2 thoughts on “Neurodiversity-Variation Rather Than Deviation

  • October 13, 2010 at 7:45 am

    If one with autism can advocate for acceptance and change, I would argue that the individual is high functioning and not dealing with the all encompassing disability that parents speak of wanting to cure. I’ve been reading what Brain Balance – http://www.brainbalancecenters.com – has to say about the issue: that all neurobehavioral disorders have in common an underlying condition called functional disconnection syndrome. (My daughter has SPD, so I’m interested in all neuro-behavioral disorders). Through diet, behavior modification, brain exercises and educational techniques that help make connections, Brain Balance asserts one can reduce or eliminate symptoms. While their site doesn’t really talk cause (environment, genetics, birth injury, etc.) It is worth a read, particularly the “truth” section. I think it gets to the heart of what you can DO once your loved one is affected. They are brain based, not drug based… it’s a much more natural approach to improving brain function, whatever the manifestation.

  • October 13, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I get the argument all the time that I have no right to advocate for autistic people because I can speak. Apparently, if you can speak, then you have nothing to say because you don’t know what it’s like; and if you can’t speak, then you can’t say anything. It’s an argument that effectively takes away the voice of the autistic community and puts decision-making squarely in the hands of people who have never been autistic and REALLY don’t know what it’s like.

    Some issues with neurodiversity that need to be made clear:
    1. Treatment is not the same thing as “cure”. For example, I benefit from a counselor to help me with keeping myself organized; I take medication that helps me switch tasks more easily (Concerta, in case you’re wondering). This is treatment–education and sometimes medication aimed at making it easier for me to deal with a world that wasn’t made for my brain type.

    However, there is no such thing as an autism cure, and as far as my research has taken me it seems there never will be anything like a cure that can be used anywhere past the prenatal period; autism is in the structure of the human brain, and to change that structure is to erase the person. Obviously this is neither possible nor desirable (it might still be possible before birth and in very early infancy, but we do not have any way of doing this). Autism is as fundamental to the brain as Down syndrome is; it’s a developmental disorder that is genetic in origin, starts early, and affects how we develop. It is not “damage” to be undone; it is a different kind of development. Think of it like this: A short person is not a damaged tall person; a cat is not a damaged dog. An autistic person is not a damaged neurotypical.

    The problem comes when parents chase after this non-existent cure for their children, rather than teaching them how to live, as autistic people, in this world. They spend all their time telling their kids how to be “normal”–a goal they can never reach, and should not try to reach because the “normal” way to do things is not the way that is best for them. These kids spend their whole lives being told that the way they think is bad and wrong; that the way they do things needs to be changed. And then when they learn something, their parents blame it on whatever cure they’ve been trying, rather than commending the child for his efforts.

    The way we should approach autism is to learn how autistic people think, how autistic people learn, and how our environments can be adjusted so that we can be part of our communities at school, at home, and at work. The end goal of educating an autistic child should not be a “cure”, but a healthy, happy, competent autistic adult.

    I am autistic myself and I know a lot of autistic people, both in the “real world” and online. They are anywhere from college professors to nursery school students to group home residents. They are amazingly diverse; they all have their own personalities and desires and dreams. And the only thing they have in common is that they want to be seen as equals, to be listened to, and to be taken seriously. Even the ones who can’t speak still communicate through their actions.

    I am not involved in autism advocacy because I want to “speak for” autistic people. I am involved because, when autistic people speak, I want other people to listen.


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