Neurodiversity and co-occurrence/co-morbidity

Neurodiversity refers to variation in the human brain regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood, and other mental functions in a non-pathological sense. The term was created in 1998 by sociologist Judy Singer and journalist Harvey Blume.

The term helps to promote the view that neurological differences are to be recognised and respected as any other human variation. It is also used to counter negative social connotations that currently exist and to make it easier for people of all neurotypes to contribute to the world as they are, rather than attempting to think or appear more ‘typically’.

Currently, it is estimated that roughly 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodivergent; which means their brain functions, learns, and processes information differently than others.

Neurodiversity includes all Specific Learning Differences (SpLD’s), many of which overlap with other diagnosed conditions/disorders; otherwise known as co-occurrence. Co-morbidity also is a term used for those with more than one condition/disorder.

Co-occurrence happens at very high rate meaning that if someone has one neurodiverse condition, they are more likely than not to have at least one other neurodiverse condition. In most cases there are more than two neurodiverse conditions present in one person.

For example:

  • Those with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) have a higher prevalence of mental health difficulties.
  • There is a higher co-morbidity rate for those with Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
  • Individuals with ADHD have a higher prevalence of anxiety.
  • Dyslexics are prone to have more negative or uncomfortable emotions deriving from living with the condition.
  • Children with ASC have higher rates of epilepsy, with 30% of cases having epilepsy comorbid.
  • 1 in 7 individuals with ASC will have co-occurring Dyslexia.

Hence, health/mental health conditions are said to co-occur when they are found in the same person at the same time and are interlinked. However, co-morbidity suggests that the conditions may be independent or related to the primary condition.

Co-occurrence/co-morbidity are most common in neurodevelopmental disorders such as, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyspraxia, specific language impairment, and Dyscalculia. There is considerable symptom overlap in particular between ADHD and Dyslexia; both are described as developmental disorders by psychiatric classification systems.

Below is a list of Neurodiverse conditions from Oxford Health NHS Trust.

  • Autism
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia
  • Tourette Syndrome
  • Complex tic disorders

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