What is neurodiversity-affirming practice?
‘Neurodiversity-affirming’ — a term you have likely heard over the last couple of years, although not new. Neurodiversity-affirming practice moves away from the medical model where individuals are viewed as ‘fixed’ to fit into their environment. Instead, this type of practice follows more of a social model, focusing on changing the environment to support the individual as they are (Andi Putt, Mrs. Speechie P, 2021).
Accepting and including all neurotypes is most important when engaging in the neurodiversity-affirming practice. An individual’s needs and strengths are the focus, rather than ‘freeing’ one of their neurodivergent traits. In other words, we want to ensure that we allow neurodivergent individuals to be themselves while providing access to the support and accommodations they require. For example, honouring all ways of communicating rather than focusing on verbal language, or allowing one to move their body to regulate to aid in increased focus and learning within a classroom (rather than sitting at a desk). By doing this, we can help reduce ‘masking.’ Masking refers to camouflaging/hiding one’s neurodivergent traits to appear more neurotypical. Within a neurodiversity-affirming practice, this is considered harmful as we want individuals to be who they are as they are, not ‘changed’ or ‘hidden.’
At All About Communication Speech and Language Services, we have unlearned and relearned how we conduct our practice to foster and implement neurodiversity-affirming practice approaches. However, as clinicians, our most important role is ensuring that individuals we work with can be themselves and honoured for who they are.
Andi Putt- Mrs. Speechie P (2021). The Autism Handbook: An Introduction to Autism and Neurodiversity for Therapists and Parents.