skip to main content

What is neurodiversity?

Even if the term ‘neurodiversity’ is new to you, it’s likely you already know some or all of the key conditions the term covers. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 people in the UK are neurodivergent and recent research from AFEM and the Musicians Census suggests that there is a higher percentage of neurodiverse people working in the music industry.

Neurodiversity is a concept that recognises and respects the natural variation in human brains and neurocognitive functioning. It suggests that neurological differences are a valuable part of human diversity. Such neurological differences include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia, Tourette Syndrome and other neurological conditions.

Doctors at Harvard University describe ​​neurodiversity as “the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; there is no one "right" way of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences are not viewed as deficits.”*

Each neurodiverse person’s experience of neurodiversity will be different. Most forms of neurodiversity are experienced on a spectrum, which means they will have a range of characteristics associated with them that some neurodiverse people will experience, and some won’t. Everyone’s experiences of neurodiversity are different, and this goes for all neurodivergent people.

With 30-40% of the general population thought to be neurodiverse, there’s a good chance one of your colleagues has told you they have a neurodiverse condition.

*Nicole Baumer, MD, MEd, and Julia Frueh, MD, ‘What Is Neurodiversity?

Support in the workplace for neurodiverse people

Now you may be wondering, "how can I best support colleagues at work?"

In this guidance we’ll bust some myths and offer some suggestions so you can help your colleagues feel safe and supported in their workplace.

Our guidance focuses on supporting people in the workplace with:

While this guidance focuses on the conditions above, we recognise the scope of neurocognitive profiles that are not “neurotypical” is expanding as the science around it develops.

We suggest being mindful of this in your conversations with colleagues and not limiting your understanding to just the conditions listed here.

The MU welcomes suggestions for further neurodiverse conditions you feel we should consider including here. Please contact with your suggestions.

Terminology used around neurodiversity

Clinical criteria

Clinical criteria are rules or standards on which a decision or judgment is made to determine medical necessity. 

Emotional regulation

“Emotional regulation” is a term generally used to describe a person's ability to effectively manage and respond to an emotional experience. 

Executive function

Executive function describes a group of mental processes which work together to help someone to plan, focus and shift attention, be aware of time, remember instructions and juggle multiple mental tasks successfully.


Hyperfocus is a state of intense concentration or absorption in a particular activity or subject. It is often associated with conditions such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) but can also occur in individuals without a diagnosis.


Masking is a term used to describe the process by which individuals with neurodiverse conditions, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD, or dyslexia, consciously or unconsciously suppress their natural behaviours, tendencies, and traits in order to appear neurotypical in social situations.


Neurodiversity is a concept that recognises and respects the natural variation in human brains and neurocognitive functioning. It suggests that neurological differences such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia, Tourette Syndrome, and other neurological conditions are a valuable part of human diversity.


“Neurotypical” is a term that’s used to describe individuals with typical neurological development or functioning.


Neurodevelopment is a term referring to the brain's development of neurological pathways that influence performance or functioning e.g., reading ability, social skills, memory, attention or focus.

Neurodevelopmental conditions

Neurodevelopmental conditions are a group of disorders that affect the development and functioning of the brain and nervous system. These conditions typically become apparent in early childhood but can also be diagnosed later in life.

Introduction to Neurodiversity: A spectrum of traits, talents, and creativity

ADHD Foundation logoThe MU together with ADHD Foundation has hosted a series of four webinars exploring how neurodiverse creatives in the music industry can better understand the ways that "thinking differently" impacts on musicians with dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, autism & Tourette's.

Watch the recordings of these webinars on Crowdcast:

Latest news and features

Multicoloured ropes connected to one another in a circle, representing diverse collaboration.

Disability History Month: Exploring the AutismAble and Future Collaborations Project

In this blog Andrew Forster discusses the Future Collaborations Project, an accessible music outreach program for people aged 14-25, promoting neurodivergent and neurotypical collaborations within the music industry. We also hear from one of the project’s participants and a Learning Mentor.

Published: 20 November 2023

Read more about Disability History Month: Exploring the AutismAble and Future Collaborations Project

Get support as a disabled musician through MU membership

The MU advocates on behalf of disabled musicians to ensure their rights are upheld and strengthened. Musicians may also benefit from a reduced membership rate for disabled musicians in need for financial support.

Disabled musicians benefit from MU membership

Join as a disabled musician

Get support as a disabled musician through MU membership