Neurodiversity: What is it?
According to Harvard Health and others, 'neurodiversity refers to the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways due to a range of differences in brain function and perception that are considered a normal part of variation in the human population. However, the word neurodiversity is commonly used in the context of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other neurological or developmental conditions such ADHD and Learning Disabilities (LD), mental health conditions and acquired neurodivergence.
Our Philosophy- Linking Neurodiversity to Biodiversity
In the words of Summer Farrelly, a youth with ASD as well as an advocate and educator in the field of animal assisted learning, ' Neurodiversity is a part of biodiversity What this means is that neurodiversity is a normal part of the variety and variability of life on earth and as such is a source of creative potential and resilience (Armstrong, 2015). The greater the biodiversity within an ecosystem, the more adaptable and therefore resilient the system. Similarly, changes and differences in individual neurotypes may be an indicator of resilience and health in the human population.
The ™ Approach
The NatureBrain approach to neurodiversity lies at the intersection of health sciences, education and ecology and bridges Social Emotional Learning (SEL) with human development and ecological sustainability. It draws upon an interdisciplinary knowledge base including the health and social sciences, psychology, ecology and education and informs both occupational therapy and educational practices for children and youth.
The NatureBrain approach is based on the premise that neurodiversity is a part of biodiversity; that growing minds and bodies are stronger and more resilient when their uniqueness is nurtured and they have the space to develop in various ways, make connections and form relationships of all kinds that sustain life. This approach taps into the evidence that there is no single right way of thinking, learning and relating, and that nature connection is essential for growth and for physical, psychological and social health and wellbeing.
The NatureBrain approach also recognizes that nature connection has an important role to play in helping children and youth develop social-emotional skills and overcome challenges, and in promoting care for the environment, others, and all living things, as illustrated in Summer Farrelly's story (see below.) More broadly it draws upon nature inspired design thinking, resilience theory, and the field of social innovation including a growing body of research that explores the ways in which nature’s patterns can help to solve complex social problems across scales.
NatureBrain in Practice
In essence, this approach to neurodiversity involves weaving nature's unifying patterns and elements into therapeutic interventions, learning environments, and play spaces in ways that cultivate awareness and restore attention, promote self regulation, spark wonder and creativity, and celebrate diversity. This lays the foundation for social-emotional health and resilience in life and social-ecological sustainability into the future.
In practice we use the concepts of nature's unifying patterns and harnessing nature's four elements as heuristics for developing sensory rich therapeutic interventions and learning experiences that develop social emotional competence and promote health, wellbeing and resilience.
Nature Provides mutual benefits
Nature is locally attuned and responsive
Nature tends to optimize rather than maximize
Nature uses shape to determine functionality
Nature uses only the energy it needs and relies
on freely available energy (tuning into energy level
Nature is resistant to disturbances
Nature recycles all materials
Nature runs on information
Source: Nature's Unifying Patterns. Biomimicry Institute. Retrieved August 17, 2022 from www.toolbox.biomimicry.org