Diverse: « composed of people, things, phenomena of various kinds. »
The concept of diversity is a neutral one, free from any attributes of normativity. Its meaning depends on the context and the system of values which are applicable in a given environment.
Historically, this concept was imbued with pejorative characteristics, and to this day it is sometimes used in an effort to eliminate differences or what is perceived different. In the most vulnerable social aspect, it is linked to issues of racial, ethnic, religious, identity, or mental differences.
Today, in Western countries, the awareness that social diversity does exist is a fact, and must be accepted, stands at the core of fundamental human rights. Both state institutions and non-governmental organizations take an active stance in protecting them.
The knowledge about social diversity is systematically rising. Scientific research examining the topic is being carried out, new categories and terms to describe it are being developed.
Neurodiversity, as an important element of social diversity, is a relatively new concept. Its primary purpose is to pinpoint the differences in how the human brain is constructed, and especially the neuronal connections within. Until recently, it was thought that there existed a certain number of typical and functional neural connections. As it turned out, however, there are many more of such connections that manifest themselves through one’s mental processes and behaviour.
Such a perspective means that certain forms of human functioning which previously used to be seen as deviations from the norm and defined as disorders or diseases (e.g. forms of the autism spectrum, ADHD, or mood swings), are not negative deviations – they are less frequent, they are different, harder to understand, but in no way do they make such persons worse. The term “neurodiverse” is used to designate those who are in the minority in terms of their mental construction, while those who are in the majority are referred to as “neurotypical.”
The science of neurodiversity is a new and rapidly growing branch of knowledge. It is being taught and researched at such universities as Stanford, UCL, and King’s College London. It consists primarily in studying other manners of human functioning and seeing values which we have failed to notice before. As it turns out, neuroatypical persons, who used to be defined mainly through their mental or social deficiencies, possess above-average abilities in areas which are inaccessible to neurotypical persons.
In practice, knowledge about neurodiversity as well as social awareness of existence of this phenomenon helps e.g. discover the strengths of persons with unusual mental characteristics and utilise their talents to boost innovation and productivity in society. Various neurodiverse educational programs are being created in kindergartens; the same goes for educational programs in schools and universities. In business sphere, companies such as Microsoft, JP Morgan, or Ford apply the so-called neurodiverse recruitment programs.
Such practices take into account the existence of neurodiversity and, rather than trying to eliminate the differences in the psychological functioning of people, accommodate to them. Applying such practices brings about beneficial social effects and results in better economic outcomes.
Our Foundation defines persons to whom the concept of neurodiversity can be applied as “atypical.”
1 Thomas Armstrong, (2018). ‚8 Reasons Why We Need Neurodiversity in Education’, American Institute for Learning and Human Development https://www.institute4learning.com/2018/04/23/8-reasons-why-we-need- neurodiversity-in-education/
2 Robert D. Austin, (2017). ‚Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage’, Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2017/05/neurodiversity-as-a-competitive-advantage
3 Roberta Holland, (2016). ‚The Benefits Of Recruiting Employees With Autism Spectrum Disorder ’,
Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2016/07/11/the-benefits-of- recruiting-employees-with-autism-spectrum-disorder