going beyond typical: Giving the Neurodivergent Community a Voice

Filed Under: Market Research, Multicultural, Shopper, Alcohol, Consumer Durables, CPG, Financial Services, Food & Beverage, Health Insurance, Restaurants & Food Service, Retail, Tech, Media & Telecom


Rebekah Thomas

Project Assistant, C+R Alum

As someone who has been able to experience multiple sides of market research, there’s one thing that has become clear to me; I am not the average consumer. I am constantly surprised to find that I often do not “go with the majority” which leads me to the question, “Why?” As I pondered this question, a few things came to mind—worldview and experiences were top oaf mind, but then another thought came to me—neurodivergence. A simple definition of neurodivergence can be taken from Verywell Mind, stating “Neurodivergence is the term for people whose brains function differently in one or more ways than is considered standard or typical.” These differences from the norm vary, but they are typically known as neurodiverse conditions which include ADHD, Autism, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and Tourette’s Syndrome, among others.

Insights Professionals are constantly looking at data and projects through the lenses of different identities or targeted audiences, and though a lot of effort is made for many different cohorts, neurodivergence isn’t part of the discussion. My initial reaction is that it would be really hard to find consistencies in how to target this population because of the many individually unique differences —it really is a spectrum. Then I’m reminded of how many neurodivergent communities have been formed through social media because people finally found others to relate to—people that understand the complexities of their different brain chemistry and how it affects our daily lives. I am particularly reminded of the countless ADHD influencers who share tips on how they manage their ADHD, but also the struggles that come along with it, particularly the ones that make no sense when you try to explain to a neurotypical person (laziness vs. executive dysfunction). I know I, as an individual with ADHD (among others), find comfort in just knowing that other people experience the same things that sometimes make me feel shameful. That was just a long way to say that I do believe there are a lot of similarities within the neurodivergent community and I, as a non-neurotypical person myself, recognize that it makes up a large portion of my frame of reference.

With April being Autism and Neurodivergent Awareness Month, perhaps this is a good time to open these conversations within the world of work and market research about the potential of using this demographic as a lens to further understand consumers and behaviors. These conversations are so important because 15-20% of the world’s population exhibit some form of neurodivergence. The more we know about our differences and how they affect us, the better we can understand the needs of various communities and how we, as people and marketers, can communicate with everyone — whether you’re neurodivergent or neurotypical.

Recognizing that this month is for the autistic and neurodivergent community, I wonder if there are already discussions in settings outside of academia—about using a neurodiverse lens in market research, or if my theory is completely off base here. In my mind, this really makes a lot of sense; but, as you may have guessed by now, sometimes my thoughts are a bit… neurodivergent.

As we recognize and encourage acceptance of this community, read the blog, World Autism Month: Encouraging Understanding and Acceptance.

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