Last week, I looked up the phrase “Neurodivergent.” I’ve started seeing this term used on social media and felt the need to become more informed. Having never come across this phrase during my clinical Social Work studies, I was surprised to learn that it was coined in 1998 and refers to people whose brains develop or work differently. As a nonmedical term, its accuracy is broad and is applied to a wide range of disorders such as Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia.

As a child, I was diagnosed with ADHD, but went untreated. My mother, a nurse and armchair psychologist, did not believe in neurobehavioral disorders. Her opinion was that my actions and reactions were all conscious and therefore controllable. I knew that there was a reason I couldn’t pay attention or sit still, but I was a kid and couldn’t put it into words. Since I couldn’t explain it, I was always in trouble.

By the time I became an adult, I was sure of two things. (1) I thought different from all the other normal kids; and (2) I needed to learn psychology to figure out what was going on in my head to help others. I knew I wasn’t alone, I just needed to figure out the meaning of the mind and behavior.

Had someone explained to the mother of that blind neurodivergent child the reasons for the behavior, she might have got it. She might have let me get the help I needed. I probably wouldn’t have had to work four times as hard as the other kids just to get by.

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