Eternal Struggle of the Spotless Minds

    • By,
      Bhanuru Harishwar – Student, Kautilya

Image Credits: Sonny Jane Wise (@livedexperienceeducator) and Click here

Neurodiversity, as a term, is alien to many people and is also one of the most misunderstood words out there. So, what exactly is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is recognising and celebrating the natural variation in human neurological function. It acknowledges that brain function and behaviour differences are normal variations of the human experience.

A person has varied strengths and struggles compared to people whose brains develop or work more typically, also called neurotypicals. While some people who fall under the neurodivergent spectrum may have medical conditions, there are also people whose medical condition or diagnosis has not been recognised.

“Neurodiversity” is a non-medical umbrella term that includes conditions such as “autism spectrum disorder”, “Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder”, “dyslexia”, “dyspraxia”, “dyscalculia”, and all other cognitive differences. Some people also consider “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder” and “anxiety” etc to be part of the umbrella term.

Neurodiversity in education recognises that students learn differently, cope differently and have diverse needs. It promotes the idea that these differences should be taken care of and respected rather than forcing all students to fall under the same category. By embracing Neurodiversity in education, we can create an environment that allows all students to thrive and reach their full potential. It is identified that teams with neurodivergent professionals can be 30% more productive than those without them. But there is also a more extraordinary occurrence of mental health difficulties like anxiety and depression among neurodiverse individuals.

So, the question here is how many people around the world, especially in India, fall under this neurodivergence spectrum.

Also, Are these people disabled?

No, they are not disabled, but different. It is estimated that almost 20 per cent of the world’s population and 2 million Indians fall under this spectrum. These are big numbers. You cannot ignore such a massive set of people and expect everything to be normal. By ignoring them, we are losing out on productivity. Unable to utilise their full potential. It’s like we are not using their superpowers. Yes, they come with their own superpowers. When you fail to utilise them, the same superpowers can be counterproductive. What are those superpowers? How do you utilise those superpowers? Just by creating a safe space. By creating an environment for them to thrive. Creating conditions where both neurodivergent people and neurotypicals Understand and complement each other.

Neurodiverse individuals often face stigma associated with their differences in brain function and behaviour. This can lead to discrimination, social isolation, and difficulty accessing necessary resources and accommodations. It is essential to recognise and challenge these stigmas so that we can create a more inclusive and supportive society for all. Neurodiverse people are more susceptible to bullying.

So, what are other countries doing to tackle the problem and tap into the potential of neurodiverse? Some countries, especially in Europe, like the Netherlands and Denmark, have created an environment suitable for these people. Many countries, like the United Kingdom, Ireland, etc, have exclusive education policies. More than countries, corporations are trying to make the environment better. Some corporations already have exclusive neurodiversity policies and diversity, equity and inclusion departments. Diversity is often seen from a gender or race perspective. But Neurodiversity needs to be added to their definitions of diversity. India has fallen behind when it comes to addressing these issues. Any topic related to mental health is a big taboo in India. A lot of social stigmas are associated with it.

India has different education boards, such as state boards, CBSE, ICSE, IB, etc. Some boards, like IB and ICSE, do better than State boards and CBSE in some aspects. The best practices followed by one education board need to be implemented by another. Teachers, parents, and the workforce need to be sensitised and specially trained for the different needs of neurodiverse people. Most people don’t realise that they are neurodiverse and continue to suffer in silence. We need to identify people with special needs and create a plan for improving their quality of life. The fellow neurotypical students need to be sensitised as well so that both can complement each other.

Many countries have specific policies. Corporates have a unique framework. They are using special methods and new technologies to help navigate the change. What corporates can do to support people on the Neurodivergent spectrum?

For example, a person with autism may be sensitive to things like temperature, sound, and lighting. For them to cope and be productive, you may need to provide extra accommodations such as noise-cancelling headphones, privacy rooms, flexible work schedules, etc. It’s like taking care of the needs of extreme users in User Experience and Design Thinking Concepts. Neurodiverse people are extreme users, and when you take care of them, the mainstream users, aka Neurotypicals, also benefit.

Executive dysfunction is one of the most common issues faced by Neurodivergent people, especially for people on the Autism spectrum, which severely impacts productivity and normal day-to-day life activities, which might seem very normal thing for a neurotypical person. It gets even tougher when parents themselves are neurodiverse and have kids with similar or more issues; families often turn out dysfunctional and financially broke.

India, too, has policies for mental health, which include a neurodiverse spectrum. India also bought its NEP 2020, i.e., the new National Education Policy, which extensively focuses on inclusive and equitable education for diverse students. Compared to some decades back, the situation is much better. More and more people have access to resources. Awareness has increased, and hopefully, it will continue growing.

*The Kautilya School of Public Policy (KSPP) takes no institutional positions. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views or positions of KSPP.