Neurodiversity, Autism & Biological Challenges

Forms of neurodiversity (Green, 2020)


The term ‘neurodiversity’ was coined by the sociologist Judy Singer (1999). It encompasses conditions such as autism, dyslexia, dyscalculia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Children, teenagers, and adults diagnosed with these conditions experience a wide range of emotional, sensory, regulatory, motor, learning, and developmental challenges. These impact cognitive abilities and soft skills, especially ones that apply to social interactions.


Autism is a neurodevelopmental difference that is often presented to families and professionals as a behavioural disorder. The American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Fifth Edition (DSM-5) describes autism as a neurodevelopmental disorder.

Children, teenagers, and adults diagnosed with autism present with "persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts" and "restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities".

Biological Challenges

Children with special needs have a variety of biological challenges that affect their ability to function in the world. There are many ways to describe these individual differences. They can be split into three broad types as follows:

1. Difficulty with sensory reactivity

2. Processing difficulty

3. Difficulty with motor planning and sequencing

Each type of challenge makes it difficult for the child or young person to relate to and communicate with their parents and caregivers and thus impedes their ability to learn, to respond, and to grow.

The DIR® framework and DIRFloortime® intervention can be used to:

  • Help identify how a child or young person functions in each of these areas

  • Design a treatment program to address them and help the child progress


Green, M. (2020) Neurodiversity: What is it and what does it look like across races?

ICDL (2021) About Autism: Helping Parents Understand Autism from the Inside out.

ICDL (2021) Biological Challenges.

Singer, J. (1999) "'Why Can't You be Normal for Once in Your Life?' From a 'Problem with No Name' to the Emergence of a New Category of Difference"

In Corker, M. & French, S. (Eds) Disability Discourse, Buckingham: Open University Press. pp. 57-59.

Weathington, L. (2020) Neurotypical vs. Neurodivergent: What’s the Difference?