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Disabilities, Neurodiversity, and Chronic Illness, Race and Ethnicity

medical racism

People of color have long faced different types of discrimination within the medical system, which contributes to disparities in health outcomes, treatment, and life expectancy. Mistrust is based not only on historic instances and generational and community information but also on ongoing implicit bias in the health care system that impacts the care received by a person of color. Consideration of the forces that continue to shape the experiences people of color have within the health care system is important when writing about someone’s experience with an illness or disability.

Disabilities, Neurodiversity, and Chronic Illness

attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by inattention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity. People with ADHD can qualify for accommodations through the Americans with Disabilities Act. That said, some individuals in the neurodivergence community relate to ADHD as a disability and others do not, so it’s important to understand the terms the people you are writing about use to refer to themselves. Using ADHD as a noun (“X has ADHD”) rather than an adjective (“X is ADHD”) accurately portrays ADHD as a condition and not the sum total of a person or their experiences.

Disabilities, Neurodiversity, and Chronic Illness

Asperger’s syndrome

Asperger’s syndrome is no longer an official diagnosis. That said, some people may self-identify as having Asperger’s. Limiting use of the term to instances of self-identification, quotes, or historical context is a way to acknowledge how people represent themselves while still aligning with current understandings of neurodivergence.

Disabilities, Neurodiversity, and Chronic Illness

prescription medications

Prescription medications include a wide variety of medicines. How someone takes a medication can be described in terms of “takes” or “is prescribed,” instead of “uses,” as referring to prescription medications in terms of “drugs” and “uses” can carry strong connotations of substance use disorder or intentional misuse, particularly around medications that are perceived as being commonly misused.

Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Use, Disabilities, Neurodiversity, and Chronic Illness


Neurodiversity refers to the presence of many different types of minds throughout the human race, all of which have valuable characteristics. The term aims to categorize autism, ADHD, and other developmental conditions as naturally occurring traits in the human population rather than pathologies to be “cured.” A group or population can be neurodiverse, but a single person cannot, and the term generally isn’t used in a person-first way (e.g., “a person with neurodiversity”). An individual could be referred to as a neurominority or neurologically marginalized, or described with their diagnosis; some also call themselves “neurodivergent.”

Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Use, Disabilities, Neurodiversity, and Chronic Illness

applied behavior analysis (ABA)

Applied behavior analysis is a method of modifying behaviors in autistic children through behaviorist techniques (i.e., rewards and punishments). ABA remains one of the most common behavioral interventions of autism; alternatives include occupational therapy and structured teaching. The effectiveness of ABA is under debate, and some consider the practice abusive. Exploring these debates helps ensure thoughtful coverage of differing practices and viewpoints within the autism community.

Disabilities, Neurodiversity, and Chronic Illness

sexually transmitted infection

A sexually transmitted infection refers to bacteria, a virus, or a parasite known to be transmitted through sexual activity. Sexually transmitted infection, or STI, is more accurate than the term sexually transmitted disease (STD), which can also be stigmatizing. As with disclosing any health condition, it should be done only when relevant and necessary to coverage, and it’s important to confirm with someone whether they are comfortable having their status written about publicly. Careful media coverage can help demystify and destigmatize STIs, and may encourage people to seek testing and treatment.