What is Neurodiversity?
The term Neuro-diversity was coined by Judy Singer as recently as 1999. Since then the field of neuro-science has developed at an astounding rate, discovering facts about the brain which have exploded many myths about conditions previously dismissed as merely “bad behaviour”, “bad parenting” and “bad teaching”. It has also increased hope for people who have struggled with learning in the past by showing how they can be helped in constructive ways.
Singer views human beings as neuro-diverse. Differences in the way their brains are “wired” inter-act with other cultural and genetic differences. The complex and cumulative inter-actions between all these factors affect the way people think, learn and understand the world and inter-act in the family and wider social contexts.
The population as a whole is incredibly neuro-diverse. Some, however, have combinations of difference that make them exceptionally gifted and creative in some areas while still finding it hard to deal with everyday life & learning. Where a group of identifiable challenging symptoms has been identified, a medical label is given. Such labels include Autism, Aspergers, AD(H)D, Bi-polar syndrome, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia. Some people, but by no means all, may have more than one condition and many have secondary issues, such as anxiety & depression, caused by the misunderstandings in society & difficulties with ’fitting in’. Many who go untreated may also self-medicate, for example, with alcohol or drugs in order to cope with life, unaware that addiction itself may be part of the condition. But assumptions about symptoms & the way they impact on a person’s life & learning can never be made.
This is why NKH views every person as an individual first but one with a condition that needs support to achieve their full learning potential.
Is neuro-diversity a social, behavioural or medical issue, or combination of these?
This question lies at the core of an on-going debate affecting attitudes in society and the level of funding and assistance offered.
The interplay between the physical nature of the condition & attitudes in society is important to understanding those Neuro-diverse conditions which are more challenging. Are they, for instance, seen only as medical problems or as creative assets particularly valuable when new ideas & solutions beyond accepted norms are needed? Clearly a greater variety of differences are more likely to fit into societies which value & accommodate creativity alongside the standardised systems that are also needed to manage everyday life. If only the latter are valued, different ways of being & thinking are more likely to be suppressed by ridicule, drugs & the law. It also follows that it is not enough just to support the individuals with the condition. They are more likely to contribute fully to society if those around them, especially families, teachers & policy makers, have the information, skills & attitudes required to help them learn & deal with the challenges they face every day.
This is why NKH delivers services through schools, colleges and work-place. In this way fellow students, staff & especially those who have power over their performance and results are given the skills & understanding to help them achieve their full potential.