The word "neurodiversity" is attributed to Judy Singer, an Australian social scientist on the autism spectrum, who used the term in her sociology honors thesis in the late 1990s. The term represented a move away from previous "mother-blaming" theories about the cause of autism. Singer had been in correspondence with American journalist and writer Harvey Blume due to their mutual interest in autism, and though he did not credit Singer, the word first appeared in print in an article by Blume in The Atlantic on September 30, 1998.
In a previous New York Times piece on June 30, 1997, Blume did not use the term "neurodiversity", but he did describe the foundation of the idea in the phrase "neurological pluralism". Blume was an early advocate who predicted the role the Internet would play in fostering the international neurodiversity movement.
Some authors also credit the earlier work of autistic advocate Jim Sinclair in advancing the concept of neurodiversity. Sinclair was a principal early organizer of the international online autism community. Sinclair's 1993 speech, "Don't Mourn For Us", emphasized autism as a way of being: "It is not possible to separate the person from the autism."
The term "neurodiversity" has since been applied to other conditions and has taken on a more general meaning; for example, the Developmental Adult Neurodiversity Association (DANDA) in the UK encompasses developmental coordination disorder, ADHD, Asperger's syndrome, and related conditions.