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  • Writer's pictureColorado Coherence Collective

The Neurodiversity Paradigm: A Series of Operational Definitions




Neurodiversity (noun): the entire spectrum of all forms of neurotype, levels of functional or occupational ability, forms of cognitive and neurological functioning, learning and motivational styles, sensory processing and developmental differences, and stress response system patterns. Everyone is included under the neurodiversity spectrum. 

  • Neurodiverse (adjective): a diverse group of people with neurological differences

Neurodivergent (adjective): a non-pathologizing alternative some individuals use to describe individual somatic, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and social functioning that deviates from the neuronorm (see below). 

  • A non-pathologizing alternative to terminology included in the DSM-V (ie: ASD, ADHD, BPD, OCD, ODD, and others). 

  • Colorado Coherence Collective does not rely on DSM-V terminology, as we believe that pathologizing adaptive behavior is harmful to individuals and society as a whole.

Neurotypical (adjective): an individual whose somatic, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and social functioning aligns with the neuronorm (see below)

  • Colorado Coherence Collective does not utilize this terminology, as we believe it is harmful. We prefer the phrase “neuronormative” or “member of the neuronormative community” (see below).

Neuronorms (noun): the generally accepted implicit and explicit sociocultural norms, values, morals, standards, expectations, and assumptions related to somatic, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and social functioning, applied to society as a whole or a specific subset of individuals 

  • Neuronormative expectations often relate to executive functioning skills, including impulse control or inhibition, cognitive flexibility and processing speed, attentional control, interoception and self-awareness, self-organization, and the ability to engage in planning and prioritizing. 

  • Assimilation to neuronorms is often expected and associated with values of respect, politeness, and professionalism. Individuals who deviate from the neuronorm are often perceived as disrespectful, impolite, and unprofessional, and are more likely to be marginalized or excluded from neuronormative society.

  • Neuronorms are implicitly and explicitly established and perpetuated by individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities, and societies through interpersonal relationships, media and social media, and other sociocultural influences. 

  • The neuronormative community is the community of individuals whose neurotype and functional abilities align with the generally accepted neuronorm. 

Examples of neuronorms:

School examples:

  • A school system that expects students to sit still for many hours each day without developmentally-appropriate movement breaks.

  • A school system that provides prescribed social-emotional instruction to students on IEP’s rather than implementing Universal SEL supports focused on justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

Workplace examples:

  • A workplace culture that expects employees to inhibit behavioral impulses and self-regulatory behaviors during interviews or meetings, including stimming, fidgeting, flapping, rocking, or pacing.

  • A workplace culture that expects new employees to self-organize with minimal support or evaluates all employees using the same performance standards. 

Societal examples:

  • A law enforcement and judicial system that expects citizens to inhibit behavioral impulses to avoid unwanted consequences, harm, or deprivation of liberty.

  • A social expectation to communicate and conversate in a specific way, such as making eye contact or taking turns in conversation.   

Neuronormative privilege: the lived experience of individuals whose neurotype is aligned with the neuronorm.

  • A lack of conscious awareness of the harms of neuronormativity often leads to an inability to conceptualize, understand, or empathize with the lived experiences of non-neuronormative individuals and communities. 

  • Failure to acknowledge neuronormative privilege is often associated with values of inclusion, kindness, and empathy. Individuals who experience and perpetuate neuronormative privilege are often perceived as inconsiderate, selfish, or ableist rather than uninformed, uneducated, or simply naive. 

  • Awareness and understanding of neuronormative privilege allows individuals and groups to make informed decisions to either perpetuate neuronormative privilege or take action steps to advocate for meaningful inclusion within their communities and organizations. 

Examples of Neuronormative Privilege:

School examples:

  • A school system that assumes the sensory or academic environment is appropriate for all students; a school system that assumes developmental or regulatory capacity based on age rather than developmental ability; a school system that punishes challenging behaviors with disciplinary interventions rather than teaching co-regulation and alternative behaviors. 

Workplace examples: 

  • An employment system that assumes that a 40-hour workweek is accessible to all employees.

  • An employment system that assumes uniform ability levels of all staff related to mobility, learning, communication, and other forms of functioning.

Societal examples: 

  • An economic system that assumes a 40-hour workweek is attainable for all.

  • A political system that assumes taking a day off for election day is feasible for all.

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