What is Neurodiversity?


Neurodiversity is a term that refers to the natural differences between people and was coined in the late 1990’s by Australian sociologist Judy Singer. It can be compared to terms such as race, culture, class and gender and is useful to describe people with varying characteristics and behaviours of neurodevelopmental conditions alongside the “neurotypical” majority in a non-prejudiced way.

Learning about neurodiversity can help you move the focus from impairments towards everyone’s different abilities.

Between 30% and 40% of the population are thought to be neurodiverse.  The remaining majority are neurotypical.

Diagram created by Mary Colley & Joseph Aquilina

  • ~8% of people in the UK are thought to have ADHD.
  • ~10% of people in the UK are thought to have dyslexia.
  • ~8% of people in the UK are thought to have dyspraxia.
  • ~6% of people in the UK are thought to have dyscalculia.
  • ~1% of people in the UK are thought to have an autistic spectrum condition.
  • ~1% of people in the UK are thought to have Tourette’s syndrome.
  • It is thought that as research develops, certain mental health conditions such as psychopathy, some personality disorders and schizophrenic conditions will come to be re-interpreted as having been diagnosed both in people who experience symptoms due to poor mental health and people who are experiencing neurodiversity and require different approaches to care.
  • An additional ~3% of the population are known to have generalised intellectual disability.
  • Some people believe that being generally intellectually gifted might be a form of neurodiversity, citing rare conditions like savant syndrome and hyperthymesia (highly superior autobiographical memory) as extreme examples of neurodiverse giftedness.

Many aspects of society are based on the assumption that there is one form of ‘the human mind’ and accordingly many systems have been built up premised on being neurotypical. Building a society that is accessible for neurodiverse people is not only beneficial, for everyone, but fair.