Extracted and modified from ikipedia under CC-BY-SA 3.0

Neurodiversity, or ND, refers to variation in the human brain regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood and other mental functions in a non-pathological sense. [1] It was coined in 1998 by sociologist Judy Singer, who helped popularize the concept along with journalist Harvey Blume. [1] It emerged as a challenge to prevailing views that certain things currently classified as neurodevelopmental disorders are inherently pathological and instead, adopts the social model of disability, in which societal barriers are the main contributing factor that disables people. [2] [3] This view is especially popular within the autism rights movement. The subsequent neurodiversity paradigm has been controversial among disability advocates, with opponents saying that its conceptualization is based on wishful thinking and may downplay, ignore or even romanticize serious mental conditions and illnesses, as well as argue that the idea is largely endorsed by those who either self-diagnose or are with low support needs and does not reflect the realities of individuals who have higher support needs. [4] [5] [6] [7]

The word neurodiversity is attributed to Judy Singer, a social scientist who has described herself as "likely somewhere on the autistic spectrum." [8] She used the term in her sociology honours thesis published in 1999. [9] [8] The term represented a move away from previous "mother-blaming" theories about the cause of autism. [10] Singer had been in correspondence with Blume as a result of their mutual interest in autism, and though he did not credit Singer, the word first appeared in print in an article by Blume in The Atlantic on September 30, 1998. [11]

Some authors [12] [13] also credit the earlier work of autistic advocate Jim Sinclair in advancing the concept of neurodiversity. Sinclair was a principal early organizer of the international online autism community. Sinclair's 1993 speech, "Don't mourn for us", emphasized autism as a way of being: "It is not possible to separate the person from the autism." [14] In a New York Times piece written by American journalist and writer Harvey Blume on June 30, 1997, Blume described the foundation of neurodiversity using the term "neurological pluralism". [15] Blume was an early advocate who predicted the role the Internet would play in fostering the international neurodiversity movement. [16]

The neurodiversity paradigm was taken up first by individuals on the autism spectrum. [17] [18] Subsequently, it was applied to other neurodevelopmental conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), developmental speech disorders, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysnomia, intellectual disability and Tourette syndrome, [18] [19] as well as schizophrenia, [3] [20] bipolar disorder, [21] and some mental health conditions such as schizoaffective disorder, antisocial personality disorder, [22] dissociative disorders, and obsessive–compulsive disorder. [23] Neurodiversity advocates denounce the framing of neurodevelopmental disorders as requiring medical intervention to "cure" or "fix" them, and instead promote support systems such as inclusion-focused services, accommodations, communication and assistive technologies, occupational training, and independent living support. [24] [better source needed] The intention is for individuals to receive support that honours authentic forms of human diversity, self-expression, and being, rather than treatment which coerces or forces them to adopt normative ideas of normality, or to conform to a clinical ideal. [25] [better source needed]

Proponents of neurodiversity strive to reconceptualize autism and related conditions in society by the following measures: acknowledging that neurodiversity does not require a cure; changing the language from the current "condition, disease, disorder, or illness"-based nomenclature; "broadening the understanding of healthy or independent living"; acknowledging new types of autonomy; and giving non-neurotypical individuals more control over their treatment, including the type, timing, and whether there should be treatment at all. [13] [3]

A 2009 study [26] separated 27 students (with autism, dyslexia, developmental coordination disorder, ADHD, and stroke), into two categories of self-view: "A 'difference' view—where neurodiversity was seen as a difference incorporating a set of strengths and weaknesses, or a 'medical/deficit' view—where neurodiversity was seen as a disadvantageous medical condition." They found that, although all of the students reported uniformly difficult schooling careers involving exclusion, abuse, and bullying, those who viewed themselves from a difference view (41% of the study cohort) "Indicated higher academic self-esteem and confidence in their abilities and many (73%) expressed considerable career ambitions with positive and clear goals." [26] Many of these students reported gaining this view of themselves through contact with neurodiversity advocates in online support groups. [26]

A 2013 online survey, which aimed to assess conceptions of autism and neurodiversity, found that "A deficit-as-difference conception of autism suggests the importance of harnessing autistic traits in developmentally beneficial ways, transcending a false dichotomy between celebrating differences and ameliorating deficit." [27]

The neurodiversity paradigm is controversial in autism advocacy. [17] The dominant paradigm is one which pathologizes human brains that diverge from those considered typical. From this perspective, these brains have medical conditions which should be treated. [28]

A common criticism is that the neurodiversity paradigm is too widely encompassing and that its conception should exclude those whose functioning is more severely impaired. [17] [29] Autistic advocate and interdisciplinary educator Nick Walker offers the distinction that neurodivergencies refer specifically to "pervasive neurocognitive differences" that are "intimately related to the formation and constitution of the self," in contrast to medical conditions such as epilepsy. [3]

Neurodiversity advocate John Elder Robison agrees that neurological difference may sometimes produce disability, but at the same time he argues that the disability caused by neurological difference may be inseparable from the strengths it provides. "99 neurologically identical people fail to solve a problem, it's often the 1% fellow who's different who holds the key. Yet that person may be disabled or disadvantaged most or all of the time. To neurodiversity proponents, people are disabled because they are at the edges of the bell curve, not because they are sick or broken." He therefore argues for the accommodation of neurological difference while also recognizing that it can produce disability. [30] [undue weight? – discuss]


  1. Armstrong, Thomas (2011). The power of neurodiversity : unleashing the advantages of your differently wired brain (1st Da Capo Press paperback ed.). Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Lifelong. ISBN 9780738215242. OCLC 760085215. ^
  2. Oliver, Michael, 1945-2019. (2006). Social work with disabled people. Sapey, Bob. (3rd ed.). Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1403918384. OCLC 62326930.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) ^
  3. Chapman, Robert (January 10, 2019). "Neurodiversity Theory and Its Discontents: Autism, Schizophrenia, and the Social Model of Disability". In Tekin, Serife; Bluhm, Robyn (eds.). The Bloomsbury Companion to Philosophy of Psychiatry. Bloomsbury. pp. 371–387. ISBN 9781350024069. ^
  4. Opar, Alisa (May 6, 2019). "A medical condition or just a difference? The question roils autism community". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 12, 2019. ^
  5. Robison, John E. "The Controversy Around Autism and Neurodiversity". Psychology Today. Retrieved May 14, 2019. ^
  6. McGee, Micki (August 2012). "Neurodiversity". Contexts. 11 (3): 12–13. doi:10.1177/1536504212456175. S2CID 220720495. ^
  7. Sarrett, Jennifer (April 2016). "Biocertification and Neurodiversity the Role and Implications of Self-Diagnosis in Autistic Communities". Retrieved March 6, 2022. ^
  8. "Meet Judy Singer Neurodiversity Pioneer". My Spectrum Suite. Retrieved May 14, 2019. ^
  9. Singer, Judy (February 1, 1999). "'Why can't you be normal for once in your life?' From a 'problem with no name' to the emergence of a new category of difference". In Corker, Mairian; French, Sally (eds.). Disability Discourse. McGraw-Hill Education (UK). pp. 59–67. ISBN 9780335202225. For me, the key significance of the 'autism spectrum' lies in its call for and anticipation of a politics of neurological diversity, or neurodiversity. ^
  10. Bumiller, Kristen. "The Geneticization of Autism: From New Reproductive Technologies to the Conception of Genetic Normalcy." Signs 34.4 (2009): 875-99. University of Chicago Press. ^
  11. Blume, Harvey (September 30, 1998). "Neurodiversity". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on January 5, 2013. Retrieved November 7, 2007. Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment? Cybernetics and computer culture, for example, may favor a somewhat autistic cast of mind. ^
  12. Solomon, Andrew (May 25, 2008). "The autism rights movement". New York. Archived from the original on May 27, 2008. Retrieved May 27, 2008. ^
  13. Fenton, Andrew, and Tim Krahn. "Autism, Neurodiversity and Equality Beyond the Normal" (PDF). Journal of Ethics in Mental Health 2.2 (2007): 1–6. November 10, 2009. ^
  14. Sinclair, Jim. Don't Mourn For Us. Autism Network International, n.d.. Retrieved on May 7, 2013. ^
  15. Blume, Harvey (June 30, 1997). "Autistics, freed from face-to-face encounters, are communicating in cyberspace". The New York Times. Retrieved November 8, 2007. Yet, in trying to come to terms with [a neurotypical-dominated] world, autistics are neither willing nor able to give up their own customs. Instead, they are proposing a new social compact, one emphasizing neurological pluralism. [...] The consensus emerging from the Internet forums and Web sites where autistics congregate [...] is that NT is only one of many neurological configurations -- the dominant one certainly, but not necessarily the best. ^
  16. Blume, Harvey (July 1, 1997). ""Autism & The Internet" or "It's The Wiring, Stupid"". Media In Transition. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved November 8, 2007. A project called CyberSpace 2000 is devoted to getting as many people as possible in the autistic spectrum hooked up by the year 2000, reason being that "the Internet is an essential means for autistic people to improve their lives, because it is often the only way they can communicate effectively." ^
  17. Jaarsma P, Welin S (February 2011). "Autism as a Natural Human Variation: Reflections on the Claims of the Neurodiversity Movement" (PDF). Health Care Anal. 20 (1): 20–30. doi:10.1007/s10728-011-0169-9. PMID 21311979. S2CID 18618887. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 1, 2013. ^
  18. Woodford, Gillian. 'We Don't Need to be Cured' Autistics Say Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. National Review of Medicine. Volume 3. No. 8. April 30, 2006. Retrieved February 23, 2008. ^
  19. Mackenzie, Robin; John Watts (January 31, 2011). "Is our legal, health care and social support infrastructure neurodiverse enough? How far are the aims of the neurodiversity movement fulfilled for those diagnosed with cognitive disability and learning disability?". Tizard Learning Disability Review. 16 (1): 30–37. doi:10.5042/tldr.2011.0005. We recommend, therefore, that the term neurodiverse include the conditions ASD, ADHD, OCD, language disorders, developmental coordination disorder, dyslexia and Tourette's syndrome. ^
  20. Morrice, Polly (January 29, 2006) "Otherwise Minded" The New York Times, review of A Mind Apart: Travels in a Neurodiverse World ^
  21. Singer, Judy (June 3, 2016). NeuroDiversity: The Birth of an Idea. Judy Singer. ISBN 978-0648154709. There is much greater community awareness of neurological "tribes" like the autistic, ADHD, or bipolar. We increasingly see these manifestations of diversity in terms of their gifts and challenges rather than their drawbacks. ^
  22. Anton, Audrey L. (2013). "The Virtue of Sociopaths: how to appreciate the neurodiversity of sociopathy without becoming a victim". Ethics and Neurodiversity. Retrieved August 2, 2015. ^
  23. Armstrong, Thomas (April 2015). "The Myth of the Normal Brain: Embracing Neurodiversity". AMA Journal of Ethics. 17 (4): 348–352. doi:10.1001/journalofethics.2015.17.4.msoc1-1504. PMID 25901703. Retrieved August 5, 2015. ^
  24. "Position Statements". Autistic Self Advocacy Network. May 28, 2011. Retrieved April 21, 2013. ^
  25. "What is Neurodiversity?". National Symposium on Neurodiversity at Syracuse University. 2011. Retrieved October 2, 2012. ^
  26. Griffin, Edward; Pollak, David (January 2009). "Student experiences of neurodiversity in higher education: Insights from the BRAINHE project". Dyslexia. 15 (1): 23–41. doi:10.1002/dys.383. PMID 19140120. ^
  27. Kapp, Steven K.; Gillespie-Lynch, Kristen; Sherman, Lauren E.; Hutman, Ted (January 2013). "Deficit, difference, or both? Autism and neurodiversity". Developmental Psychology. 49 (1): 59–71. doi:10.1037/a0028353. PMID 22545843. ^
  28. Feinstein, Adam (December 11, 2017). "Neurodiversity: The cases for and against" (PDF). ^
  29. Frith, Uta (October 23, 2008). Autism: A Very Short Introduction. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780191578656. ^
  30. "What Is Neurodiversity?". Psychology Today. Retrieved September 17, 2020. ^