If we do take the neuro-diverse way of looking at the human brain then we acknowledge that all brains work differently, and that what we have is the autistic brain, not a so- called normal brain with autism attached to it. Autism has not crept in like some disease, and consumed the neuro-typical brain from the inside out. It is just a brain like any other that functions in a way the majority don’t.
I am not a fan of the concept of believing that a person and their autism are two separate identities, occupying the same body. It seems that people always want to polarise by saying that autism is completely separate from the individual, and somehow think that if the person acknowledges that the autism is a part of them, that it will instantly define them.
Now I can completely understand the concept of wanting to be respected, and known for who you are, rather than how your brain works. But the problem is this – the autism is not separate from the individual. It is just a simple part of who they are, and it contributes to making them that person. Height, eye, hair and skin colour, all contribute as well, and yet nobody tries to box these off, and say that they are separate from the person. This could well simply be a reaction to the way society treats autistic people, but speaking for myself, as somebody with autism, I don’t believe we should pander to society`s negative views of what autism is by trying to act as if it is something separate from ourselves, that just somehow happens to occupy the same body.
If somebody says they don’t want to let their autism define them, I don’t argue with them – in fact I completely agree. But I think that neurodiversity actually helps this cause rather than weakening it. If we believe that neurodiversity is right, and autism is simply a different way of the mind functioning, then I think it becomes much more natural than if we imply autism is some kind of disease sweeping the globe. If you take hair colour, we accept that there are a variety of colours in the world. But say that there was one colour that we all decided one day was not natural, and was a mistake. The people who have that colour hair would stand out, and be defined by it a lot more than if we just acknowledge all hair colours as being perfectly natural, and just variants on one another.
In a way neurodiversity could be seen as respecting the view of the majority of autistic people. Most of us don’t believe that we are diseased or abnormal. We believe that we think and feel things differently to other people. We accept that there is a level of difference in the way that our brains work, but this does not always have to be a negative thing. Of course not everybody has to agree with this, and people are entitled to their own opinions.
If somebody has autism and thinks that it is wholly negative, and that they don’t believe in the concept of neurodiversity then that is their personal view. But the reality is the majority usually has the final say. When I talk about minorities and majorities I am referring to those within the autism community, or more specifically autistic people themselves. I think that people with autism should have the final say on what they think about their own minds and brains, and how they feel they should be represented.
Yes there is a section of the autistic community who object to the concept of neurodiversity, but they are a small section. The obvious problem here is that not every autistic person will be able to communicate what it is they feel. Somebody might be unable to speak, or voice their view in other ways – or simply not understand the concepts involved. This is where it becomes difficult (and relates back to the concept of a cure for autism, which I talked about in my article Neurodiversity – Part 1) If somebody can’t communicate their wishes and desires, then who should come in and do this for them? I wouldn’t want it to be me.
It can be difficult for autistic people to be pulled between two separate points of view; on one hand being told that they have a problem and that they need a cure, and on the other being told that they are different but not less, and should be happy as they are. The only solution I can think to offer is to try to garner the opinions of a wider range of autistic people (not just ones who fall in to the so-called `high-functioning` bracket) but everybody – a views importance is not connected to its eloquence.
Parents should allow themselves to be guided by their children, no matter how difficult it is for the child to express their opinions. Even if somebody is never in a position to offer an opinion on this subject, then I think parents should let themselves be guided by the majority view of autistic people – even if those views challenge their own beliefs – rather than settling for a comfortable, safe belief, expressed by other neuro-typical people.
Respecting other people`s opinions…