Thursday, March 18, 2021

Neurodiversity Definitions & Terms You Should Know

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Do I have hyperlexia? Is my child hyperlexic? Take the free online hyperlexia quiz today!

What is neurodiversity? What is neurodivergent? What is neurodiverse? How do you define neurotypical? Below you will find definitions and meanings for each of these neurodiversity terms.

You've probably seen the words neurodiversity, neurodivergent, neurodiverse, and neurotypical before. 

Maybe you've wondered what these terms mean or how to know which terms to use and when. Like are you supposed to say neurodivergent or neurodiverse? 

It can be very confusing for sure, especially when they all contain the same root word of neuro.

So I'm going to provide definitions for the words neurodiversity, neurodivergent, neurodiverse, and neurotypical in hopes that you can better understand their meanings and use them correctly. I've tried to keep the definitions as simple as possible without jargon or fancy words.

Definition of neurodiversity, neurodivergent, neurodiverse, and neurotypical

Neurodiversity Definition

Neurodiversity refers to the diversity of human brains and the wide variety of individual differences in brain functioning. 

Judy Singer coined the term neurodiversity in the late 1990s. 

Please note that the term neurodiversity is different than the terms neurodiversity paradigm (a perspective or philosophy) and Neurodiversity Movement (a social justice movement).

Neurodivergent Definition

The term neurodivergent is used to refer to an individual person whose brain functions in ways that are different than what's considered "normal" and includes people with developmental, individual, psychiatric, or learning disabilities.

Since neurodivergent is the opposite of neurotypical, the term can be used to describe anyone who has a brain that develops atypically, whether they are autistic, hyperlexic, dyslexic, or have some other type of neurodivergence such as ADHD, Tourette's, or intellectual disabilities. Here's a list of types of neurodivergence.

So basically it refers to someone with a differently wired brain.

The term was coined by Neurodivergent K of Radical Neurodivergence Speaking. Here's a short PSA from the individual who coined the term.

Neurodiverse Definition

The term neurodiverse is used to describe a group of people - not an individual person - where at least one or more people in the group have different styles of brain functioning or brain types.

Neurodiverse is often used incorrectly (I know I've been guilty of that!) to refer to an individual person (e.g., a neurodiverse child). However, the correct term to describe an individual is actually the term neurodivergent. 

The easiest way to keep these two terms straight, in my opinion, is to remember that neurodiverse is plural, while neurodivergent is singular. Remember, individuals are not groups so they cannot be neurodiverse. They can only be neurodivergent.

Neurotypical Definition

Neurotypical refers to an individual whose brain develops typically and functions in ways that are deemed "normal." The term can be used as a both an adjective or as a noun.

A lot of people assume neurotypical just means non-autistic, but that's incorrect. Instead, neurotypical is the opposite of neurodivergent. 

So to Recap...

  • Use the term neurodiversity when describing the natural diversity of human brains
  • Use the term neurodiversity paradigm when referring to the philosophy of neurodiversity
  • Use the term Neurodiversity Movement when referring to the social justice and civil rights movement
  • Use the terms neurotypical or neurodivergent when describing an individual person
  • Use the term neurodiverse when referring to a group of people
A list of common neurodiversity terms and their definitions

Other Neurodiversity Resources You'll Love

Free Neurodiversity Ebooks

Free Neurodiversity Infinity Symbol Coloring Pages

Types of Neurodivergence

What is neurodiversity? What does neurodivergent mean? How about neurodiverse and neurotypical? Here's a list of common neurodiversity terms and their definitions