What is Neurodiversity?
We are all made in the image of God and therefore every one of us reflects something of the Three in One. We know that God's very substance is divinely diverse and perfect: God is the Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life. God created diversity and it is very good. We are called to love as God loves us - so let that be our starting point.
The word neurodiversity acknowledges that not all brains operate in the same way. It is a term that demands care and respect. Neurodiverse should never mean 'deficient,' 'defective' or 'dysfunctional.' People who identify as neurodiverse are not suffering from an illness or disease that needs to be cured. Language that pathologizes - describes as "psychologically abnormal" - our neurodiversity can very quickly become pejorative, dismissive, and hurtful. Stereotypes, misnomers, and ignorance abound!
Those who identify as neurodiverse may also describe themselves as being (or living with such labels as) autistim, AD(H)D, dyspraxia, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and so on. How each neurodiverse person identifies with/as such terms is to be defined by them.
Autism advocates around the world remind us: "If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism." So, please do not make assumptions, make time.
WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE?
There are loads of resources on neurodiversity. The best advice is to hear from someone who identifies as neurodiverse. One recent example is this:
- Bowman, Daniel, On the Spectrum : Autism, Faith, and the Gifts of Neurodiversity, BrazosPress, August 2021
Bowman is an American professor of English Literature and creative writing, and an Episcopelian (Anglican). He describes his own story in his own words. His writing is eloquent and his pain is palpable. His work is also available as an audio book.
Other excellent books include:
- John Donovan & Caren Zucker, In a Different Key : The Story of Autism, Penguin, 2016
- Steve Silberman and Oliver Sacks, NeuroTribes: The legacy of autism and how to think smarter about people who think differently, Aug 26, 2015
In addition, there are numerous websites and videos that will help you begin to understand this important phenomenon.
- Altogether Autism
- Autism New Zealand
- Children's Autism (now merged with Autism New Zealand)
- NewsHub has collected a series of stories here
- Rosie King How autism freed me to be myself
- Ethan Lisi What it's really like to have autism
- Dr Wendy Chung What we know and what we don't know yet
If you work in HR (or with colleagues who identify as neurodiverse) you may find this resource from CIPD especially helpful:
what can i do?
Ask, listen, and learn.
Too many neurodiverse people have been marginalised, underestimated, and dismissed. You can help overcome this.
Many of the resources listed above offer courses and specific advice. We urge you to explore them. Altogether Autism offers this one-page overview of what you can do to help make your gatherings more welcoming. It's a great place to start making small changes with enormous effects.
You might be (or might like to be) the Neurodiverse Champion in your church or community. If you want to connect with other like-minded people to gather ideas and support, please contact the Ministry Educator - email@example.com.
Reproduced with kind permission from Altogether Autism