People with neurodiversity... Outstanding skills in the face of climate change

Writer: Salma Arafa - Translator: Amira Gawdat
السبت 13 ابريل 2024 | 12:59 مساءً

12 years is how long “Solitaire” needed to be able to read her name correctly like other children, but she still fails to answer a simple question like "What's the clock now?", although she was five decades old.

“Solitaire Thunsid” is a British citizen succeeded in achieving impressive achievements, notably obtaining two master's degrees from two prestigious universities, and establishing a company working in the field of sustainability solutions, but her journey differed from many entrepreneurs; because she was diagnosed with “dyslexia”.

This is due to differences in the language centers in the brain. This leads to difficulty of reading and connecting voices to letters and words.

Affected adults find it difficult to spell, need more time for tasks including reading and writing, and make mistakes during word pronunciation, according to “Mayo Clinic” website.

Sufferers have difficulty dealing with traditional clocks with arms; instead they rely on digital clocks.


According to “Harvard University's” website, neurodiversity is defined as the difference between humans' brains in interaction with the world around them, but is usually used to describe specific conditions including dyslexia, autism, ADD, ADHD, Tourette's syndrome, etc.

Recently, speaking about how to utilize the different skills of people of neurodiversity in the battle against climate change has begun, especially since their unconventional minds give them strengths that others may not enjoy.

“Dr. Matthew Smith”, professor of health history at the Scottish University of Strathclyde and author of "ADHD” books, said in an interview with “Green Arabic” that the main advantage of people with neurodiversity is they see things from a different perspective. This applies to climate changes in terms of the ability to devise new ideas to address them and to provide an alternative to the consumer culture that has dominated the world.

“Smith” explained the importance of the idea of "universal basic income" to cope with climate change, giving people of neurodiversity greater safety and flexibility to create sustainable lives, and using their creativity and imagination to make the best use.

Universal basic income is defined by the funds that countries give to their citizens regardless of their employment or social level, with a view to confronting poverty.

 Love of exploration

A scientific study by the British University of Cambridge linked dyslexia's exploratory abilities to playing an important role in adapting humans to changing environments.

According to the study, sufferers have a specialized mind in exploring the unknown that is associated with the love of experience and innovation, rather than relying on what is available. This comes at the expense of processing more detailed information, which may explain their difficulties in reading and writing.

The British study was conducted within the framework of a theory called "complementary perception", which states that the process of ancestral development has seen each group specialize in some form of thinking; what improves people's ability to adapt through cooperation.

The sufferers' strengths include the ability to imagine the future, find new ways of adapting and long-term thinking, which explains the fact that large numbers of sustainability workers are already diagnosed with dyslexia, according to the World Economic Forum website.

A study published by “International Journal of Early Childhood Special Education” indicates an accelerated increase in the number of dyslexia recorded among students in the Arab world.

Neurodiversity is defined as the difference between humans' brains in interaction with the world around them

Capabilities and advantages

Years ago, some teachers in a school showed film scenes of plastic polluting the oceans and scenes of starving bears.

After the show ended, most of the students turned their attention to other matters, while one of them, “Greta Thunberg”, became a prominent climate activist and a harsh critic of the international community to urge them to confront global warming.

According to the University of Cambridge website, “Thunberg” (20 years old) was diagnosed with “Asperger Syndrome”, which is a type of autism, as well as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and other reports reported that she also suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“Thunberg” says: “I'm an overthinker.” Some people can get over things, but I can't do that, especially if there's something that's worrying me."

“Sam Farmer”, a consultant for Floreo, which works on teaching life skills to neurodiverse people through virtual reality technology, believes that the characteristics of “Asperger syndrome”, such as creative thinking and excessive focus, contributed to “Thunberg's” excellence in what she does.

Meanwhile, “Dr. Kenneth Roberson”, a psychologist who specializes in treating autism, says that among the advantages of those affected is that they adhere to their ideas without being influenced by what others say, have a high degree of perseverance, and excel in tasks that require attention to facts and details that others may forget.

On the other hand, a British study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology revealed that people with autism need more support to be able to switch to environment friendly habits.

The researchers pointed to sensory problems that may prevent them from using transportation, for example, in addition to the difficulty of switching to a diet more appropriate to environmental standards.

ADHD Syndrome

In turn, “Marcy Cardwell”, a psychologist certified in the US to treat ADHD, explained that several studies have revealed the increased sensitivity of people with the disorder to the idea of justice compared to others, especially among those who tend to have attention deficit without hyperactivity, which is a trait that is often observed. It is overlooked when talking about the disorder, according to the Additude website.

The psychologist says that this point can be benefited from if it is managed properly. The world needs individuals who can commit to making a positive difference in the lives of others.

The reason for hating inequality may be due to other symptoms they suffer from, like the intensity and dysregulation of feelings. There is a link between ADHD and hypersensitivity.


People with ADHD go through periods of excessive focus on a specific activity or task. According to a study by the University of Michigan, the rate of passing through these periods increases as the severity of the injury increases.

Researcher “Holly White”, at the University of Michigan, conducted an experiment to test the creative abilities of a group of students with ADHD compared to others. She asked both groups to imagine, draw, and write a description of an alien fruit on another planet.

Examples of fruits that were more innovative and less similar to Earth fruits came from those with the disorder compared to the other group.

“Matthew Smith” explained to “Green Arabic” the importance of affected people being able to use their traits in ways that positively impact the issue of climate change.

He said: “Some of the recommended ways to reduce symptoms of ADHD are environment friendly, such as cycling, which reduces emissions while also being beneficial for people with several disorders, including ADHD.”

Successful models

For her part, Egyptian journalist “Sarah Al-Amin” considers her suffering from ADHD to be one of the factors that contributed to many of the decisions she made in her life.

“Al-Amin” told “Green Arabic”: “I founded a company and launched a project for beauty and personal care products made from natural ingredients that are completely free of chemicals.”

She explained that the products are packaged in environment friendly containers, and the company also uses biodegradable paper containers when delivering orders and the customer can reuse them in order to reduce plastic consumption.

Al-Amin points out that they standardize the shape of the containers as much as possible so that customers can reuse them for other purposes. For example, some have converted produce containers into “spice kits” without having to buy new kits.

She continued: “Another idea that the company has implemented with regular customers is price discounts for returning the packaging they used to the company when purchasing the new product, thus saving the cost of packaging and protecting the environment.”