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Neuro-Diversity refers to the spectrum of neurological profiles describing how effective an individual is in processing information. This information comes in many forms, including written and spoken language, sounds, visual images, light, temperature, touch, texture and taste - as well as movement and co-ordination signals from the brain. The processing of all these things includes not only receiving and interpreting, but also transmitting, concentrating on and storing information. For most people, i.e., the Neuro-Typical (NT), the cognitive profile is relatively smooth, with little variation in effectiveness of information processing. This is in line with their general level of intellectual and reasoning ability.
In contrast, a minority of people, i.e. the Neuro-Diverse (NDs), have a cognitive profile, which shows many peaks and troughs, denoting significant disparity between the best and worst of their information processing (NB This is different from the case of having a uniform low level of performance throughout). The processing differences are present from birth, and are independent of any basic physical malfunctions, for example, of eyes, ears or limbs. It is thought that 10% of the population are significantly ND, with many more having some degree of neuro-divergence.
Put simply, ND people have had a condition from birth, which gives them difficulties in some basic skills areas, which cannot be explained by any physical disability or by their level of intellectual or reasoning ability. Specific Learning Difficulties and the, possibly more preferred term, Multi-Specific Processing Difficulties, are other ways of describing these problems.
NDs are more likely to be 'extreme machines' than NTs, that is, they are either brilliant or useless at things and rarely mediocre. They may, on occasion, appear to be average at some tasks. However, this may be due to brilliance at one aspect being cancelled out by being useless at another aspect of the same activity.
The rules of easy and difficult tend not to work for NDs, and in many cases are actually reversed. For some, complex mathematical analysis is 'a walk in the park', whereas an actual walk in the park (if they have to cross a busy road to get there and then cannot find the exit, when they remember that they should have been somewhere else half an hour ago, and the temperature is too hot for them to cope with) can be a nightmare.
Not everyone has all of the following problems and some NDs can excel in some of these areas.
The ND often finds the tasks of daily life such as reading, writing, driving, household chores, cooking, grooming and organising personal finances difficult.
Coping with work and other people can also be hard. There are usually a combination of problems including:
Perception - receiving and interpreting of information from the senses:
• Difficulties with reading and spelling.
• Difficulties interpreting visual images, tracking and relocating from one place to another
• Difficulties with numbers, arithmetic and geometry
• Often only able to interpret language literally and thus trouble with metaphors
• General and/or specific over (or under) sensitivity to light, touch, taste, pain and sound
• Trouble judging time, distance, space and speed
Communication - Transmitting information to others:
• Difficulty constructing communication in your head
• Problems planning and writing essays and sequencing of ideas
• Problems being succinct or giving sufficient information.
• Brain working at a greater speed than mouth or hand, e.g. handwriting and typing - the hands can’t keep up with the brain
• Speaking too loudly or softly
• Not having control of pitch and tone
• Difficulties with pronunciation
Gross and Fine Motor Skills - Transmitting brain signals to effect movement:
• Problems with team sports
• Tendency to bump into things
• Poor hand-eye co-ordination
• Slow and/or untidy hand-writing
• Difficulties with craftwork
• Problems with driving
• Tendency to drop things (“butterfingers”)
• Involuntary movements (e.g. tics)
• Failure to limit motion to the intended part of the body (e.g. hips gyrate when hand whisking.
Memory - Storage of information (exacerbates problems with other information processing):
• Problems following instructions
• Problems remembering sequences
• Problems following discussion, especially in a group
• Short-term memory problems/forgetfulness
• Difficulties with concentration/attention control - can find it hard to concentrate or hard not to hyper-focus (be totally absorbed/preoccupied)
• Difficulty prioritising
• Poor time management
• Problems with planning
• Problems with delegating
• Ineffective multi-tasking
• Untidy (self and environment)
Social Skills/Behavioural Problems:
• Timidity/aggressiveness, due to lack of confidence and self esteem
• Communicating misleading body language
• Problems interpreting body language of others
• Difficulty working out the unwritten ‘rules’ in work or a social setting
• Inappropriate/spontaneous comments
• Difficulty listening, especially in groups
• Phobias and obsessive/compulsive behaviour
• Impulsive and/or erratic behaviour/outbursts
• Easily frustrated, difficulty controlling impatience, argumentative/defiant
Associated Physical Implications/Risks
(The following points may not be direct manifestations of ND conditions. However, they have either been noticed as occurring more frequently with NDs or would appear to be logical consequences of the direct manifestations. They are not offered as being the result of extensive scientific research, but rather as possibilities that NDs and their medical advisors should be aware of.)
• Intolerance of certain foods
• Glue Ear
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome
• Leaky gut
• Bone diseases
• Misinterpretation of the pain sensation (increased or decreased, thus masking the seriousness of a condition)
• Epilepsy and migraines made more frequent due to sensitivity to light.
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