This "Observation" article in the Scientific American was written by Simon Baron-Cohen (no, NOT the guy who plays Borat, this is Sasha Baron-Cohen's 13 years older COUSIN, he's a British clinical psychologist and professor of developmental psychopathology) back in 2019. It's a VERY interesting read.
At times I have felt like I don't WANT to be a part of "the autism community", because of all the squabble between (and in) various groups WITHIN the group..., it's just so tiresome to have to constantly explain and defend one's own diagnosis, views, language and so on and so forth when dealing with people who you'd think WOULD be understanding and accepting. After all, we're all in this TOGETHER, aren't we? Aren't we?!? 🤨😏 -Mrs. entryreqrd
The Concept of Neurodiversity Is Dividing the Autism Community
It remains controversial—but it doesn’t have to be
At the annual meeting of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) in Montreal, Canada in May, one topic widely debated was the concept of neurodiversity. It is dividing the autism community, but it doesn’t have to.
The term “neurodiversity” gained popular currency in recent years but was first used by Judy Singer, an Australian social scientist, herself autistic, and first appeared in print in the Atlantic in 1998.
Neurodiversity is related to the more familiar concept of biodiversity, and both are respectful ways of thinking about our planet and our communities. The notion of neurodiversity is very compatible with the civil rights plea for minorities to be accorded dignity and acceptance, and not to be pathologized. And while the neurodiversity movement acknowledges that parents or autistic people may choose to try different interventions for specific symptoms that may be causing suffering, it challenges the default assumption that autism itself is a disease or disorder that needs to be eradicated, prevented, treated or cured.
Many autistic people—especially those who have intact language and no learning difficulties such that they can self-advocate—have adopted the neurodiversity framework, coining the term “neurotypical” to describe the majority brain and seeing autism as an example of diversity in the set of all possible diverse brains, none of which is “normal” and all of which are simply different.
They argue that in highly social and unpredictable environments some of their differences may manifest as disabilities, while in more autism-friendly environments the disabilities can be minimized, allowing other differences to blossom as talents. The neurodiversity perspective reminds us that disability and even disorder may be about the person-environment fit. To quote an autistic person: “We are freshwater fish in salt water. Put us in fresh water and we function just fine. Put us in salt water and we struggle to survive.”
There are also those who, while embracing some aspects of the concept of neurodiversity as applied to autism, argue that the severe challenges faced by many autistic people fit better within a more classical medical model. Many of these are parents of autistic children or autistic individuals who struggle substantially in any environment, who may have almost no language, exhibit severe learning difficulties, suffer gastrointestinal pain or epilepsy, appear to be in anguish for no apparent reason or lash out against themselves or others.
Many of those who adopt the medical model of autism call for prevention and cure of the serious impairments that can be associated with autism. In contrast, those who support neurodiversity see such language as a threat to autistic people’s existence, no different than eugenics.
No wonder this concept is causing such divisions. Yet, I argue that these viewpoints are not mutually exclusive, and that we can integrate both by acknowledging that autism contains huge heterogeneity.