Healthcare: What is Neurodiversity?

07/11/2022

Neurodiversity is a word that we are beginning to hear more frequently in the press, workplace and educational institutions. In the world of health and social care taking into account the differences between individuals and how that impacts our interactions with them has never been more important. We often hear people described as being neurodivergent, but what does this mean? And why is it important to understand? 
 
Let’s take a look at what neurodiversity is, and how being considerate of it is very important when operating in the types of settings you might find yourself in after graduating from one of our health and social care courses. 

Neurodiversity

What is Neurodiversity? 
 
Neurodiversity is really all about the way that people interact with the world. There is no one right way of thinking, but there are certain groups of characteristics which are considered to be notably different, and this is where neurodiversity concerns itself. 
 
Neurodiversity is something which first really came to popularity in the 1990s. It’s most commonly referred to within the context of autism, but is also be associated with other developmental conditions such as typical learning disabilities or ADHD. 

Neurodiversity and Autism  
 
Autism spectrum disorder is typically associated with differences in behaviour, communication, and learning. The exact physical and mental characteristics of autism can vary from one person to the next. Many people diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum are actually highly functional, and have the same jobs, lives, and families as anybody else. Others have more restricted lives, and require constant care and supervision. 
 
Within the concepts of autism, there is a place for neurodivergent traits. This is where the bulk of these individuals demonstrate behaviors and characteristics that are not typical of other people. It’s important that this does not become basis for discrimination, intentional or otherwise and neurodiversity should be handled in a professional and sensitive way. When we provide healthcare we should take into consideration the different responses we might receive from neurodivergent patients and how to adapt to their needs. 

NeurodiversityWhy Words Matter 
 
Within the confines of neurodiversity language plays a big role. Inclusive, non-judgmental, and accepting language is very important, and it's when talking directly to people who have neurodivergent traits, that identifying the terms they are most comfortable using is most useful. Some people might assume that “identity first” language like calling somebody a “person with autism” is universally recommended, but some autistic individuals are more comfortable with the term “autistic people”.  
 
Therefore, when dealing with any type of language in this arena, it’s important to ask for preferences rather than make assumptions. These specific ways that we interact with these types of scenarios and the languages that we use have a big impact on the emotions that people feel while we treat or interact with them, and their memories of the experience afterwards. 

Final Thoughts 
 
Understanding that neurodiversity is a normal part of life is vital for approaching it within the healthcare setting. Being able to diagnose these traits and then provide a relationship to another condition can be useful for helping people to understand why they think the way that they do. Most importantly though, it’s important to handle situations with respect, dignity, and empathy for the person who is demonstrating these characteristics. 
 
Do you have the awareness and empathy needed to work with people in these scenarios and ensure their experience of your healthcare is a positive lasting experience? Find a healthcare course that suits your career path with the University of Bolton and we’ll support you as you support others.  
 

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