Written by Jacquie Martin MSc.OT, OT Reg. (Ont.)   

The concept of neurodiversity allows us to understand how people experience the world in different ways. The idea that each of our brains are completely unique (like fingerprints) and therefore provide a unique experience of our world through our senses, cognition, and relationships.

Humans have always been Neurodiverse; however, understanding and acceptance of the value of neurodiversity is a more recent conversation.  It is now understood that accepting and encouraging neurodiversity allows us to flourish as individuals while also becoming a stronger and healthier society.

 Let’s take a little step back and briefly look at where this concept came from:

The term neurodiversity was first introduced by Australian autistic sociologist Judy Singer in the late 1990s as a way of explaining and advocating for the unique and valuable experiences and contributions of autistic people, who were most commonly considered to have an illness or disorder that needed to be cured or fixed. 

Although there is no established definition, neurodiversity is understood as the concept that variability in the functioning of the human brain is natural and should be accepted just like any other biological human trait.  

Being neurodiversity-affirming is to be a part of the neurodiversity movement which embraces these natural neurological differences, and views any resulting disability as rooted in societal barriers, NOT as individual deficits.   When a person’s differences result in challenges in day to day functioning, the approach is NOT to try to change the individual but rather to understand and educate about their differences and to find ways to change the environment and social expectations while building individual skills. 

To be neurodiversity-affirming is to believe that diversity and differences in how we think, feel, behave, and relate to others are what make each person unique. Therefore, every person is equally worthy and valuable.

 The term neurodiverse generally refers to a group of people and includes 2 subgroups:  

  • Neurotypical individuals who think, feel, behave, and relate within a typical or expected range of function for their age.
  • Neurodivergent individuals who think, feel, behave and relate in a way that is considered outside of the typical range of function for their age.    

A person may be considered to be neurodivergent if they are diagnosed with or identify as having one or more of the following conditions:

  • Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Pathological Demand Avoidance or Sensory Processing Disorder
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – all types
  • Dyslexia, Hyperlexia
  • Learning Disability – all types
  • Alexithymia 
  • Synaesthesia
  • Tourette’s Syndrome
  • Dyspraxia
  • Dysgraphia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD)
  • Schizophrenia 
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) 
  • Personality disorders 
  • Dissociative disorder 
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Etc. 

Where does therapy fit in?

Autistic and other neurodivergent people do not require therapy just because they have a diagnosis. Being different from neurotypical people does not necessarily mean you need therapy to change your difference.

Therapy services are available to support children and families with skills to optimize their daily function at home, school, play, and in their communities. The goal of therapy should not be to fix the child or cure the diagnosis.

Every child is a unique individual with strengths and needs that we strive to understand, accept, accommodate and support. We partner with children and families to develop skills, tools and strategies for improved participation in areas including communication and speech, play and social skills, fine and gross motor activities, self-care activities, sensory and emotional regulation.  

As with any child, our ultimate goal with neurodivergent children is to support their growth and development through play, joy and success that build confidence and ultimately lead to a positive sense of self and healthy self-esteem.  We do not offer therapy to change the child to appear neurotypical.  We offer therapy to support a child and their family in becoming the best version of themselves.

What does neurodiversity-affirming therapy look like at TCTC? 

The fundamental values of neurodiversity-affirming therapy at TCTC include acceptance, respect, empathy, empowerment, advocacy. 

At TCTC we believe in and provide evidence-based and strengths-based services which includes 3 equally valued components: 

  1. Quality research evidence  
  2. Clinical expertise & experience  
  3. Client perspectives & expertise
  • We value and are guided by the lived experiences and expertise of the neurodivergent community. 
  • We believe in barrier-free access to supports and resources 
    • We recognize the inherent barriers present in our health and education systems and actively work with clients and families to change environments and norms to allow equal access to appropriate supports and resources so clients and their families can find success and flourish in authentic, autonomous ways in their own communities.     
  • We believe in presumed competence – every child has something to share and say
  • We respect and facilitate communication differences – social interactions and communication styles.
  • We believe sensory needs are individual and need to be understood and accommodated. 

At TCTC we recognize our privilege and responsibility in working with neurodivergent clients and their families and support teams. We have a passion for serving all unique individuals and working with them to find success and flourish as self-aware, self-confident, autonomous change-makers. 

 Please feel free to reach out to us for more information about our services or for any questions about this post.