I get very frustrated every time I see anyone on either side of the fence refer to the “neurodiversity movement“. The reason is that it is used by opponents of Autistic rights as a negative term, and in the process demeans neurodiversity’s true meaning.
As I remember, when the term was first coined in the late 1990’s, it meant what it said: “neuro” meaning “brain” and “diversity”. The idea that all brains are different in the same way every human being is different, even within the Autistic community, let alone the neurotypical community.
It’s that last point that is causing the issues with this negativity. People are so keen to “normalise” the human race. Anything that steps outside of that is quickly jumped on. Autism falls foul of this across the Spectrum and it’s why we fight such a mentality. It’s also why drawing parallels with gay rights is so valid, and indeed black rights and even female rights. All of these factors are genetic. We aren’t Autistic by choice anymore than any other genetic factor. Oh sure, it’s possible to change gender, but that only happens if there is a clash between the brain and the body – the very core of the description of a transexual and more importantly genetic. Some would say skin colour can be changed as well, but only cosmetically and who would do that without a good medical reason (as Michael Jackson did with his Vitiligo)?
Jonathan Mitchell’s doctrine of “We don’t need no stinking neurodiversity” is actually about the misnamed neurodiversity movement. I am not a member of such a movement because as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t exist. I am an Autistic Activist, and I understand and accept neurodiversity as a part of being human. Anyone who doesn’t (like Mitchell) is technically a bigot. Some would say it’s not even technical – he’s a bigot, and I would respect that view as well given that bigots are full of hate, and Mitchell is loaded with it.
Neurodiversity has been around since Adam and Eve. It is a part of nature. A part of being human. Autism is a part of that nature that, like everything else that doesn’t affect the majority, needs to be respected. Hatred of neurodiversity and speaking in such terms has to be regarded as hate speech against the entire human race. That’s amazing when you think about it, but when you realise just how long a history humanity has for intolerance it sort of makes sense. In a very sad and despicable way. With this in mind, I say to Mitchell “We need neurodiversity“. Because it is a part of all of us. No exceptions.
In relation to Autism, we can see neurodiversity at work within the community with all the different levels of functioning. High functioning such as myself down to the other end of the Spectrum. That reflects brain difference, both in utero and in the developmental years. But the key to note however is that at the root it’s still the same condition. The neuro diverse factor is the next step along, and this, unlike the root condition, can be adjusted. And the earlier in the developmental process the better. Psychiatry and psychology have been aware of this for a long time, hence the pleas for early intervention in order to encourage functioning levels in the right direction. This is all about recognising the difference in brain operation, firstly as an Autistic at the root, and then as an Autistic as expressed in the behavioural sense.
It’s all about understanding the condition in the first place. Those who reject the existence of neurodiversity within the Autistic community don’t understand Autism, which is a bad thing and threatening to the understanding of the condition from the neurotypical community. Both are as important as each other, but when those with Autism or affected by it talk in this way we’re all in trouble.
Philip was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in February 1997, updated to Autism in May 2013. He is an Autistic Activist fighting cure proponents, conspiracy merchants and anti vaccine proponents for as long as a decade. He has won two court victories over two American cure proponents for defamation.
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