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What is Neurodiversity?

Posted by Melissa Robertson-Bye on

If you have children, you've probably heard the term neurodiversity in reference to sensory disorders, ADD, ADHD and autism. With much greater awareness lately of autism, ADHD and Asberger's syndrome, neurodiversity has also enjoyed more exposure. But do you know what it really means? 

Neurodiversity is actually more of a concept than a label. Coined in 1999 by an Australian social scientist named Judy Singer (who identifies herself as being on the autism spectrum), neurodiversity is the idea that not all brains are the same. They develop at different rates, they operate in different ways and that those differences are natural. They are not the result of disease, defect or deficiency. 

Who's to Say What's Normal

Neurodiversity gives way to the distinction between people who are considered neurotypical, people who socialize and behave in ways we have come to expect in society, and those that are neurodivergent. Neurodiversity also paves the way for thinking about how to welcome, support, and celebrate neurodiverse people. Helping them to find and use their strengths to everyone's advantage, rather than focusing on correcting their so-called quirks or flaws. We love the promise that neurodiversity holds for inclusivity and tolerance. But more on that later.

Types of Neurodiverse Behaviour

There is plenty of debate over what neurodiversity includes. It is not uncommon to find differences, including those labelled as Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism, Tourette's Syndrome, and Asberger's Syndrome, referred to under the umbrella of neurodiversity. Some researchers and neurodiversity experts also include anxiety and depression as well as gender diversity in that group. There's some scientific evidence to support this as well, with studies finding that gender-diverse individuals are almost three times more likely to be on the autism spectrum!

Nothing is Without Controversy

Though neurodiversity does have a basis in science, there is also plenty of controversy surrounding it. Many researchers and practitioners disagree on whether it appropriate to think of brain differences as simply differences rather than defects. Some feel that neurodiversity favours higher functioning individuals capable of leading very productive lives with very little support. While those more severely affected by their differences may not have the same capabilities and will be left behind by the idea that 'treatment' is unnecessary.

Others feel that by shifting the perception that neurodiversity is simply about difference, we are making light of a debilitating, emotionally and physically devastating condition for some adults and children. Autism, depression, anxiety and ADHD and can severely impact their quality of life. Treating severely neurodivergent people as simply different does not address their needs or help them achieve a better quality of life.

We're All In on Neurodiversity

We, the Munching Monster Chewlery team, believe in the value of neurodiversity in that it shifts people's thinking from the disease model of modern medicine to support and empower neurodiverse people of all ages. Neurodiversity promotes a shift towards inclusion for people who may have been ridiculed or held back from living their lives by their 'quirks' or because of 'bad' or 'awkward' behaviour. When we let go of the idea that neurodivergent kids and adults are broken, we allow them to find their place alongside us as happy and productive individuals. 

Still, we have a lot of work to do. 

According to studies and statistics, neurodiverse adults are much more likely to be unemployed or employed only part-time. Neurodiverse children still struggle at school with learning models that do not fit their needs. And parents of neurodiverse children are still often made to feel that they have in some way failed in their parenting. 

But we're not about any of that. We celebrate all differences, great and small, in your brain, your gender, your cultural heritage, whether or not you can process dairy, or whether you believe your hair was meant to be all colours of the rainbow. 

My own experience with neurodiverse people led me to build a business out of making products that can help them thrive in a neurotypical world without drawing attention to their differences as problems that need correcting. For example, our fidget toys are used by neurodivergent people to help them focus, to relieve anxiety and to release excessive energy. Our chewy products made from safe and durable materials can be worn as cool necklace pendants or bracelets. Pencil toppers and other chewy products allow children who need to chew to do so safely and discreetly. 

We are in the process of modifying our brand to focus on neurodiversity and the tools and supports that humans with all of their brain differences - need. We are proud of the work we do and are looking forward to this new chapter in our business' story. Follow us on Instagram to find out more and see what's coming next for Munching Monster Chewlery!