SCHOOLED: What Is Neurodiversity?

Among designers of workplaces and classrooms especially, the term means inclusivity with no type of brain or learning style left behind.

Ever feel like the world is built to please only one kind of person? A growing number of architects and designers feel that way too. So they’re making spaces that feel inclusive even to people whose behavior and thinking differs from society’s idea of “normal.”

The term for this type of design is neurologically diverse. Shortened to neurodiverse, it is a label that describes spaces built for everyone.


That trend to select paint colors, materials, and furniture to support people with conditions such as autism (a brain condition that effects how people communicate and learn) comes out of a movement to embrace and expect different behavior, started by a sociologist named Judy Singer. She believes there is no single way to be normal. Instead, according to Singer who invented the word neurodiversity in the 1990s, humans’ natural state is to be varied mentally and physically depending on their individual neurology, or brain development.

So environments built for that organic neurodiversity have features that anticipate the different patterns in learning and physical ability tied to conditions of the mind such as ADHD, dyslexia, and autism, as well as to physical differences such as limited vision, hearing, mobility or size.

Designers’ growing appreciation for this kind of human diversity (it extends beyond inclusion of all ethnicities to the acceptance of all abilities) is especially apparent in workplaces and schools, where the effectiveness of experiments to improve focus, productivity, and comfort can be easily observed —often in peoples’ satisfied expressions.

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Think Tank

Supporting Neurodiversity in the Workplace and Beyond

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