As a mental health therapist, I am rather familiar with terms that often get thrown around by people who are not in the mental health field and then become popular to use on social media platforms (narcissism and codependency, anyone?). So when I repeatedly heard the term “neurodivergent” a couple of years ago I was intrigued. At first I thought it was a term for those who are on the Autism Spectrum, then it related to others with sensory processing disorders, and at one point it seemed relative for dyslexia. Which one is it?? The answer is, D) all of the above and more. Neurodivergent is a non-scientific term used to describe individuals whose brains are not “typical”. This includes traumatized brains, anxiety, learning disabilities, people with OCD, and those labeled as “gifted”.
When you look at the full list of neurodiversity, it is possible that you or someone you know meets the criteria. Although being neurodivergent isn’t a bad thing by any means, it can cause barriers to learning, interacting socially, and also with being able to retain and process information in real time. However, I would say that the biggest issue is lack of understanding and acceptance for those whose brains are hardwired differently.
What can you do if someone you care about falls in the neurodiverse category?
Here are some questions you can ask yourself or your loved one. What makes this person unique? What specifically is a cognitive or social barrier for them? How can you be mindful and thoughtful when frustration or confusion sets in? I know that personally, I struggle with cognitive processing and short-term memory. What I have found helpful is writing down important notes and repetition is key for me.
Recognize an Open vs Closed Brain
An open brain is going to have difficulty retaining information, will have barriers to processing emotions, and may be irrational in that moment. A closed brain is ready to receive information, is able to participate in conversation, and has a bit more grounding in rational thought. A good example that I think everyone can relate to is when your parents were stressed as a kid you would see them pacing around the house, unable to finish tasks, mumbling to themselves, and maybe even yelling out in frustration. You were able to recognize that moment was probably not the best time to ask if you can have a friend spend the night. It’s the same concept.
Individuality is Key
Your neurodivergent friends and family want to be accepted for who they are; I mean, isn’t that what we all hope for? Neurodivergent is another label, another way to see that at the end of the day we are all unique beings who are trying to be seen and heard. Don’t let someone’s quirks or struggles be a barrier for you missing out on connection with them.
At Mind Works Counseling Services in Lubbock, TX, we specialize in providing mental health counseling for the neurodivergent as well as the neurotypical. Hopefully this blog was insightful for you all and if you are looking for a therapist to help you better understand yourself or someone you love, we are here to help.
Learn more about the Autism Counseling services we offer.
Contact us to schedule and appointment or to let us answer any questions you may have.