The Neurodiversity Movement


There is growing recognition that differences in development exist across people and that such variation is a natural (and valuable!) part of life. Neurodiversity as a term acknowledges this: “Neuro” refers to neurological, cognitive, or general functioning, and “diversity” refers to the spectrum of variation.

Neurodiversity draws attention to how autistic or other neurodivergent individuals may differ and how their differences may be viewed as unique instead of necessarily problematic. For example, for some children, motor stereotypies (e.g., hand flapping, finger posturing, body rocking) may be viewed as an unconventional form of play or even an adaptive way to cope with stressful situations rather than a behavior that inherently interferes with other activities.

While neurodiversity is often associated with autism, it includes anyone with neurodivergence. It may include those with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), intellectual disability, anxiety, and other neurological conditions (e.g., epilepsy), to name a few.

Those who embrace neurodiversity accept individuals for who they are, appreciate the value they bring to the world, and set up the social and physical environment so all individuals may thrive. When neurodiversity is not considered, neurodivergent individuals may face greater challenges in achieving the things they desire most. They may feel isolated, which can result in poorer quality of life. This perspective holds several implications for supporting neurodivergent individuals in workplaces like May. These include:

  • Where possible, involve neurodivergent individuals in decisions that affect them. This may include asking their opinion about their own clinical services (e.g., selection of meaningful goals and preferences for support strategies), including them on committees or in leadership opportunities; and/or seeking their feedback on inclusion and equity for neurodivergent people in relevant settings.
  • Educate yourself and others on neurodiversity. Requiring neurodivergent individuals to educate others places the burden on them. Seek opportunities where you may learn on your own and take the initiative to send helpful resources to others who may benefit from such information.
  • Seek opportunities to promote acceptance. Advocacy doesn’t stop after learning about neurodiversity; it includes taking steps to foster acceptance. This may include making systematic changes to incorporate neurodiverse- gent perspectives into decisions, initiatives to educate larger groups of individuals, and/or altering practices and the environment to better support neurodiversity.

Here at May Institute, initiatives to foster neurodiversity acceptance include prioritizing autistic individuals’ assent to receive support services and including neurodivergent individuals on research teams to inform the most meaningful projects possible. May employees have also formed a monthly Neurodiversity Reading Club that meets via Zoom to increase knowledge on this topic.

Individuals interested in learning more about the neurodiversity movement may benefit from:

  • Joining the Neurodiversity Reading Club @May ɑ Reading articles or books*
  • Seeking webinars or training in neurodiversity.
  • Following autistic and neurodivergent self- advocates on social media with an open mind to listen and understand different perspectives
  • Neurodiversity Reading Club @May (not available to non-employees)

While neurodiversity frameworks hold important implications for supporting autistic (and other neurodivergent) individuals, there are few structured opportunities for practitioners and allies to learn about this perspective. In an effort to address this need, May employees have formed the Neurodiversity Reading Club to increase accountability for learning about neurodiversity and its implications.

This club meets to discuss articles written by autistic individuals and/or articles that are relevant to neurodiversity. The goal is to increase attendee knowledge on this topic and attendee ability to promote an inclusive and supportive environment for all neurodivergent individuals through every- day interactions and clinical practice.

The reading club is open to all May employees with an interest in learning about neurodiversity. While there are no formal criteria to join, our group comprises those who have (a) a desire to learn, and (b) an openness to consider different perspectives. Meetings occur monthly and are optional based on member availability and interest in the selected article/topic. CEUs for BCBAs and psychologists are often available. If you would like to learn more about the group or join, contact Summer Bottini at

Authors Summer Bottini, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Post-Doctoral Fellow, and Research Scientists Kait Gould, Ph.D., BCBA-D, and Ryan Martin, Ph.D., BCBA, NCSP, are with the May Center for Applied Research and the National Autism Center at May Institute. *Citations available upon request.