Neurodiversity was coined by sociologist Judy Singer. It is a social movement and a framework for analyzing inequality based on the idea that many people experience natural variations in thinking and behavior that only appear abnormal because our society does not understand or accommodate them.
Neurodivergent is a term used to describe people who experience those natural variations in neurological development and function that may appear atypical. It is most often associated with things like autism, ADHD, and dyslexia, but extends to many other experiences that may consistently impact someone’s ability to focus, learn, manage their mood and emotions, or navigate social interactions.
The core concept seems clear—no one’s brain works exactly the same way—and yet our classrooms, workplaces, and social norms are largely one-size-fits-all.
For neurodivergent people, that often makes it feel as if every system is setting you up to fail, meaning sudden, dramatic overhauls like the shift to remote work can leave you frustrated, isolated, and overwhelmed.
It’s important for professional leaders to understand that neurodivergent employees are just as capable of being effective members of a team as anyone else, and in fact bring unique skills, strategies, and solutions to the table—but have the best chance of succeeding if their environment enables them to thrive.
- Neurodiversity: an understanding of neurological differences as natural, valuable, and in need of proper accommodation rather than stigma.
- Neurodivergent: a person who experiences variations in neurological function that impact their daily life and may appear atypical in contrast to social norms.
- Neurotypical: a person who experiences largely typical neurological function and therefore does not face significant additional difficulty navigating the norms of educational, professional, or social settings as a result of their neurotype.