Mother Hugging Her Daughter

Why we celebrate neurodiversity at Umbo

Alisa Lingham, Speech Pathologist

The word “neurodiversity” is used to describe the differences in how people may think and feel, based on how their brains function. Just like how we all have unique one-of-a-kind faces and fingerprints, as humans we also all have unique brains. No two brains are exactly alike – not even the brains of identical twins! 

Neurodiversity recognises that we all experience the world and think differently. 

Being ‘neurodiversity-affirming’ means seeing and celebrating these brain differences. People may think differently, but that doesn’t mean that this difference in ability is automatically a problem, or that people need to be changed or ‘fixed’. 

Therapy that is neurodiversity-affirming aims to:

  • Respect differences in how people experience and interact in the world. There is no right or wrong way to think, feel or exist. 
  • Build upon what is meaningful, interesting and important to the individual.  
  • Assist people and/or their support teams to better understand their individual strengths, needs, communication and/or learning styles. 
  • Promote a positive sense of identity and wellbeing.  
  • Empower people to advocate for their own needs.
  • Make society a more inclusive and accessible environment for all. 

Importantly, neurodiversity-affirming approaches aim to avoid harmful misconceptions and stereotyped ideas about what people can or cannot do. For example, this means avoiding:

  • Teaching others to mask/avoid/hide aspects of themselves from view, in an attempt to look more “typical” in social settings. 
  • Expecting people to endure overwhelming sensory environments. 
  • Using negative or deficit-based language about a person, their skills and abilities.
  • Making value judgements about how someone communicates, socially interacts with others, or experiences sensory information. 

Neurodiversity and neurodivergence:

‘Neurodivergent’ is a word sometimes used to describe people whose brain thinks or learns differently. For example, this can include Autistic people, or people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Developmental Language Disorder, Specific Learning Difficulties including Dyslexia (reading difficulty), mental health conditions and other neurological or developmental conditions.

When is therapy needed?

If all people are seen as equal and valued for who they are, then why would neurodivergent children, teens or adults need therapy? 

No, not all neurodivergent people want or need therapy. 

A balanced view of neurodiversity celebrates individual strengths, but also acknowledges that some neurodivergent people may find parts of daily life complicated or challenging. Therapy is not just to support individuals, but can also help people’s support networks to create more inclusive environments. Deciding to access therapy is a personal decision that depends on the person’s (and/or their family’s) individual needs, choices and preferences. 

Umbo is committed to promoting a strengths-based, respectful, inclusive, and person-centred environment for all people. These practice principles strongly align with neurodiversity-affirming therapeutic approaches. Please also read the Umbo Neurodiversity-Affirming Practice Position Statement for further information.  

Resources:

For more information on this topic, we suggest looking at:

Image credit: Mother Hugging Her Daughter via RDNE Stock project on Pexels