For the past few years, autism groups have been spreading awareness about the condition. They want people to know the signs and the symptoms and to make sure children receive proper interventions. At this point in time, I think most everybody is aware of autism. However, people are not really aware of what autistic people have to say. The conversation about autism has been and continues to be dominated by neurotypical individuals. Autistic adults have been given almost no say in matters that affect them. Although I don’t claim to speak for anybody, I will be writing based upon what I have read and seen from autistic individuals. My research has showed me a large majority of autistic people, speaking and non-speaking, advocating for the concept of neurodiversity.
Neurodiversity is the idea that different neurological conditions are natural human variations and, rather than trying to find a cure for the conditions, we should strive for greater acceptance and tolerance of these differences and find ways to better support these individuals within a predominantly neurotypical world. The main assertion is that these is no one “correct” neurology, and that people should not be forced to give up natural aspects of who they are in order to be accepted by society.
There are a few common misconceptions about the concept of neurodiversity. The first one is that supporters of neurodiversity are all “high-functioning” and don’t know the pain of being “low-functioning”. Apart from my disdain for functioning labels, many people who support neurodiversity have been considered “low-functioning” by the medical community. The second misconception, which is related to the first, is that supporters of neurodiversity are ignoring the negative aspects of their condition. This also is not true. There are many who have written about the negative aspects of their condition, including Amanda Baggs and DJ Savarese. However, the largest misconception surrounds the anti-cure standpoint of the neurodiversity movement. There have been times where I have expressed the anti-cure standpoint and have had people accuse me of saying that their child wan’t good enough for a cure. That is not it at all. As Ari Ne’eman has said before me, “anti–cure doesn’t mean anti–progress.” Most people who advocate for neurodiversity advocate for reasonable treatments and therapies, such as speech therapy and occupational therapy. They advocate for greater access to education and for better quality of life. The main belief is that people can lead full and fulfilling lives while being autistic. The reason why people are anti-cure is because they believe eliminating autism would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Everyone sees autism as a disability, everybody is aware of the negative aspects of autism, but autism, in reality, is a mixed bag, and that is what many don’t see. The neurodiversity movement basically says that autism isn’t so cut and dry, as most seem to think it is.
This movement is important because it is made up of autistic people speaking for themselves, along with their allies. It is also important because it raises issues that were once not heard about. There has been a rise in autistic people speaking out for what they want, and the general sentiment is one that supports the concept of neurodiversity. The concept of neurodiversity gives validation to people who have not been previously validated. It shows people with diverse neurologies that it is ok to be them. I believe it is important for people to be able to fully embrace who they are.
I’ve really only scratched the surface on this subject. Also, I need to note that the concept of neurodiversity does not only apply to autism. Neurodiversity can be used in speaking about a whole number of conditions, such as ADD, ADHD, depression, etc. I hope this is something people can chew on for now. Until next time, folks, “If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”