The Neurodiverse movement has good intentions. However, the term is not easily understood. From speaking with parents, professionals, inclusion officers, and head teachers there is When other neologisms derived from the movement, such as neurodivergent,” are introduced, even more confusion is sown. Language matters and any term should have utility in that it is easily understood and can be used in the field.
I propose replacing neurodiversity with “Atypically normal”, presenting an interesting take on the discussion about neurodiversity. Both terms aim to challenge and reshape our understanding of neurological variations. Let’s explore each term and its implications:
“Neurodiversity” should encompass the entire spectrum of human neurological experience rather than being limited to or primarily associated with specific conditions or groups. The term “neurodiversity”, in its truest definition, recognises the vast range of human neurocognitive functioning.
However, this term has roots in the autistic community. Not only has its usage morphed to encompass various neurological conditions, such as ADHD, dyslexia, and more, it has lost its original intent not to label the condition. Neurodiversity promotes the understanding that there is a natural variation in how people’s brains function, much like biodiversity in the environment. This perspective views these variations not as disorders but as differences.
The term “neurodiversity” seeks to remove the stigma from these neurological differences, arguing that they should not be pathologised.
The term suggests that while there might be atypical aspects, they are still a part of the normal spectrum of human variation. “Atypically normal” serves as a poignant reminder that everyone, irrespective of where they fall on the spectrum of neurocognitive function, is a part of the vast array of “normal.” It underscores that deviations from the majority or “typical” are not abnormalities but variations within the broad spectrum of normalcy.
This emphasis on “atypically normal” can help break down barriers of “us” vs. “them” or “typical” vs. “atypical” by implying that everyone, despite their differences, is a variation of normal.
The term “atypically normal” offers a neutral standpoint, recognising variations without carrying the baggage of trying to shift prevailing medical or societal viewpoints.
While “neurodiversity” often emerges from a context of challenging the medical model or pathologisation of certain neurological conditions, “atypically normal” sidesteps this entirely. It simply presents the variation as a given without pushing for a redefinition.
By not tying itself to any ideological movement, “atypically normal” can allow practitioners and educators to determine what’s best in individual cases. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and not being bound by a specific ideology can allow for more tailored approaches.
It is also inclusive without advocacy, “Atypically normal” can serve as an inclusive term without necessarily advocating for any particular change in perception or approach. It’s a descriptor, not a movement. It offers neutral ground and can bridge discussions between different stakeholders. Whether one is a proponent of the medical model, the social model, or any other perspective on neurocognitive variations, “atypically normal” is a term that doesn’t favour one over the other, providing a common ground.
“Atypically normal” offers a nuanced and neutral way to discuss neurocognitive variations without the implications and associations that other terms might carry. It’s a valuable contribution to the discourse, emphasising the spectrum of human experience without being prescriptive about how we should perceive or approach it.