The Diversity in Neurodiversity

Credit Prof Amanda Kirby

This a short explanation of neurodiversity which should serve as a beginners guide to those who have just come across the concept. It may also be useful for those who want a bit of a refresher or some key points.

What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is a social concept rather than a diagnosis. The term was first coined by the sociologist Judy Singer in the 90s to explain that there can be variations in brain function and the way information is processed. Neurodivergent people may have a different sensory experience, mental function, mood or attention level to neurotypical people.

Current research suggests that around 1/5 of people are ND.

Types of ND

The most common types of ND, those which educators will most often be dealing with, day to day in the classroom are shown in the diagram above. Here is an at a glance guide to more information

Dyslexia- effects about 1/7 people. It’s often thought of as only about spelling and reading but can cause issues with executive functioning and working memory

Dyscalculia - effects about 1/10 people. It can mean issues with all areas of sequencing, spatial understanding as well as number

DCD - often called dyspraxia, Developmental Coordination Disorder is a more accurate name for this condition.This effects all areas of co-ordination including fine and gross motor skills. It’s thought to occur in around 1/12 people

DLD - Developmental Language Disorder is probably the most overlooked type of ND. It’s extremely common, effecting around 1/6 people. Those with DLD may have good receptive language and comprehension skills but poor expressive language skills.

ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is massively under diagnosed, especially in women and girls. It is thought to effect around 1/12 people. The attention deficit side of the conditions is often overlooked.

Autism - although the National Autistic Society say this condition effects around 1/100, much of the recent research puts the figure at 1/28. Autistics have differences in sensory processing, and social communication.

Other common ND conditions

Epilesy, Tourette’s and obsessive compulsive disorder are also mentioned in this diagram. There also a number of other conditions which are considered ND such as bipolar and schizophrenia. They are all less common but it is likely that you will meet or teach children with these conditions during your career. Each situation is individual but I would recommend asking your SENCO for a brief synopsis of how these conditions effect your learner so that you can use this information in your planning

Fruit salad

Finally, whenever you are working with and ND learner, please bear in mind that most of us have more than one ND condition.

You have to consider each condition and how it effects your learner but also how it may overlap with other conditions they may have. Donna Williams , the Australian Singer and autistic advocate put it well. She talked about the Fruit Salad Analogy. In that no one ingredient defines the salad but they are ingredients in the delightful mixture that makes us up.

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