Neurodiversity, Neurodivergent, Neurotypical…What Does it All Mean?

Neurodivergence is quite literally a “difference” from the averages in the way a person thinks, feels, behaves, socializes, and processes sensations.

Neurodivergent individuals have infinite combinations of differences from neurotypical individuals, whose traits are more similar to others. Some examples of neurodivergence are autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and communication disorders that affect how speech, hearing, and language processing. Neurodivergence, itself, isn’t a disorder, but many people experience personal challenges related to how the brain is actually functioning and processing information from the sense and environment.

Some people believe mental health conditions are in the category of neurodivergence, particularly when the brain chemistry or neurological processes of the brain are different in ways that contribute to significant differences that contribute to impairment.  Examples are personality disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and OCD.
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A neurodiverse relationship is one in which one or both individuals are neurodivergent (different from the averages). This includes couples, siblings, parents, children, co-workers, friends…any relationship between two people who have significantly different kinds of brain traits and characteristics.

No person is the “right” one, the “good” one, or the “better” one based on their neurotype (neurodivergent or neurotypical). These relationships often struggle due to confusion and misunderstandings that are caused, in part, by their brain differences. For example, many couples feel like they are speaking different languages even though they’re using the same words. The meanings of words and they way language is structured and used are quite different for each partner.

With education, tools, and a framework, neurodiverse relationships can actually be great and can thrive. I see it happening every day. The necessary elements for any relationship to thrive are:

  1. Capacity – the ability for self-reflection, self-awareness, and acknowledgment that others are separate from oneself and that others have unique perspectives, opinions, and experiences that are legitimate and valid for them.
  2. Willingness – the desire to learn and gain clarity about neurodiverse differences
  3. Motivation – the drive to make the effort involved to update beliefs and to implement mindset and behavioral changes for improvement and growth

A relationship can often improve considerably if only one person is capable, willing, and motivated. However, to have a healthy and thriving relationship, both individuals must possess all three. 

This course focuses on neurodiverse relationships in romantic partnerships