Neurotypical vs Neurodivergent Meaning: 101 Guide

Behavioral patterns1 differ from individual to individual on a continuum that ranges from “typical” or “normal” to “atypical” or “abnormal.” Such behaviors may fall under a type of mental disorder that affects a person at birth or during different stages of their development from childhood to adulthood. Before any further discussion on neurotypical vs neurodivergent meanings, a clear distinction between “mental illness” and “mental disorder” must be made.

1. Mental Illness and Mental Disorders

One must remember that “mental illness” and “mental disorder” are interchangeably used terms. The main difference between the two terms lies in the origin of the issue.

As psychology is a fluid discipline, scientists have discovered disorders that can be understood from a neuropsychological perspective.2

Several developmental disorders affect the way a person functions at home and in the workplace. Such conditions are also referred to as neurodevelopmental disorders. The term neurodivergent is given to people who exist with these disorders as opposed to neurotypicals.3

2. Neurodivergent Meaning

The term neurodiversity came into existence in the 1990s, neurodivergent, means several conditions associated with cognitive disabilities.

Individuals that fall under this category often prefer the term “neurodiverse.” Soft skills and social interactions are often difficult for neurodiverse individuals.

The idea of neurodiversity encouraged everyone to view other communities respectfully, providing a different way of perceiving the neurodivergent meaning.

Here, we shall explore some of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders.

2.1. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is diagnosed in childhood. Children with ADHD show signs of overactivity, impulsivity, and difficulty concentrating on simple tasks.

The symptoms fall under the neurodivergent meaning of disabilities and tend to persist. The best form of treatment for ADHD 4is behavior therapy along with medications.

Moreover, several steps are taken before deciding if the child has ADHD, as mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and other learning disabilities have common signs.

2.2. Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism or ASD is a disorder of the brain that influences the person’s way of interaction, causing problems with how they communicate.

The neurodivergent meaning associated with the autistic spectrum encompasses cognitive complexities during a child’s school life, affecting normal functioning.

Behavioral therapies that aid in conversational and linguistic skills and medication use can have a positive effect on development.

2.3. Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)

DCD is a condition that makes it challenging for children to learn motor skills and coordination.

Under the umbrella of the neurodivergent meaning, it is considered to be a neurodevelopmental disorder like ADHD.

DCD occurs with other mental illnesses like anxiety, autism, ADHD, and sensory processing complications. This disorder is better treated with the help of occupational therapy.5

2.4. Tourette Syndrome

Another example of a neurodevelopmental disorder is Tourette’s syndrome. It falls under neurological conditions that affect children and causes uncontrolled tics, vocal noises, and muscular jerks.

Though some children might not need any treatment, special therapy is required for ADHD and OCD or other emotional problems and dysfunction in school.

2.5. Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a neurological developmental condition caused by a defect in the human genome or through exposure to drugs during pregnancy.

The child might have difficulty producing sounds and have problems understanding others’ speech and reading languages.

Early intervention along with specialized tutoring and teaching programs can benefit children with dyslexia in the long run.

3. Neurological Diversity

Human brains are not biologically meant to be the same for every individual. Human variation in terms of development tends to occur due to certain abnormalities caused during pregnancy. These variations lead to thinking differences and alternate ways of self-expression.

According to John Elder Robison from Psychology Today, “the neurodivergent meaning conveys the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome.”

Furthermore, neurodiverse and neurotypical people bring new perspectives into the working environment with diverse forms of work performance.

4. What is Neurotypical?

Neurotypical means those who function according to the conventional range of human neurology.

Such individuals are considered typical in terms of functionality, and it gained popularity in the autistic community to refer to people who have had normal neurological development.

The concept of neurodiversity was brought into existence by Australian sociologist Judy Singer.

Approximately 30-40% of the population falls under the neurodivergent meaning put forth by Judy Singer in 1998. She wanted to describe the neurodivergent purpose by putting disorders like ADHD, ASD, and dyslexia under the normal variations among humans by calling it neurodiversity.

She began the Neurodiversity Movement6, which had its roots in the Autistic Rights Movement in the 1990s. The Neurodiversity Movement could also be called a social justice movement that aims for complete respect and inclusion of the population with medical conditions.

To neurodiversity advocates, neurological differences are basic human functions rather than dysfunctions. A novel way of looking at the neurodivergent meaning proposed by Singer in addition to the neurodiversity movement is referred to as the neurodiversity paradigm.

4.1 The Neurodiversity Paradigm

The Neurodiversity Paradigm views autism as a natural human variation, and it views neurological diversity as a parallel to ethnic diversity.

Autism is not attributed as an illness under this paradigm, and it rejects the view of one “healthy” type of brain. Instead, it tries to embrace the neurodivergent meaning of brain differences as a creative possibility.

4.2 Neurodiversity at the Workplace

Neurodivergent people at the workplace provide numerous benefits for the organization as such individuals have skills and talents that enhance the working environment greatly.

Large corporations are hiring individuals that fall under the neurodivergent, to increase neurodiversity at the workplace.

A company may welcome neurodiversity by involving inclusion-focused services. Furthermore, occupational training may also be provided to employees. This training ensures that everyone is treated equally through support systems like “buddy systems” for certain tasks that a neurodivergent person may need help with.

Cultivating a professional culture that involves celebrating differences and uniqueness is of key significance in a professional setting.

4.3 Neurodiversity in the Classroom

Neurodiversity is an important topic of discussion taken up by everyone in the education sector. Children on the autistic spectrum are often told to “mask” their disability status to fit in with neurotypical children.

Strength-based strategies focus on what the child can do instead of what they cannot do. It shifts the focus away from the deficits, emphasizes the student’s strengths and qualities, and promotes neurodiversity in the classroom.

  • Universal Design for Learning

A new movement known as the Universal Design for Learning has been started to accommodate every student’s differences in the classroom regardless of their social category. The human mind is capable of learning and improving regardless of the disability status of a person.

The universal learning design allows children with dyslexia, ASD, Tourette syndrome, and other neurodiverse students to integrate into the classroom better. F

Further information suggests that assistive technologies will enable the child to communicate effectively, and it applies to all autistic people in society regardless of age.

5. Gender, Sexuality, and Neurodiversity

5.1 Sexual Orientation

Sexuality has also been found to be varied among the neurodiverse population. People might wonder why gender diversity is more prevalent among those who are on the spectrum.

Neurodiverse individuals tend not to conform to societal norms and expectations. Sexual orientation refers to your preference of who you are more attracted to, and people with Asperger’s or autism usually tend to come out as either bisexual or homosexual. They might also identify as asexual or aromantic.

5.2 Gender Identity and Expression

Gender identity is how you see yourself, for example, as a man, a woman, transgender, gender fluid, or any non-binary description. An individual’s outward appearance perceived by others is gender expression.

For a person diagnosed with autism, this external expression has more to do with sensory issues than societal expectations of masculinity or femininity.

Dressing up to feel comfortable rather than looking stylish and having hygiene routines that are not up to society’s standards may generate assumptions about one’s gender expression.

Being diagnosed with neurological conditions doesn’t imply that the person cannot decide their sexual orientation and gender. Regardless of one’s diagnosis and abilities, a person’s idea of gender and sexual orientation is subject to possible fluctuations throughout one’s life.

6. Neurodiversity in Everyday Life

There is a certain ambiguity surrounding mental disorders like ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and other conditions where normal human behavior crosses the threshold of being “neurologically normal.”

To accept and satisfy everyone’s needs in society, it is important to provide some services.

6.1 Independent living support

For neurodiversity to gain more traction, appropriate facilities must be provided for people with autism for them to be more independent and in control of their lives. S

uch living support allows neurodivergent individuals to choose and supervise aspects of their lives according to their needs.

7. Neurodiversity in a Nutshell

Neurodevelopmental disorders occur along with other types of mental health problems. Various incentives have been put in place to make schools comfortable and education accessible for every student.

At the workplace, employees have opted for schedules that offer different environments and flexibility in work design. Focusing more on the positives of what neurodiverse people can offer helps achieve a lot within the organization.

People with neurodevelopmental conditions also follow patterns of gender diversity and different sexual preferences, just like neurotypicals.

Furthermore, with a little help, a person diagnosed with a disability could also live independently. Thus, for society to progress, equality must be maintained in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, and differently-abled individuals who deserve equal opportunities regardless of their diagnosis.

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  1. Barger, Tracy S., Donald E. Brown, and Majd Alwan. “Health-status monitoring through analysis of behavioral patterns.” IEEE Transactions on systems, man, and cybernetics-part A: systems and humans 35.1 (2004): 22-27. ↩︎
  2. Mahon, Bradford Z., and Alfonso Caramazza. “Concepts and categories: A cognitive neuropsychological perspective.” Annual review of psychology 60 (2009): 27-51. ↩︎
  3. Radulski, Elizabeth M. “Conceptualising autistic masking, camouflaging, and neurotypical privilege: Towards a minority group model of neurodiversity.” Human Development 66.2 (2022): 113-127. ↩︎
  4. Dias, Taciana G. Costa, et al. “Developments and challenges in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.” Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry 35 (2013): S40-S50. ↩︎
  5. Reed, Kathlyn L., and Sharon Nelson Sanderson. Concepts of occupational therapy. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 1999. ↩︎
  6. Constantino, Christopher D. “What can stutterers learn from the neurodiversity movement?.” Seminars in Speech and Language. Vol. 39. No. 04. Thieme Medical Publishers, 2018. ↩︎

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Samraggee Bhattacharya
Apeksha soni
  1. This article is very impressive. It’s very informative, clear and crisp. The writer did a very good job and explaining the topic. Highly commendable

  2. You should be proud of yourself Samraggee!! Your write up is effective you have been able to distill complex thoughts and ideas into simple, clear language. I look forward to reading more of your writing.

  3. This helped me to realize the difference. Great article, dear. Keep working well! I am proud of you. As younglings say nowadays: peace ✌️

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