Being seen – Neurodiversity in society

Written by

Sarah Wakeling

Published on

March 20, 2023
Time to read: 4 minutes

With Neurodiversity Celebration Week being the 13th – 19th March, Hook decided to look at how increased societal understanding of Neurodiversity is leading to an environment where stereotypes are challenged, and people are recognised, as much as criticised, for their differences.

Neurodiversity is a relatively new phenomenon with the term neurodiversity being coined by Judy Singer an Australian sociologist in 1998, to describe people whose cognitive differences affect how their brains work. 

She argued that many aspects of our society are based on the assumption that there is one form of the human mind and accordingly many systems have been built on being ‘neurotypical’. 

Assuming that people are normative, has had two principle effects (i) it leaves many people without help and support in various aspects of their daily life, from the classroom to the workspace. (ii) it can result in poor awareness and understanding of what neurodivergent conditions look like. This in turn can lead to people being misdiagnosed with mental illness. 

The importance of understanding neurodiversity is evidenced by the fact that up to 20% of the world’s population exhibits some form of neurodivergence, with dyslexia being the most common type of a neurodivergent condition.

Social Media, The Pandemic & The Neurodivergent Awakening

The confinement people experienced during Covid-19 led to social media platforms being used more than ever as a place to forge friendships, share experiences, and understand more about the world around. Neurodivergent TikTok exploded over the pandemic (and has continued to grow) – to date, there have been 22billion searches for the #ADHD; and billions of videos explaining the things that many people found odd about themselves and detailing how their behaviour is actually products of the neurodiverse mind. 

Neurodiverse users of social media platforms have increasingly leveraged these spaces to create a range of communities, and interest groups, where they can showcase their differences in a positive light. This not only helps a diverse range of voices be heard; it has also led to greater understanding of neurodiversity and more acceptance of different non-normative behaviours. Recently, TikTok stars like Connor DeWolfe have taken this even further by showing how neurodiversity is a strength not a failing. He has produced videos, and accompanying merchandise, shining a light on ADHD superpowers. 

Making Education & Work More Accepting Of Neurodiversity

Increased awareness of neurodiversity is just a start though. There is a danger some neurodiverse conditions are being romanticised on social media platforms. This can lead to misinformation, misunderstanding, and perpetuating stigmas around certain conditions.

Increased awareness can also lead to a belief that because neurodiversity is recognised, it is an issue that has been ‘dealt with’, or a battle that has already been won. However, this is not always the case. Hook works regularly with parents, and when researching parents or guardian of a child with “needs” beyond the norm we often hear stories of continual meetings and attempted diagnoses and fights to get the proper care in place. 

Hook also works with different sections of the adult audience, exploring modern perceptions of the workplace. Increasingly there is both employer and employee acknowledge that  neurodiversity needs to be accommodated so as to create inclusive environments. 

How successful these new work environments are varies. Work environments that ‘work’ are those created by a blend of the opinions of neurodiverse people, experts, and employers, and workforces, open to learn. There are numerous training courses from reputable companies such as Lexxic that can be undertaken by neurotypical workforces to ensure that neurodiverse people are comfortable and supported in their career. 

Umbrella project in Cardiff, Wales, to highlight stigma against ADHD and Neurodiversity issues.

Neurodiversity Celebration Week

Although major leaps have taken place in awareness, we, as a society, are still behind in terms of care and support for young people with neurodivergent conditions. 

“I wanted to change the narrative and create a balanced view which focuses equally on our talents and strengths.”

This is why it is important to have events like Neurodiversity Celebration Week. At a perceptual level to act as a reminder of the levels of neurological difference in society; and at a detail level to understand some of the ways neurodiversity manifests itself.  

Neurodiversity Celebration Week is a worldwide initiative that challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences. There is a wealth of resources and support here to be sourced: Neurodiversity celebration week official page.

“I founded Neurodiversity Celebration Week in 2018 because I wanted to change the way learning differences are perceived. As a teenager who is autistic and has ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, my experience has been that people often focus on the challenges of neurological diversity. I wanted to change the narrative and create a balanced view which focuses equally on our talents and strengths.”

Founder Siena Castellon

Neurodiversity Is Our Workspace

It is no secret that many of the mightiest minds who have shaped today’s society (from Albert Einstein to Henry Ford) were neurodiverse; building more inclusive environments (across education and work) where difference can be tapped feels like an opportunity; rather than continuing with environments where differences are more likely to be stereotyped, excluded and stifled. 

Here at Hook we will continue to support and salute initiatives like Neurodiversity week that help to make everybody’s understanding of the world around that little bit more nuanced.

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