A Look into the Stanford Neurodiversity Summit and its Message of Inclusivity


“Creative Company Conference 2011” by Sebastiaan ter Burg is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Through the days of Oct. 23-25, the people behind the Stanford Neurodiversity Project at Stanford Medicine hosted their annual summit, filled with speakers and presenters discussing the various topics surrounding the awareness of neurological conditions and gathering a community of advocates towards neurodiversity.

Some may wonder: What even is the term “neurodiversity?” 

The term was coined by sociologist Judy Singer circa 1997 and 1998. The word is described on the Stanford Medicine website as, “…a concept that regards individuals with differences in brain function and behavioral traits as part of normal variation in the human population.”

Necessarily, neurodiversity as a term aims to break the separation between “normal” functioning people and neurologically varied individuals–like someone with autism, ADHD, OCD, and other mentally based conditions. 

Along with the coinage of this term, further developments in biomedicine, and knowledge about the commonalities of neurodiverse conditions, the Stanford Neurodiversity Project (SNP) was then established under the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford Medicine in order to start projects and educational programs surrounding neurodiversity.

Directed by Dr. Lawrence Fung, M.D., Ph.D., the project has been able to start many new and evolving programs for neurodiverse people looking for jobs. It has a driven motivation to educate others about the different social, physical, and mental experiences of neurologically-varied people of all ages. 

Having a place for educators, parents, employers, and students to learn and embrace the differences and strengths of neurodiverse people is crucial to promoting the neurodiversity movement and the assimilation of all people into the advancements of society Thus, the Stanford Neurodiversity Summit was started.

What does the summit entail for its visitors about neurodiversity? The virtual summit’s events of 2022 will help illustrate their goals and wishes for their listeners.

This annual event is said to be, “…a forum for [the] exchange of ideas about neurodiversity among all people,” according to the Stanford Medicine website, and this year’s summit had given a platform to over 70 speakers, ranging from high school students to psychiatrists to even a film producer.

Several speakers at the SNP Summit are neurodiverse themselves, and they all facilitate helpful and intuitive discussions about the need for neurotypical individuals to embrace everyone’s differences and accommodate them.

During the 2nd day of the 2022 summit, one panel, showcased Valerie Gaus, a clinical psychologist, and David Elsner, a man diagnosed with PDDNOS (pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified). The two discussed the mental health and anxiety in neurodiverse individuals, and while Gaus had the insight from a cognitive-behavioral level, Elsner also provided his experiences with being on the spectrum and coping with anxious feelings. The conversation supplied extensive tools to neurodiverse parents and kids, allowing them to see the normalcy behind anxiety in an inclusive and supportive way.

The different panels at the summit ranged from talking about a variety of topics that affect neurodiverse people: there were conversations on how to enter the workforce, how the culture in schools can shift to accommodate more for children with neurological conditions, and how autism and ADHD affect the livelihoods of the people they affect.

The information provided by the SNP Summit is amazingly resourceful and educational for neurodivergent and neurotypical people alike. The summit aims to build advocacy and support for how to improve the situations and lives of the many neurodiverse people in the world. Everyone should consider registering for a future place as a participant in its events since there is always more to learn about the intricacies and circumstances of people with disabilities and neurological conditions.