pattern of connectivity (how we are ‘wired’) which is changed by the unique interactions between our experience and biology.
All brains work differently, however neurodivergence is used to described individuals with brain differences associated with autism, ADHD, learning difficulties and more. Fun fact: approximately 15-20% of the population are neurodivergent.
Differences in brain wiring are a vital part of humanity, just like variations in skin colour, size, gender, and personality. Celebrating neurodivergence is not aimed at minimising challenges or difficulties that individuals may face. Rather, it is about not assuming brain and behavioural differences are problems. We should assume that neurodivergent people have many abilities and a lot to bring to the table. For example: creativity, thinking outside the box, systemising skills, not conforming to social norms, good attention to detail (just to name a few possibilities).
Celebrating neurodivergence means challenging assumptions about what is ‘normal’ and what makes a person successful. It aims to recognise the many talents, strengths, and advantages of being neurodivergent.
Celebration is different to awareness campaigns: it is about actively accepting and celebrating diversity. The purpose of celebrating neurodivergence is to change how neurodivergent individuals are perceived and create a more inclusive culture that celebrates differences. It is also about actively working to remove barriers for neurodivergent people to enjoy and contribute to all parts of society and to have a say in the things that affect them.
Neurodiversity celebration aims to move away from negative labels like ‘deficits’ and ‘disorders’ to shift the focus onto the many strengths of divergent neurotypes.
Neurodivergence is just another way to be human. Every individual has their own unique strengths and abilities that can be acknowledged and celebrated.
I love this quote by Albert Einstein: “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid”