The Power of Inclusion: Understanding Neurodiversity

Over the last few decades there has been a notable uptick in developmental and learning disabilities, propagating growing conversations around neurodiversity — a natural and normal variation in the human genome that contributes to “neurological differences”. Although the neurodiversity movement is relatively new, it has been gaining traction as attention to disability rights expands.

In a world where division often dominates the narrative, Ava believes it’s always a good time to acknowledge the unique characteristics among us for the well being and human dignity of all of us. Engaging in communication in order to better understand our fellow beings benefits society as a whole. Embracing neurodiversity and recognizing the valuable aspects of human diversity helps individuals with neurological medical conditions feel included and understood.

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Image Source: And Next Comes L

What is Neurodiversity?

Coined in 1998 by Australian sociologist Judy Singer, neurodiversity refers to the natural variations in human brain function and behavior. Neurodivergent people have natural variances in learning, experience, and information processing. Simply put, people who are neurodivergent have brains that are wired a bit differently.

What is a so-called "normal brain" after all? Around 15-20% of the world's population experiences some level of neurodivergence. Neurodiverse people process thoughts and experiences differently, think differently, and interact with the world around us in a unique way.

While we often associate diversity with characteristics such as race, age, gender and sexual orientation, it is critical to realize that there is also diversity in how people’s brains work and develop.

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Conditions Under the Umbrella of Neurodiversity

There are various conditions that fall under the umbrella of neurodiversity.  While these conditions are not disorders or diseases, they impact the way individuals process information and affect how they interact with other people in various surroundings like social situations, for example. Here’s a look at some of these instances:


People with ADHD typically exhibit classic ADD symptoms, such as poor working memory, inattention, distractibility, and poor executive function. Others may show signs of nervous energy, might talk a lot, or even be fidgety and impatient. ADHD is considered one of many learning disabilities that can impact student experiences.


Dyslexics often struggle with accurate letter and word recognition, poor spelling, and decoding abilities. Additionally, number or direction sequencing can be challenging for them. People with dyslexia might experience difficulty with spoken language, may not be able to express themselves clearly, or may have trouble understanding others.

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Image Source: Time


Known as a math learning disability, Dyscalculia impacts people who struggle with basic arithmetic, have difficulty memorizing math facts, and who tend to make frequent errors while performing calculations. Individuals may have problems counting backwards, estimating numbers, and may experience high levels of anxiety when doing math.


A common disorder that affects balance, movement, coordination, and sensory awareness, Dyspraxia influences a person’s fine and gross motor skills. It’s not uncommon for dyspraxics to have trouble with routine tasks, such as organizing, planning, getting dressed, or even crossing a road.


Also referred to as ASD, or autism spectrum disorder, autism manifests itself through a broad range of symptoms including challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. Although many autistic individuals exhibit these characteristics, many of them show exceptional levels of intelligence and other cognitive abilities. For example, the ability to read early and exceptionally well (hyperlexia) is correlated with ASD.

Other neurodivergent conditions include bipolar disorder/manic depression, tourette syndrome, epilepsy, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). For a more comprehensive list, browse the different types of neurodivergence here.

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Neurodivergent Superpowers

While all these conditions are medical terms to label those whose brains work differently, many fail to recognize that these conditions also often go hand in hand with other unusual abilities.

Individuals with Asperger’s syndrome (AS), a high-functioning form of autism, for example, possess exceptional abilities in perceiving details. They tend to perform better than non-autistic individuals in block-design tests, which involve using colored blocks to replicate a given pattern. They also have superior shape recognition abilities and are more inclined to exhibit outstanding talents, such as perfect pitch and highly precise memories. Those with autism may have a strong ability to focus and think in detail-oriented ways.

Although individuals with ADHD appear restless and inattentive, they have the capacity to concentrate intensely on tasks or activities that they find engaging for hours at a time and can be creative and innovative.

Alongside its challenges, dyslexia also has its strengths. Dyslexics can recognize patterns and anomalies in patterns that others may not perceive. Sometimes, they even have greater visual-spatial abilities, allowing them to easily visualize objects and systems in three dimensions.

By recognizing and embracing these strengths, we can unlock the full potential of all individuals, regardless of their neurological makeup.

Infographic showing which conditions fall under the umbrella of neurodiversity.

Image Source: Local Government Association

Caption Accessibility for Neurodivergence

Although not all neurodivergent conditions are visible, we must acknowledge that they exist and not let accessibility take a back seat. That’s also why captions are paramount.

Captions are not strictly designed for those who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing; they also serve people who are neurodivergent. Cases in which captions can be beneficial, include:


For those with ADHD difficulty concentrating and being easily distracted can make it challenging to absorb content. Access to captions can help hold a person's attention and improve comprehension.

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

APD can make it hard for individuals to distinguish between similar sounds or comprehend speech over background noise, especially if someone is speaking quickly or if there are multiple speakers. Captions displayed simultaneously with the audio though, can aid in quicker processing, helping people keep up with the pace of the audio.

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

Processing both visual and auditory information simultaneously, can be difficult for those with SPD, making captions a helpful tool to process and comprehend content. Some may also find certain sounds or tones to be unpleasant in which case captions become a necessary alternative to auditory information.

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Image Source: Wikipedia


Commonly associated with Autism/ASD and Giftedness, hyperlexia involves advanced reading skills beyond typical development. Using captions makes it easier for a person with hyperlexia to read along with the audio.


For people with dyscalculia, difficulty understanding or applying mathematical concepts, seeing the numbers or numerals in the captions while hearing them spoken can improve comprehension and accuracy.

OCD & Anxiety

OCD and anxiety can cause a person to fixate on comprehending every spoken word, making captions essential to prevent frustration and distress. Captions allow individuals with these conditions to catch every detail and fully experience content.

If any of the above scenarios sound all too familiar, captioning solutions like Ava can help make things easier. With Ava, you can alleviate many of the symptoms that come along with neurodivergent conditions.

How to Support the Neurodivergent Community

Listen & Learn

Let neurodivergent people know that you care by listening intently so that they don’t feel misunderstood or left out. Most minorities are underrepresented. But lending an ear can help foster a more inclusive environment so we can move closer towards promoting global harmony.

Communicate Clearly

People who are neurodivergent may have communication preferences, may have trouble listening, or may feel like their points are not being heard. Ask them if it’s easier for you to text them, email, call, or have a face-to-face conversation.

Don’t Use Value-Based Labels

Avoid using the terms low-functioning or high-functioning to describe neurodivergent individuals.

Multicolored background image with overlaid text that reads "No two individuals are ever the same. You cannot equate people. You can only create equal opportunity." Joggi Vasudev.

Don’t assume any two neurodivergent people are alike

Just like neurodivergent conditions vary widely, so do neurodivergent personalities and preferences. Even if they have the same condition as another neurodivergent person, they may have different needs.

Be Respectful

Regardless of their condition, treat neurodivergent people with respect. Provide necessary accommodations, and honor their dignity.

People who practice acceptance of those who think differently than them exhibit what higher learning is all about.

9 Ways to Celebrate Neurodiversity

Recognizing the importance of neurodiversity can foster a more equitable society that values and celebrates the differences that make society stronger.

1. Practice Empathy

It's common for neurodivergent individuals to experience social isolation and difficulties in communication and relationships. By increasing awareness and understanding of neurodiversity, barriers can be reduced and more inclusive communities can be created. This month, educated people about the different ways that neurodivergent individuals process information and communicate, and aim to promote strategies for supporting them in different settings.

2. Learn More About Neurodivergent Conditions

Expanding your knowledge about diverse cultures, will help you develop a better understanding of them. Interacting with people living different lifestyles or with others from different cultures also sets the tone for a more tolerant society.

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Image Source: Ozarks Technical Community College

3. Cultivate A Supportive Work Environment

To support neurodivergent employees, companies can implement a range of strategies, such as flexible work arrangements, sensory-friendly workspaces, and personalized communication styles. By taking these steps, companies can provide employees with the accommodations they require to successfully complete their job and be innovative at work.

4. Support Advocacy Organizations

There are several advocacy organizations that focus on promoting the rights and needs of individuals with neurodiverse conditions. Research organizations and support them through volunteering your time or making donations.

5. Create Inclusive Spaces

Make an effort to create inclusive environments in your workplace, school, or community by accommodating different learning styles and providing resources to support neurodiverse individuals.

6. Encourage Self-Advocacy

Empower individuals with neurodiverse conditions to advocate for themselves by providing them with resources and support to help them communicate their needs.

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7. Provide Resources

Make resources available to support individuals with neurodiverse conditions. This may include assistive technologies, accommodations, or support groups.

8. Focus on Abilities

Rather than focusing on limitations or challenges, focus on the abilities and strengths of individuals with neurodiverse conditions. Encourage and support them in pursuing their passions and interests — and always practice compassion.

9. Foster Inclusivity

Create opportunities for individuals with neurodiverse conditions to engage in social activities and events. Encourage and promote inclusivity by making sure everyone feels welcomed and included.

People who practice acceptance of those who think differently than them exhibit what higher learning is all about.

Breaking Down Stigmas Around Neurodiversity

Understanding what neurodiversity means is key. And by celebrating the natural variations in human brain function and behavior, we can create a more inclusive and compassionate society that values the unique strengths, differences, and perspectives of all individuals.

Leaning into neurodiversity and offering tools that promote communication and understanding breaks down barriers that help us develop a greater acceptance of others. Together, we can venture toward a more inclusive and harmonious society — without stigma or prejudice attached — by learning from others and from their personal stories and experiences. Whether in professional, academic or social settings, embracing neurodiversity can create a more equitable and inclusive world for everyone.