Neurodivergence is everywhere. In fact, everyone knows someone who is neurodivergent, whether they know they know someone or not. Current estimates state that 15% to 20% of the global population is neurodivergent.
To establish a standard frame of reference, here are some definitions.
Neurodivergent: differing in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical or normal (Oxford Languages)
Neurotypical: not displaying or characterized by autistic or other neurologically atypical patterns of thought or behavior (Oxford Languages)
We see through these definitions that neurodivergent covers many different conditions and disabilities. However, when many people see the word, they immediately jump to autism and ADHD, even though it encompasses things like dyscalculia or functional neurological disorder as well.
Since neurodivergence is everywhere and we all know someone who is neurodivergent, understanding a little about the various conditions and some common considerations is vital. We should aim to be accessible to everyone, after all.
One of the ways almost every neurodivergent person is different from neurotypicals is sensory stimulation. In this case, sensory stimulation can be anything from the lighting to the background noise level to simply how busy everything is. However, even at typical levels, it can be overwhelming.
Minimizing stimulation to create a comfortable environment for everyone can take a little planning. For example, if there’s a ship event at a restaurant, can it be in a private room or corner? At a larger event, is there a space that’s not loud and filled with people?
Even virtual events require these considerations. For example, a panel has multiple people, and they may start talking over one another in the heat of the moment. If the audience can add noise, it becomes a lot very quickly.
As a group, we’re stronger when we work with our neurodivergent trekkies. Neurodivergents bring many skills to the organization, and creating an inclusive environment requires a few innocuous changes that bring us together as a community.