Leone Centre Glossary

Intersectionality and Neurodiversity in Neurodiversity-affirmative Therapy

Intersectionality and Neurodiversity

The term ‘intersectionality’ refers to the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender, which can create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. Neurodiversity highlights the range of differences in individual brain functions and behavioural traits. When these concepts are integrated into neurodiversity-affirmative therapy, the approach becomes holistic, inclusive, and better suited to address the complex identities and experiences of individuals.

Challenges with intersectionality and neurodiversity

Challenges Faced Include:

  • Cultural Misunderstandings: Neurodiverse individuals from minority ethnic backgrounds often face additional barriers due to cultural misunderstandings and lack of culturally sensitive support.
  • Gender Bias: Women and non-binary individuals often receive later diagnoses and less support compared to men, due to gender biases in diagnostic criteria and social expectations.
  • Economic Barriers: Individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may struggle to access appropriate therapies and educational resources, exacerbating existing challenges.
  • Multiple Disabilities: Individuals with co-existing disabilities may face compounded difficulties in receiving comprehensive care that addresses all aspects of their identity.
  • Social Isolation: The combination of neurodiversity and intersecting social identities can lead to increased feelings of isolation.
  • Stigmatisation and Internalised Ableism: Negative societal attitudes and stereotypes can be internalized, leading individuals to undervalue their own abilities and worth.
  • Lack of Representation: Limited representation of neurodiverse individuals in media and societal roles can make it challenging for them to see themselves reflected in an affirming way in the world.
  • Intersectional Discrimination: Neurodiverse individuals who belong to multiple marginalized groups may face unique forms of discrimination that are not fully addressed by traditional therapeutic models.

Understanding intersectionality and neurodiversity

Intersectionality refers to the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, gender, and sexuality, which create overlapping systems of discrimination or disadvantage. It recognises that individuals may face multiple, simultaneous forms of bias, which together impact their experiences and identity.

Therapeutic benefits

By incorporating these concepts, therapy becomes more inclusive, validating, and supportive. It acknowledges that individuals’ experiences are shaped by multiple factors, leading to more personalised care.

Integrating intersectionality and neurodiversity in therapy provides several benefits:

  • Holistic Support: A comprehensive approach that considers all aspects of an individual’s identity, leading to more beneficial and personalised support.
  • Empowerment: Encourages individuals to embrace their unique identities and advocate for their needs.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Ensures that therapeutic practices are respectful and inclusive of diverse cultural backgrounds.
  • Improved Outcomes: Personalised therapy approaches that address specific challenges related to intersecting identities can lead to better mental health outcomes.

Practical application

In neurodiversity-affirmative therapy, practitioners are trained to recognise and respect the diverse backgrounds and experiences of their clients. This approach helps in creating a safe and supportive environment for all individuals.

Neurodiversity-affirmative therapy supports individuals by:

  • Providing a validating environment where their experiences and feelings are understood and respected.
  • Encouraging exploration and acceptance of their intersecting identities as part of a positive self-concept.
  • Building resilience against societal pressures and stigma.
  • Enhancing self-advocacy skills to counter social and institutional barriers.
  • Promoting connections with supportive communities that share and celebrate neurodiversity and intersectional identities.


What is intersectionality?
Intersectionality is the study of how different social identities, such as race, gender, and class, overlap and interact to create unique experiences of discrimination or privilege.
What does neurodiversity mean?
Neurodiversity refers to the concept that variations in brain function and behaviour are natural and normal, representing a part of human diversity.
How does intersectionality enhance neurodiversity-affirmative therapy?
By considering multiple facets of an individual’s identity, intersectionality helps create a more holistic and personalised therapeutic approach, addressing various sources of discrimination or disadvantage.
Why is neurodiversity important in therapy?
Neurodiversity promotes acceptance and understanding of different neurological conditions, leading to more inclusive and supportive therapeutic practices.


  1. Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum.
  2. Armstrong, T. (2010). Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Brain Differences. Da Capo Lifelong Books.
  3. Wheeler, L. (2020). Intersectionality in Practice: A Guide to a More Equitable and Inclusive Therapy. Norton Professional Books.
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This glossary provides definitions of various counselling terms and approaches for informational purposes only, without implying endorsement or service provision