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Language matters, relationships are essential

Updated: Apr 3, 2023




It can be difficult and confusing to understand the language surrounding neurodiversity. It can be seen to be creating further divisions and potentially isolating some people by getting hung up on the specifics. I know I have my own anxiety about not using the 'right' language (despite writing this!).


In response to my previous article 'Neurodiversity - Language Matters' and to highlight my values, I would like to share my thoughts that quality relationships, meaningful connections and communication are more important than any specific vocabulary.


People need kindness, understanding and acceptance regardless of any differences.





However, without language we won't be able to advocate for change, language can de-stigmatize and breakdown barriers, it can also do the opposite and create divides and harm. Language by itself will never take away disability. Being neurodivergent can be disabling, many people have very real struggles that they experience every single day of their lives with their own physical and mental health. Neurodiversity affirming language can help re-frame that narrative so change can begin to happen across society. Neurodiversity affirming language develops a deeper understanding of needs, improves communication and relationships.


We need to move away from pathological deficit-based language, it is damaging for our mental health and our children's. A move away from medical deficit-based language is by no means a move away from the medical profession. Many neurodivergent people need support and advice from medical professionals, specialists, and therapists. Rather, it is acknowledging that a deeper understanding of neurodivergency is needed first to frame the advice and support provided. We need bridge the gap gently and explain the language we use in our everyday real lives. We need to use neuroaffirmative language with our own children, friends and family so it moves beyond the Neurodiversity Movement and academic circles and becomes embedded into education and healthcare settings and into the children's playgrounds in the same way the LGBTQ+ language is now moving.


Relationships & Understanding

However, it is also important to consider the individual person's preference for their own self identifying language. For example, some people got diagnosed when the term 'Asperger's' was still in use. They have grown up with that identity and sense of self, that is valid for them at this moment and needs recognising and considering alongside re-education too. Regardless of the information about language and neurodivergence on this page and that I continue to learn about with you all, the most important thing beyond anything is having positive meaningful relationships and connections. Regardless of any language or terminology everyone needs and deserves to be with people that understand, accept, care and support them.


Beyond the specifics of language and vocabulary everyone needs understanding, and the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships regardless of neurodivergence, disability, medical/health care needs, race, gender or any other differences.


I previously wrote about the time working with children in my class who had the most complex, profound intellectual and multiple disabilities; 'there was never a need for any words between us, there was just a deep understanding and a connection'.


Communication doesn't always need words, but we do need language to develop understanding around neurodivergence and to advocate for change.


Some of my previous articles that relate may be of interest:









**Article written from my lived experience as a parent and teacher. Knowledge gained through various personal research and neurodivergent communities.

Autistic Realms is a space for parent support and teacher guidance

Autistic Realms is not a business or a charity**




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