Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Autistics Speaking Day Post- Reasons I support Neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity, as a movement, isn't always taken seriously. I've heard everything from people calling it a joke to people calling it a cult. Many seem not to understand, completely mystified by why anyone would want to be 'proud' of a 'disease'. Others argue that it is all very well for people with Aspergers, ADHD, Tourettes and other so-called 'high-functioning' neurotypes to shout for acceptance rather than cure, but they have a child who can't speak, can't sleep, can't read and needs treatment. A lot of people just flat-out don't see it as a legitimate movement, or misunderstand horribly and think the whole point of ND is to take liberties and make neuroatypical people legally and socially untouchable.

I have a lot I wish I could say to these people. I have supported neurodiversity since I was thirteen years old.

I am a woman with mild Aspergers- mild to the point it took them around seven years of dithering to decide that I definitely had it. I can 'pass' reasonably well, and usually just come across as an eccentric NT. I wasn't bullied that badly at school, my family have never abused, discriminated against, or tried to cure me, I have had friends far more often than not and I have only been faced with institutional discrimination once, and that was a mild case. I am, technically speaking, one of the lucky ones- but after battling long periods of depression and very low self-esteem, I certainly don't feel lucky. Which begs the question... if I, one of the 'lucky' ones, can get hurt this badly, where does that leave people who had it worse than me?

I support neurodiversity for those people who had it worse and suffered horribly simply because they were different in a way other's couldn't understand; and I support neurodiversity for other like me, who got off likely in comparison and still had a rough ride.

I support neurodiversity because I am yet to meet a neuroatypical person who has not suffered from stereotyping, bullying, and discrimination at one stage or another, and I support neurodiversity because for many of these people, the discrimination has come from parents and teachers they should have been able to trust.

I support neurodiversity because the rate of mental illness amongst neuroatypical people, especially people on the autistic spectrum, is through the roof, and nobody seems to see it as an issue. Many professionals accept this as 'a natural part of autism', rather than looking for an external cause and trying to treat it, like they usually would with a neurotypical patient.

I support neurodiversity because I believe this high rate of mental illness is caused by the stress of trying to 'pass', and because the amount of pressure placed on people to pass is most likely damaging. Neuroatypical children are not taught to be themselves like neurotypical children are. They are taught to suppress themselves and be someone else, someone more likable, someone more sociable, someone less 'weird'. Neuroatypical children are taught, effectively, to be people pleasers, to place their self worth in how much other people like them, and in turn consider it a fault with themselves if someone does not like them. I support Neurodiversity because this is wrong.

I support neurodiversity because I believe there is space for a massive variety of people in society, and that including those who are different rather than trying to mould them into a prescribed 'norm' is the way forward.

I support neurodiversity because some of the treatments and medications given to neuroatypical children are unfair, have bad side effects, or are downright dangerous. Many children are harmed or denied a childhood by parents desperately trying to change them into something they're not.

I support neurodiversity because the ND movement challenges Autism Speaks, who contribute heavily to this by exploiting the fears of parents rather than offering them genuine help.

I support neurodiversity because neuroatypical people seldom get fair or accurate representations in the media. I know fictional Aspergers characters are virtually interchangeable, and in the media we are often described with patronising language such as 'weak', 'naive', and 'vulnerable'. To name some other examples, Dyslexia is often taken to extremes in fiction for the purposes of drama, Kanner's Autism is seldom depicted, and when it is, it's often in a plucky-heartstrings 'my tragic child' kind of storyline. Good luck finding a depiction of Tourettes that isn't a) focused exclusively on coprolalic tics and b) played for laughs. When the best you can hope for is for your neurotype to be featured in a supercrip storyline or article, or not be too stereotyped or infantilised, you know there's a problem.

I support neurodiversity because neuroatypical people are almost always shut out of decision-making that concerns them. If they get involved at all, it's to tell their story and then leave the important talks to the NTs. We seldom get the chance to suggest improvements or challenge the status quo, and when we do, we often find our input was unwelcome, far more so than if a parent or professor had said it. Even the UK's National Autistic Society, in most ways very good, is guilty of this.

I support Neurodiversity because the current system places 'looking normal' in front of the feelings, desires, personality and emotional wellbeing of the neuroatypical person.

I support neurodiversity because searching for cures takes away from searching for productive workarounds, alternative communication and learning methods, education, and support.

I support neurodiversity because so many neuroatypical children and adults have to battle and struggle when the vast majority of their peers do not.

I support neurodiversity because I care about equality and social justice in general. To me, being in favour of neurodiversity is as obvious a thing to do as being against racism.

And I will continue to support neurodiversity in the hope that with enough time and effort, eventually everything I've written in this post will simply go without saying.


  1. Great post! Beautifully written.

  2. Eloquent and insightful. Thanks for writing this!

  3. Just found these comments (after how many weeks? Never mind). Thanks, guys. :)

  4. I was reading you back posts, found this, and just had to say, "Thank you."