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How do you know if you’re Neurodivergent?

What is Neurodivergence?

Neurodivergence refers to natural variations in the human brain and cognition. It includes conditions like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and others. These brain differences affect how people learn, focus, socialize, and regulate their emotions and senses. Neurodivergent people may think or behave differently than what society considers “normal”.

Key Signs of Neurodivergence

There are some common signs that can indicate if someone is neurodivergent:

  • Difficulty with social skills and communication
  • Narrow, intense interests or hyperfocus abilities
  • Need for routine and dislike of change
  • Sensory sensitivity (to light, sound, touch, etc.)
  • Motor clumsiness or poor coordination
  • Learning disabilities like dyslexia
  • Executive dysfunction (trouble planning, prioritizing, staying organized)

However, symptoms vary greatly by individual – some may experience mild differences, while others have more support needs. It’s a spectrum.

Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects communication, social interactions, behavior, and sensory processing. Signs of autism include:

  • Delayed speech and language skills
  • Avoiding eye contact or preferring to play alone
  • Repetitive behaviors like flapping, spinning, or lining up toys
  • Intense focus or attachment to objects or routines
  • Adverse reactions to specific sounds, textures, or other sensory input
  • Poor motor skills and coordination

Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some autistic people have average or high intelligence, while others require more support.

Levels of Autism Support Needs

Autism is classified into 3 levels based on the amount of support required:

Level Description
Level 1 Requires some support for deficits in social communication and inflexibility of behavior. Has few repetitive behaviors.
Level 2 Requires substantial support for deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills and limited initiation of social interactions. Shows inflexibility of behavior and difficulty coping with change. Restricted or repetitive behaviors are apparent.
Level 3 Requires very substantial support for severe deficits in social skills and communication. Has extreme difficulty coping with change and restricted, repetitive behaviors that interfere with functioning in all spheres.

However, people should not be defined solely by their level of support needs. With the right interventions, autistic individuals can thrive.

Signs of ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by ongoing problems with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty paying attention and staying focused
  • Forgetfulness and disorganization
  • Fidgeting, restlessness, and talking excessively
  • Rushing through tasks and lacking patience
  • Difficulty following directions or completing tasks
  • Being easily distracted by sights, sounds, or thoughts

ADHD symptoms are present in multiple settings like school, home, and work. They may be overlooked in smart or quiet girls. Adults with ADHD may lack focus at work, procrastinate frequently, and struggle with time management.

ADHD Subtypes

There are 3 presentations of ADHD:

Type Characteristics
Predominantly Inattentive Difficulty paying attention, easily distracted, lacks focus.
Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Fidgety behavior, excessive talking, restlessness, difficulty waiting their turn.
Combined Type Symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity.

The right supports, like behavioral therapy and medication when needed, can help people with ADHD manage their symptoms successfully.

Signs of Dyslexia

Dyslexia affects reading ability and processing of language-based information. Signs include:

  • Difficulty identifying speech sounds and learning letter-sound connections
  • Trouble decoding words, leading to slow, choppy reading
  • Weak spelling and writing skills
  • Misreading words (like “house” for “home”)
  • Difficulty with rhyming
  • Trouble remembering facts and sequences

Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence, motivation, or vision. With proper instruction tailored to their learning style, dyslexic students can become successful readers.

Types of Learning Disabilities

Besides dyslexia, other learning disabilities include:

Disorder Description
Dysgraphia Difficulty with handwriting and fine motor skills for writing.
Dyscalculia Difficulty learning and understanding math concepts and symbols.
Dyspraxia (DCD) Poor coordination and motor skills like catching a ball or using utensils.

Getting assessed can help identify specific difficulties. Targeted support and accommodations allow those with learning disabilities to thrive in school and beyond.

Signs of Giftedness

Giftedness indicates exceptional abilities and potential in one or more domains like intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership, or specific academics. Signs include:

  • Advanced vocabulary, speaking, and reading skills for their age
  • Excellent memory and recall ability
  • Intense curiosity and range of interests
  • Ability to grasp concepts and make connections quickly
  • Preference for older companions or playing alone
  • Voracious appetite for books and learning

Gifted children may ask many questions, learn rapidly, and prefer complex ideas. Boredom, underachievement, or mild asynchronous development are also common. Supporting their needs allows gifted kids to thrive.

Myths About Giftedness

Some common myths about gifted individuals:

Myth Fact
Gifted kids excel in all subjects. They may have spikes and weaknesses. A gifted math student may struggle with writing.
They don’t need help to succeed. All students need support. Gifted kids need intellectual stimulation and accommodations to reach potential.
Giftedness excludes learning disabilities. Gifted children can have conditions like dyslexia, ADHD, ASD too.

Proper identification and support allows gifted children to thrive in school and life.

Seeking a Formal Assessment

If you or someone you know exhibits potential signs of neurodivergence, consider seeking a formal assessment. Evaluations can be done by psychologists, psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, speech-language pathologists, or other professionals depending on the specific condition.

Diagnostic assessments typically include:

  • Interviews with the individual and family members to understand developmental history
  • Behavioral observations
  • Cognitive testing to evaluate abilities like memory, attention, problem-solving
  • Academic testing for skills like reading fluency, spelling, math calculation
  • Rating scales and questionnaires related to symptoms
  • Vision, hearing, or motor coordination assessments if needed

The assessment leads to a diagnosis along with recommendations for treatment, accommodations, and supports. Understanding one’s neurotype can unlock access to services and empower advocacy.

Seeking Accommodations in School or Work

Once assessed, students or employees can request accommodations and accessibility supports. These may include:

Setting Potential Accommodations
School Extra time on tests, assistive technology, modified workload, preferential seating, sensory tools, alternative formats for text, etc.
Workplace Noise-cancelling headphones, flexible work hours, written job instructions, reminders and checklists, frequent breaks, etc.

Accommodations allow neurodivergent individuals to perform to their full potential.

Seeking Out Patient Advocacy and Support Groups

In addition to professional assessments, connecting with patient advocacy organizations and support groups can provide valuable insights and shared experiences. These groups include:

  • The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
  • CHADD for ADHD
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities
  • ADDA for adults with ADHD
  • Gifted Homeschoolers Forum

Support groups allow neurodivergent individuals and their families to find community, resources, and best practices for flourishing. Local meetups, conferences, and online forums offer opportunities to connect.

Online Forums and Resources

Many online resources exist covering neurodivergence:

Website Details
Wrong Planet Connects autistic individuals through forums and blogs.
Additude Provides ADHD news, advice, and diagnosis information.
Dyslexia the Gift Shares stories and strengths that come with dyslexia.
SENG Gifted Provides support and resources for giftedness.

Online groups provide community and let individuals embrace their differences.

Seeking Therapy or Coaching

Therapy and coaching customized to neurodivergent experiences can also help.

  • Social skills groups teach communication and connection for autistic individuals.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy helps develop coping strategies for ADHD.
  • Educational therapists support learning disabilities through specialized tutoring.
  • ADHD coaches provide structure around organization, time management, and productivity.
  • Gifted counseling helps children process emotional intensity and perfectionism.

The right professional guidance empowers individuals to better understand themselves and thrive.

Understanding Your Strengths

A strengths-based approach can reframe neurodivergence:

Perceived Weakness Reframed Strength
Fixation on details Ability to hyperfocus
Sensory sensitivity Heightened awareness and creativity
Clumsiness Visual-spatial talent
Introversion Rich inner world

Focusing on innate strengths fosters self-confidence.

Pursuing Passions and Interests

For many neurodivergent people, passion areas provide joy, energy, and purpose. Engaging these interests allows talents to flourish:

  • Many autistic individuals excel in STEM fields, music, visual arts, writing, and gaming.
  • Those with ADHD can hyperfocus on pursuits like entrepreneurship, high-energy sports, or creative arts.
  • Dyslexics often thrive in hands-on trades, mechanical domains, visual spatial skills, and design.
  • Gifted children enrich the world through academics, leadership, visual and performing arts, social justice, and innovation.

Providing opportunities to cultivate passions empowers neurodivergent individuals.

Finding Strength-Based Careers

Careers that harness neurodivergent strengths include:

Field Well-Suited Strengths
Computer programming Systematizing, pattern recognition, hyperfocus
Research Curiosity, analytic thinking, persistence
Entrepreneurship Innovation, vision, risk-taking
Skilled trades Hands-on work, spatial skills, precision

Aligning careers with natural abilities allows people to excel professionally.

Embracing Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity is the concept that natural variations in human brains are strengths, not deficits. Key principles include:

  • Neurodivergence is a normal part of the human experience, not something to cure or eliminate.
  • Each neurological style has value and strengths.
  • Society should embrace and accommodate all neurotypes.
  • Services should empower those with differences to thrive as their whole selves.
  • Neurodivergent individuals deserve self-determination, acceptance, and inclusion.

This paradigm shift allows the gifts of all minds to enrich the world.

Diversity Enhances Shared Humanity

Far from being broken, people with neurological differences add beauty, innovation, and meaning to the collective tapestry of humanity.

Some contributions by neurodivergent individuals include:

Individual Contribution
Albert Einstein Nobel Prize-winning physicist who had dyslexia, ADHD traits, and unusual thinking.
Greta Thunberg Young autistic activist catalyzing global climate change movement.
Agatha Christie One of the most famous mystery authors of all time, had dysgraphia.
Steve Jobs Visionary leader and entrepreneur who made Apple an iconic brand.

By valuing all cognitive styles, society as a whole is elevated.


Neurodivergence encompasses a wide spectrum of developmental differences like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and giftedness. Key signs to explore include sensory issues, learning struggles, intense focus, and social-communication challenges. Seeking professional assessments, connecting with advocacy groups, pursuing strengths, and embracing neurodiversity allows these individuals and their families to flourish.

While the path may have unique twists and turns, embracing one’s neurotype unlocks potential to live a deeply meaningful life and contribute to society in invaluable ways. Diversity of minds and talents strengthens humanity as a whole.