Recently, there has been a greater focus on neurodiversity and stigmas that are attached to the label “neurodivergent”. Many people with large social platforms have spoken candidly about their experience, helping to further destigmatize the misunderstood aspects of living under the neurodivergent umbrella. At Advanced Home Care Solutions, we are advocates for inclusion and working to create a more accepting and supportive society. Given our role as a health staffing agency, it stands to reason that we are passionate about all things wellbeing.
To start off, let’s talk about what “neurodiversity” means and who might identify as neurodivergent…
Neurodiversity refers to dissimilarities in the human brain that can impact things like sociability, attention, mood, and learning – among other cognitive processes. When a person identifies as neurodivergent, it means that they experience the world differently that the average (also called “neurotypical”) person. Autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyscalculia, and Tourette’s syndrome all fall into the category of “neurodivergent”. It is important to note, however, that every neurodivergent person will present differently and every experience is unique. Let’s get into it…
Autism, for example, is thought of by many as the presentation of very specific characteristics and traits. There is quite a lot of misinformation surrounding Autism Spectrum Disorder, how it presents, and its diagnostic criteria. This has created confusion among those who are seeking diagnosis or trying to understand and learn more about ASD.
The online Autistic community has grown exponentially in recent years, providing validation and support to those on the Autism spectrum. We are also seeing a rise in late-diagnosed individuals, particularly women. This is also true for ADHD. Both Autism and ADHD can present very differently in men and women, and up until recently, both were often seen as conditions that primarily affected young boys. This is, of course, not the case. Speaking of ADHD and Autism, when it comes to neurodivergence, comorbidity occurs at a high rate. If you are a person diagnosed with Autism and also happen to exhibit traits of ADHD, there is a higher chance of having both. But for many, this can make identifying either one more difficult, since many of the characteristics of ADHD tend to contradict those of Autism and vice versa. For example, people with co-occurring Autism and ADHD might find that deviating from their routine causes extreme discomfort, and yet intensely crave spontaneity. There is also some overlap in symptoms, like sensory issues, emotional dysregulation, hyperfixation, self-stimulating behaviours or “stimming”, and executive dysfunction.
Diagnosis is somewhat of a sensitive topic within the neurodivergent community, since things like race, gender, social standing, age, and most importantly, financial standing, can affect someone’s access to a formal clinical assessment. Typically, the waitlists are very long, and private assessments are expensive, making diagnosis difficult to acquire – especially as an adult. Additionally, there are many within the Autism community in particular who claim that the ASD diagnostic criteria is outdated and too focused on the outward presentation of traits and level of functioning, rather than the person’s lived experience. This is why self-diagnosis (through a process of online tests and extensive research) has become widely accepted and embraced within the neurodivergent community, and even among some in the medical community.
Supports exist in many forms, and help neurodivergent people to thrive, both personally and professionally. To learn more about what this entails, head over to Part Two of our blog.