What Does it Mean to be Neurodivergent vs Neurotypical?

Language and how we describe things is constantly changing. Usually it is so much for the better.   A new term that has been becoming more common is neurodivergent. Maybe this is a new term for you. Maybe it is one that you have heard but don’t fully understand. Let’s look at it.


Neurodivergence is the term for people whose brains function differently in one or more ways than is considered standard or typical. It is important to note that it is not a medical term but rather a way to describe someone who is not neurotypical. The strengths, as well as the challenges, of a neurodivergent person differ from people with standard or typical brains. The differences may include learning disabilities/challenges, medical &/or physical disorders as well as other conditions. Being neurodivergent isn’t all negative. Possible strengths are; better at mentally visualizing, solving difficult mathematical calculations in their head, incredible memory and much more.

Neurodivergence includes:

  • Autism
  • ADHD
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia
  • Dyscalculia
  • NVLD
  • Some other processing and mood disorders

Is neurodivergence a problem to be fixed? No. Rather it is that every person processes information and interacts with the world differently.

Children who are neurodivergent may require parents and teachers to provide different ways to approach learning. This is where IEPs and 504 plans come into play.

wooden puzzle brain


Neurotypical is a term used to describe people who have normal brain function. 

If you reach all your developmental milestones then you are considered “typical” in your thinking and processing. Therefore you are considered neurotypical.

Why use a term like neurodiverse or neurodivergent?

People use the term “neurodiverse” to recognize the rich differences, abilities, and strengths autistic people and other neurodiverse people have.

But it is also a shift away from “learning disability” or “learning disorder” to a more positive recognition of the different ways people think and learn. 

girl thinking


One of the best ways to support someone who is neurodivergent is to learn all about it. Get to know them as a person, totally outside of any difference.

  • Learn about neurodiversity and what it means to be neurodivergent
  • Know what type of neurodivergence they have
  • Once you know what type of neurodivergence it is, you can learn specifically about it
  • Learn how they best communicate (do you need to avoid sarcasm, jokes, or ambiguous statements?)

It is relatively easy to support someone with neurodivergence. It might just take a little bit of time on your behalf, but the rewards will be great.

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