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Understanding neurodiversity: There’s no ‘right’ way for the brain to work

By Ericka Biggs

I always say, “I didn’t just choose social work; it also chose me!” The love I have for mental health was inspired by my son and his continual struggles. He was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) at age 5, and this was challenging for me. Not only did I have to be his mother, but also his therapist and advocate. Undoubtedly, this fueled my desire to better understand him and my passion for helping other parents, guardians and children/adolescents. My primary areas of focus are children and adolescent disorders like ADHD, ODD, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), behavior/conduct disorder, mood disorders and trauma.

As a mental health professional, my mission is not only to help people develop a better vision and see their lives through a wider lens, but to also create the same opportunity for others to see them from a broader perspective. Life can become blurry when you’re struggling with variations in mental functioning.


Neurodiversity is a term characterizing variation in brain function. Neurodivergent individuals have diverse perspectives and responses to the world, which substantiates the premise that there’s no particular “right” way for the brain to work. Neurological or developmental disorders like ADHD and ASD are included under the term neurodivergent.

Some symptoms of ASD include difficulties in social communication and restricted and repetitious behaviors. ADHD symptoms include inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity, while ODD symptoms include angry moods, defiance, and struggles with authority. Many times, symptoms can overlap with one another, causing complexity for diagnosing.

Those diagnosed with neurodivergent conditions often are misunderstood and misconceived by their parents, teachers and peers. It is time to respect and celebrate the differences in the neurodivergent community instead of automatically concluding that “something is wrong.”


Which brings me to the mention of pathological demand avoidance (PDA), an intricate and rare neurodiverse profile that can overlap and interact with other neurodiverse conditions. Although PDA is not formally identified as a mental illness by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it nonetheless can have a negative impact on a person’s quality of life and ability to function. PDA has characteristics like demand avoidance and challenges with social cues and creating/maintaining relationships that overlap with ASD and ODD.

Accepting neurodiversity and promoting understanding can create a more inclusive world where everyone can lead a successful life, regardless of his or her neurological profile

Ericka Biggs, licensed master social worker, works for Catalyst Counseling and Therapy Services and can be contacted at (228) 284-2644 or at

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