Divergent Mind Book Summary - Divergent Mind Book explained in key points
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Divergent Mind summary

Jenara Nerenberg

Thriving in a World That Wasn't Designed for You

3.9 (214 ratings)
21 mins
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    Divergent Mind
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    A broader spectrum

    In the late 1990s, Australian sociologist Judy Singer coined the term neurodivergent as an umbrella category encompassing diagnoses like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, bipolar, and sensory processing disorders. The term was a first step away from the pathologizing of diverse neurological individuals and toward more inclusive language for those with unique information or sensory processing characteristics. In contrast to a neurotypical world, the term provides a collective category that accounts for about 20 percent of the human population who have neurological or information processing differences that significantly impact their lives.

    But while neurodiversity is now more clearly on the radar of schools, medical professionals, and parents, most of this information has been gathered from the study of males. This reflects the general history of medical research, which has long eschewed female study subjects, fearing their hormones and reproductive cycles make them complicated subjects for controlled studies. Neuroscience is no exception.

    The lack of adequate information about neurodiversity in women and nonbinary individuals means that many go undiagnosed, and thus untreated, for decades. Far worse, many have internalized their sensory processing differences as failure, brokenness, or inadequacy. Seeking help for burnout, anxiety, or meltdowns from sensory overload, their symptoms may have gone unrecognized by doctors or therapists who are far more familiar with expressions of neurodiversity in males.

    Masking – the mental and behavioral effort that many neurodivergent individuals perform to mimic social norms – further prevents nonmale neurodivergence from being recognized or diagnosed. By adulthood, this masking may have become so second nature that it goes unrecognized even by the person doing it. The long-term consequences of masking include social isolation, imposter syndrome, depression, and anxiety. Even in highly successful or academically gifted women and girls, these consequences can be severe.

    For neurodivergent mothers or partners, sensory processing challenges can manifest as additional relationship or parenting difficulties. Common characteristics of neurodiversity in males, like an aversion to touch, or difficulties processing noisy or chaotic environments, are often interpreted in women as rudeness, emotional dysregulation, or poor motherhood “instincts.” Those going through the experience may feel extreme guilt or shame about it and drive themselves to burnout or breakdown trying to appear normal.

    Just becoming aware that these characteristics exist outside the masculine may come as an enormous relief. Understanding how and why they manifest can empower experiencers to adapt and overcome, as we’ll see in the next section.

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    What is Divergent Mind about?

    Divergent Mind (2020) is a groundbreaking look at neurodiversity in women and girls, with a particular focus on the impacts of late diagnosis and the overall lack of clinical research.

    Who should read Divergent Mind?

    • Those seeking more information on neurodiversity and the ways it can manifest 
    • Anyone who gets overwhelmed by external stimuli from smells to sounds to surroundings – and wonders why
    • Synesthetes and sensitives looking for practical ways to make their world more accommodating

    About the Author

    Jenara Nerenberg is an author, freelance journalist, and founder of The Neurodiversity Project. She’s a frequent workshop leader and speaker on topics of neurodiversity and well-being in the workplace.

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