Neurodivergent. Have you heard this word lately?  It’s such a new term that when I first typed it in my computer, the typing program underlined it and told me it was misspelled. It was not. My computer clearly had not caught up with the times.

What does Neurodivergent mean?

Neurodivergent is not a medical term. It’s a term created to define those whose brains developed differently than what is considered typical. It encompasses ADHD and Autism and many other ways of thinking. The word “neurodiversity” was coined by sociologist Judy Singer, who is autistic, in her thesis work written between 1996 – 1998. The concept was then built upon by autistic activist Kassiane Sibley (now Kassiane Asasumasu)  who coined the term “neurodivergent,” This term filled the need for a wider view that defined neurological differences without centering autism.

Does being Neurodivergent require a diagnosis?

The term neurodivergent does not require a diagnosis. It can describe people whose brain differences affect how their brain functions in the world. People who are neurodivergent have different strengths and challenges from people whose brains don’t have those differences. There is no “right” way to think and learn. 

Feeling like this is a lot to take in? Yeah. It can be a lot. In society we are hearing more and more about people who discover that they are neurodivergent in adulthood. Sometimes this is a diagnosis received from a psychiatrist, but not always.

Neurodivergence as an adult

Sometimes those with a new understanding of their neurodivergence get busy applying tools they need to navigate life with a neurodivergent brain. Sometimes instead they are met with a wall of grief, regret, or sadness. It can feel like witnessing a montage of memories from a childhood spent struggling with things that other kids seemed to find easy. Memories of being told something is wrong with you when really your brain just worked in a different way. How do we deal with those feelings of grief? How do we understand ourselves through this new lens? How can we view the past and our future through new lenses? That’s the real question. 

Neurodiversity is personal

Hi. I’m Ariana E. I am part of the communications team at Abide Counseling and understanding neurodivergence is personal to me. I was diagnosed at the age of 28 with ADHD. I experienced real grief as I began to sort through my childhood and family of origin with new understanding. 

Now, almost 18 years later, my spouse (who is also a neurodivergent thinker) and I have three kids whose brains represent varying combinations of neurodiversity and ability. Realizing what was going on with my kids and seeing how they struggled was hard for me. I felt that old grief come up again. My logical brain knows they will live full adult lives and, truthfully, will have more tools than I could have ever dreamed. But some part of me longs for “normalcy” for them that I never had as a kid. Perhaps I just want it to be easier for them. Normalcy is not real. I know this as an adult, but as a mom, I have a deep longing for them to feel like they belong and are loved in the world. 

I had help along the way

Why am I sharing this? Because there were people who walked alongside me on my journey. I spent time sorting through all of this hindsight and healing after my diagnosis. These people were wiser and kinder to me than I was to myself. They helped me understand. Is this something that you are struggling with? Walking alongside a therapist through a new diagnosis or journeying into the realm of neurodivergence can be critical to one’s mental health. I like to think of it as standing on the shoulders of giants. I’m gaining insight and wisdom and a view that I could never have attained on my own. I hope that others will have the same help I received. 

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