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Written byAziza Toeffie

Embracing Neurodiversity in Creativity to Form Safe Spaces in Art

The creative industry and all that it encompasses is home to a multiverse of faces. From artists, to performers, digital designers and poets. The diversity amongst creatives is no doubt, the most vast and inclusive you’ll find, and when we speak about diversity within the creative world, we aren’t limiting this to gender or race.

Neurodiversity and neurodivergence is probably a term you’ve heard a lot of lately as more humans are coming into themselves and accepting that being neurodivergent is absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

After some time and a lot (heaps basically) of research, I’ve come to find that most neurodivergent people have one thing in common – creativity.

So what is this connection? How does it work and how can neurotypical humans be more inclusive of their compadres who are just built a little different?

There are a bunch of ways that we can embrace neurodiversity in art and creativity so that we’re cultivating safe and secure environments not only for ourselves, but for those around us.

When it comes to all things cognitive, there is no cookie-cutter mind. Our brains are intricate masterpieces in their own right.

Neurotypical vs Neurodivergent: What’s that all about?

Some people are a certain way because their brain chemistry is set up that way. We all have staggeringly different mindsets, and I can break them down best into two parts: 

Neurotypical = Think of this type of mind as a well choreographed dance. Each step is on cue and even though there might be a few trips (iykyk), the bigger picture is still presented as it’s meant to be. Here, social cues are deciphered effortlessly, and the unwritten rules of communication are pretty simple. It’s a ballad of harmonious interaction, where the rhythm of life unfolds in expected cadence.

Neurodivergent = You’ll find things in the neurodivergent realm just a little different. Routine may be a lifeline, and sensory perceptions are heightened. It’s a world where the beat of a different drum echoes loudly. Thoughts and perspectives are funneled through a more unique approach. This is a much more freestyle type of dance, and though sometimes it can seem chaotic, there is some stability within the way each step is taken. In the end, you may not be looking at a well choreographed dance, but a beautiful one either way. 

End game? We’re all different, and that’s okay. The stigma around neurodiversity is one instilled by the fear of brilliance.

Why assume when you can learn?

Neurodivergent humans are not unfamiliar with the various stigmas and stereotypes that surround our world. As someone who lives with ADHD, I often find myself battling these on the daily. Most people assume that having something like ADHD and Autism automatically deems you as incapable of actually living a normal life, but who wants to do that anyway? Being neuro and living while doing completely standard things is absolutely attainable. 

Stereotypes about neurodivergent people can be harmful and perpetuate misunderstanding. It’s essential to recognise that neurodiversity is a spectrum, and individuals with different neurodivergent conditions can have diverse experiences. For example: 

  • We’re totally capable of socialising and maintaining social relationships as well as function within social settings. 
  • No, we are not intellectually disabled or impaired. If anything, most neurodivergent individuals are incredibly intelligent. For example, Mary Temple Grandin (autism), a well known academic and animal behaviourist.  
  • We don’t have super powers. While some neurodivergents may excel in certain areas, we’re not universally gifted in all aspects, and talents vary widely among individuals. 
  • We’re not all the same. Neurodiversity encompasses a broad spectrum, and we may have vastly different experiences, strengths, and challenges. Your ADHD and mine might be completely different, and that’s pretty cool too. 

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” – Albert Einstein (Autism)

Neuro-creatives: a glimpse into creativity and neurodiversity

Here’s where things get a little interesting. Creativity is the lifeline for innovation and inventiveness. To be creative is to look at one thing multiple times from different perspectives. All of which are born from your own mind. So how does it tie in to neurodivergence? 

Creativity can be separated into two specific parts; one being cognitive flexibility – this allows the brain to come up with more than one perspective each time. The other being cognitive persistence, which is sustaining focus on the task at hand. Neurodivergent humans are able to process both these abilities in completely different settings, which paves way for the brain to come up with more creative ideas and solutions. 

In more extensive research, the connection between the arts and neuro-creatives has been proven by major celebrity names being linked to neurodivergent traits. You might know some as your favourite writers, singers, actors and performers. 

All of which have ultimately mastered their creative craft and continue to do so alongside their neurodivergence.

Creating safer spaces for neuro-creatives

I’ll leave you with this – if we’re able to create safe spaces within the creative industry for neurodivergent individuals, we can foster an inclusive environment that values diversity, understands different needs, and promotes open communication. All of which leads to high value art in general. How can we do this? Easy: 

  • Educate and make yourself more aware. 
  • Formulate inclusive policies in and out of the workspace. 
  • Allow for flexible working environments. 
  • Create safe and open methods of communication. 
  • Consider sensory-friendly environments and workspaces. 
  • Adapt and move with the tides! 

It’s not as complicated as it seems. We need more recognition for neuro-creatives within the creative industry. The responsibility then lies in constantly reminding ourselves that regardless of someone’s brain chemistry or how they’re wired as individuals, they can still contribute to incredible, even life-changing art. So if you’re a neurodivergent creative, and you feel like that might be holding you back; it’s totally not. If anything, it’s what makes up who you are, so embrace it. Wear it loud and proud. We’re here for it anyway. 

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