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Neurodiverse Terminology

Terminology can be a confusing and sensitive subject, but it does not need to be.

Let's dive in, shall we?

Dictionary, open, with map behind it

Some people say neurodiverse and some say neurodivergent, but what is the "right" terminology to use for neurodiversity and what does it all mean?...

First... the linguistic breakdown:

Neuro (combining form)- relating to nerves in the nervous system (commonly also referred used to refer to the brain and brain-related topics)

Diverse (adjective)- showing a great deal of variety, very different

Divergent (adjective)- tending to be different or develop in different directions

Some people prefer to say that they are neurodiverse.

This is grammatically correct.

It also works well in a social context as we use the terms "racially diverse", "gender diverse", "culturally diverse", etc.

Some people prefer to say that they are neurodivergent.

This is also grammatically correct.

Socially, it is less common as this term is not typically used when referring to other diversities, BUT... it is proper and there is nothing to say that we can't rock a different set of terminology (and isn't that just so fitting for us!?). 😊

Neither term is wrong linguistically.

Both are grammatically and technically correct.

Please do not correct people in this community about their preferred terms (even for their other diversities). Embrace their preferences.

Next... the movement definition of neurodiversity.

To some, neurodiversity means any variation in thought. This is the most original definition of the term.

The term was also specifically coined to remove negative stigmas from those who process or think differently, essentially to embrace that different is not a deficit, by Australian Sociologist Judy Singer.

However, in terms of the neurodiversity movement and per the current social context, the term has evolved.

Neurodiversity is now used to refer to medically visible or diagnosable differences in how a person or group of people process information and stimuli in comparison to the population standard.

A few examples of neurodiverse diagnosis are: ADHD, Dyslexia, Cerebral Palsy, Traumatic Brain Injury, Autism, and Bipolar.

Then, we come to the term disability.

There are three different types of disability: medical, legal, and social.


Medical Disability - Being considered by the medical community to be disabled based on alignment with certain established medical criteria


Legal Disability - Meeting the legal definition of disabled (In the US, this is governed by the ADA, American Disabilities Act.)


Social Disability - Disability not relating directly to the capabilities of the individual, but on the assumptions, projections, and actions of society and/or other people. 

Not everyone who is neurodiverse considers themselves disabled even though most of us meet the medical requirements. 

Some only fit one or two definitions of disability.

Some fit all three.

There is challenge with disability.

There can be struggle or even pain.

Some people struggle minimally or not at all, but still fit the legal and medical definitions of disability.

It just depends on the individual.

Oh, and we should mention... disabled does not mean incompetent or less capable.

(Read that again.)

It just means that some aspect of the person functions differently and may need accommodation.

Just think of the many examples throughout history, athletics, and the arts! For example: Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Maya Angelou, Gena Davis, Dan Aykroyd, Simone Biles, Satoshi Tajiri, Jessica Alba, Henry Ford, Richard Branson, and many more.


Disability is not a bad word. 

We hope this helps clear everything up!

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