What is Neurodiversity and Neurodiversity Awareness Week?

Neurodiversity is the concept that all humans vary in terms of their neurocognitive ability. Everyone has talents and things they struggle with – we’re all familiar with that part! However, for some people, the variation between those strengths and weaknesses is more pronounced, which can bring talent but can also be disabling. 

This year Neurodiversity Awareness Week is March 15th-21st 2022. 

It is a week-long event designed to provide an opportunity for pupils and teachers to learn more about neurodiversity, and for neurodiverse pupils to develop a more positive perception of their own unique neurodiverse traits and skills. 

Being neurodivergent means that an individual may think and learn in a different way to others. Neurodiversity has a wide spectrum that covers a range of hidden neurological conditions, such as but not limited to Autism Spectrum, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Tourette’s and social anxiety. 

Neurodiversity – The Donaldson Trust (donaldsons.org.uk)

What are the signs of neurodiversity? 

Neurodivergence is often first recognized as the result of a diagnosis, but, of course, neurodiversity exists before a diagnosis and can exist with or without a diagnosis. It is possible to become neurodiverse as the result of a physical or emotional injury or trauma, but in most cases, neurodiversity typically exists from birth onward. 

Research is ongoing into the genetic and environmental causes of disorders such as autism and ADHD, and there is no doubt that many people are simply born with atypical brains. 

Neurodivergent: What Are the Signs of Neurodiversity? (verywellhealth.com) 

The different conditions that could be related to neurodiversity are: 

The different conditions that could be related to neurodiversity are: 

  • Autism
  • ADHD
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia 
  • Tourette’s
  • Social anxiety

Signs of autism are: 

Social communication and interaction: 

  • Poor eye contact and lack of facial expressions
  • Delayed speech or does not speak
  • Does not understand questions and directions 
  • Gets aggressive or disruptive 
  • Does not respond to his or her name
  • Repeats phrases or words
  • Resists cuddling and holding

Patterns of behaviour: 

  • Repetitive movements like hand shaking, spinning or rocking 
  • Difficulty in body movement coordination
  • Sensitive to light, sound or touch
  • Self – harming activities such as head-banging
  • Specific food preferences or food pattern
  • Positives of Autism 
    • Attention to Detail = there is both a thoroughness and accuracy around specific details. This can be a real plus in jobs that require that skill such as quality control. Some more ideas for jobs can be found in this article by Temple Grandin. 
    • Deep Focus -concentration level can be very focused, allowing for freedom from distraction. My adult children spend hours on an activity that they enjoy. My son reads 2- 3 non-fiction books aloud to himself every week. 
    • Observation Skills – there is a listen, learn, look approach to learning. Facts are researched. For example, my daughter will observe an activity a number of times before she will participate, but when she does join in, she can do the task well. 
    • Absorb and Retain Facts the long-term memory is excellent with superior recall. I am always amazed at the facts my son tells me about things he has learned years ago, particularly around the topics of Titanic and music.
    • Visual Skills tend to be visual learners and detail focused. Temple Grandinbook Thinking in Pictures really highlights this.
    • Expertise -there is in-depth knowledge on a topic and a high level of skills. 
    • Methodical Approach-  thought processes are analytical; can spot patterns and repetitions. Science, math and music are subjects that have patterns in them. Organizing and categorizing use these skills. 
    • Novel Approaches unique thought processes and innovative solutions. Here is a list of some famous people you may recognize who may have been or are on the spectrum and what they’ve contributed. 
    • Creativity- a distinctive imagination and expression of ideas. Here are some visual artists on the spectrum. The Art of Autism is also a great website to see the work of artists with autism.
    • Tenacity and Resilience determination and challenging opinions. To read more on this topic, have a look at this article.
    • Accepting of Difference less likely to judge others; may question norms. My adult children never judge people on the basis of social status, career, accomplishments etc. They love people for who they are.
    • Integrity honest, loyal and committed. For example, my daughter has never missed a shift in two years of volunteering at a no-kill cat charity. She says, Those cats need me and depend on me. They need to be loved.
  • Stats about Autism
  • About 1 in 44 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CD , Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. 
  • ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. 
  • About 1 in 6 (17%) children aged 3 to 17 years were diagnosed with a developmental disability, as reported by parents, during a study period of 2009-2017. These included autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, blindness, and cerebral palsy, among others. 

Signs of ADHD 

Inattentive symptoms 

  • Uses avoidance techniques and/or dislikes tasks that require long periods of attention, such as chores, homework, or classwork
  • Has difficulty keeping track of and/or loses items that they need for daily activities, such as homework, pencils and pens, phones, etc.
  • Can have difficulty staying focused on schoolwork and/or playtime activities
  • Has difficulty and/or regularly does not finish schoolwork, chores, and other tasks 
  • Can have difficulty following instructions, such as directions on homework or classwork

Hyperactive-impulsive symptoms 

  • Fidgets or squirms while seated, taps hands or feet, or leaves their seat in situations where they are expected to remain seated
  • Talks excessively and/or blurts out answers before a person has finished asking a question
  • Can have difficulty waiting their turn, often in conversation
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others, such as butting in during a game or conversation that they are not a part of
  • Has difficulty playing or engaging in hobbies quietly.
  • Positives of ADHD:
  • People With ADHD Are Good Problem Solvers
  • People with ADHD are creative and have strong imaginations
  • People with ADHD can be compassionate
  • People with ADHD have a great sense of humour
  • People with ADHD have great perseverance 
  • People with ADHD are highly observant
  • Have a super power called hyperfocus
  • They have energetic enthusiasm
  • Have strong ecological Intelligence
  • Are highly sensitive

Stats About ADHD 

  • ADHD has a worldwide prevalence rate of 7.2% in children.
  • Approximately 6.1 million children in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD.
  • Kentucky has the highest rate of ADHD in the United States.
  • About 6 in 10 US children with ADHD have also been diagnosed with at least one other disorder.
  • About 3 in 4 children with ADHD in the US are receiving treatment. 
  • Stats about ADHD show that girls are less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than boys.
  • ADHD is more prevalent in Caucasian children.
  • Between 2.5% and 4.4% of adults in the US have ADHD.
  • About 25% to 40% of adults with substance abuse disorder also have ADHD.
  • People with ADHD have a lower life expectancy

Signs of dyslexia  

  • poorly organised written work that lacks expression (for example, even though they may be very knowledgeable about a certain subject, they may have problems expressing that knowledge in writing
  • difficulty planning and writing essays, letters or reports 
  • difficulties revising for examinations
  • trying to avoid reading and writing whenever possible
  • difficulty taking notes or copying
  • poor spelling
  • struggling to remember things such as a PIN or telephone number 
  • struggling to meet deadlines 

Positives of dyslexia  

  • Perception: the ability to alter and create perceptions; 
  • Highly aware of the environment; 
  • Highly curious; 
  • Great intuition and insightful; 
  • Thinking and perceiving multi-dimensionally (using all the senses); 
  • A lively imagination; 
  • Can experience thought as reality; 
  • Creativity 
  • Easy adoption of change 
  • Holistic, see the big picture, don’t get lost in details, get to the important aspects 
  • See patterns, connections, and similarities very easy 
  • Concentration 
  • Can be very driven, ambitious and persistent 

Stats about dyslexia  

  • Approximately 15% of people have dyslexia 
  • This equates to over 30 million adults in the United States, about 6 million in the United Kingdom and 3 million in Canada. Most don’t know they are dyslexic!
     
  • Dyslexia occurs in people of all backgrounds 
  • Dyslexia is found in speakers of every language and country, but rates vary
     
  • Men and women are equally likely to have dyslexia 
  • Of those placed in special education for a learning disability, around 80% have dyslexia 
  • Somewhere between 25-40% of children with dyslexia also have ADHD and conversely, approximately 25% of children with ADHD also have dyslexia 

Signs of dyspraxia  

If you have dyspraxia it may affect: 

  • your co-ordination, balance and movement 
  • how you learn new skills, think, and remember information at work and home 
  • your daily living skills, such as dressing or preparing meals 
  • your ability to write, type, draw and grasp small objects 
  • how you function in social situations 
  • how you deal with your emotions 
  • time management, planning and personal organisation skills 

Positives of dyspraxia  

People with dyspraxia are: 

Very creative 

Very determined 

Motivated 

Good problem solvers 

Intelligent 

Have a great sense of humour 

Love to be helpful 

Stats about dyspraxia  

It is thought that 10% of the UK population have dyspraxia and out of those 10%, 2% suffer with it severely. 

Dyspraxia is 4 times more likely to occur in males than females 

Dyspraxia on Mother’s side? 37% chance of it being passed down 

Dyspraxia on Father’s side? 60% chance of it being passed down! 

Dyspraxia on Both sides? 82  chance of it being passed down!

Signs of Tourettes  

People with Tourette’s syndrome have a combination of physical and vocal tics. 

Examples of physical tics include: 

  • blinking 
  • eye rolling 
  • grimacing 
  • shoulder shrugging 
  • jerking of the head or limbs 
  • jumping 
  • twirling 
  • touching objects and other people 

Examples of vocal tics include: 

  • grunting 
  • throat clearing 
  • whistling 
  • coughing 
  • tongue clicking 
  • animal sounds 
  • saying random words and phrases 
  • repeating a sound, word or phrase 
  • swearing 

Swearing is rare and only affects about 1 in 10 people with Tourette’s syndrome. 

Tics are not usually harmful to a person’s overall health, but physical tics, such as jerking of the head, can be painful. 

Tics can be worse on some days than others. 

Positives of Tourettes  

  • Verbal
  • Animated
  • Funny life-of-the-party type 
  • Delightful
  • Talent as mimic
  • Natural acting ability 
  • Uninhibited
  • Just enough compulsiveness to get things done 
  • High intelligence 
  • Witty, sharp humour 
  • Strength of character 
  • Musical talent and improvisational skills 
  • Quick reactions and reflexes 
  • Competitive 
  • Playful 
  • Energetic 
  • Enthusiastic 
  • Joyful 
  • Creative 
  • Full of ideas 
  • Photographic memory 
  • Hard working 
  • Ambitious
  • Signs of social anxiety 
  • You skip events you are interested in, only because you think you will feel awkward. 
  • Similarly, you might decide you’re NOT really interested in events, because you think you’ll feel awkward. 
  • Whenever your appearance changes slightly, you are terrified to go out and see people. 
  • You don’t expect anyone to be friends with you. 
  • You have a million excuses for why you don’t date.
  • You think your coworkers or classmates secretly look down on you.
  • You edit your social media updates endlessly before you post them.
  • You act differently when you speak confidentially.
  • Growing up you thought constantly fearing others judgment was normal.
  • You sometimes wonder what your life would be like if you could be more confident.

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