Greetings Earthlings! 🙂
Today I’m going to discuss the movement of neurodiversity within the autistic community.
Originating in the late 1990’s, neurodiversity is a concept which suggests that neurological conditions such as autism, are simply a variation in thinking or wiring, rather than a disease that needs to be cured.
Think of iPhones and Windows Phones- both perform similar functions, but each have different circuitry.
Neurodiversity advocates that neurological differences should be considered a separate social category (such as sexual orientation, gender and ethnicity) and respected as such.
The movement is represented by this symbol:
^^^ These colours make my brain happy 🙂 😉
Further to this, neurodiveristy classifies people as being either ‘neurotypcial’ (exhibit “normal” cognitive functioning) or ‘neurodiverse’ (autistic).
In a nutshell- neurodiverse people are wired differently, so we think differently; BUT, this difference is the same as any other genetic variation- like having blue eyes or brown.
You follow? 🙂
However, this movement is seen as controversial and problematic in some circles as this broad term covers both low and high functioning forms of autism. It is thought that the concept of neurodiversity is skewed in favour of higher functioning and milder forms of autism.
This is a tricky one, but not necessarily relevant.
Let’s look at the case of Iris Grace, an autistic child artist.
Iris at 7 years old, is world-renowned for her astonishing and mesmerizing paintings, however, Iris has severe autism. Indeed, she struggles greatly with speech and communication, but her paintings are truly the product of a gifted and neurodiverse mind.
You can see Iris in action below:
Neurodiversity is central to one of the biggest discussions in the autistic community- the search for a cure.
Now if we consider neurodiversity to be a regular genetic variation, this begs an important question- should we be seeking a cure for autism?
Think of the Windows Phone again. Sure it’s not as slick as the iPhone and doesn’t have the same range of apps, but you wouldn’t try to change it very much would you? Updates can be installed to improve the model, but ultimately we accept that a Windows Phone will never be an iPhone. We see them as a separate smart phone category- individual in their own right.
Ironically, I’m a Windows Phone girl in real life! 😛
(^^^Update- Withdrawal of apps has since forced me to go Android 😦 )
If we can accept diversity in the world of electronics, why then do we seek to expunge it from the human race?
The autistic mind is wonderful and unique in its own right. With it comes new insights, quirks and ideas, unique gifts and talents. If we endeavor to cure the autistic community, do we risk the destruction of this uniqueness?
Personally, I would not wish a cure for myself. Don’t get me wrong, there are indeed times when life would be much easier if I could be just like everyone else, but I wouldn’t have my brain any other way.
If I had to pop a camouflage pill everyday to pass for “normal”, how could I still be me? If you took away my autism, would I still see the world as a source of infinite curiosity? Would I still have the same talents and interests- would I still love Harry Potter?! 😛 😉
A family member asked me shortly after my diagnosis, what was I going to do now? What was my plan- as if I had some terrible disease! 😛
Neurodiversity challenges us to rethink our perceptions of autism. It should not be seen as something to be cured, but managed with love and support.
Leading autism expert Simon Baron-Cohen once said that:
“having autism [is] like being a fresh water fish in salt water. In that environment, [we] are disabled. In the right environment, the disability reduces and [we] not only blossom but can fulfill [our] potential.”
It is not autism that needs to be cured, but our attitudes towards it.
And yes for those of you wondering- he is the first cousin of this guy 😉 :
Freshwater and saltwater fish, Windows Phones and iPhones, neurotypical and neurodiverse- these are all natural variants.
What makes one more desirable than another? Why should one be changed while the other stays the same?
At the end of the day, “normal” is subjective.
Autism is my normal-why would I ever want to change that?
No cure? No cure needed.
I may not want to change my brain, but hopefully I can help to change people’s perceptions of autism with this blog.
Autists may think in black and white, but autism itself is a spectrum of colour 🙂