There’s a new word floating around that is being used to help describe people on the Autism spectrum. Neurodiversity is being pushed to describe developmental differences in children and adults. The hope is that by relabeling those on the Autism spectrum it will level the playing field and create a wider range of acceptance further changing the negative, debilitating stigma often associated with autism.
According to an article on Neurodiversityhub.org, 1 in 10 people are “Neurodivergent”. Although there is broad diversity across the population, some individuals are affected by neurological differences that make it particularly challenging for their communication, self-expression and interactions with others. These neurological differences include autism (ASD), Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and tics. The environments within which these individuals learn, work and live can either facilitate or inhibit their growth and development.
Further research into the word uncovers the ‘neuro-diversity movement’. This centers on the premise that Autism is not a disease or disorder of the brain, but is rather an alternative form of brain wiring. Advocates of ‘neurodiversity’ believe that to be autistic is just to be different, like being a woman rather than a man. The movement opposes a cure for autism because why would you need to cure something that’s just another valid way of being human?
Many parents of autistic persons and some autistic persons themselves have expressed a desire for a cure for autism. This causes outrage among neurodiversity proponents. The only cure we need, they say, is an end to discrimination, which would solve, or at least greatly mitigate, the challenges and poor outcomes accompanying autism. In the U.S. a law was passed by Congress to help those with Autism and their families. It was called the Combating Autism Act. Neuro Diversity proponents were outraged at the notion of being “Combated”, so they took to twitter and created the hashtag #dontcombatme. As a result the law was changed to the less offensive Autism Cares (Autism collaboration, Accountability, Resources, Education and Support) Act. There was also the creation of a governing body called the IAAC (Interagency Autism Coordination Committee) which advises the federal government on autism policy.
I reached out to two friends of mine who have children with autism to see how they felt. Both agree that there is no “cure” and education of the general public is what is more important. One parent who has 3 children with Autism stated “As an adult we look for a cause, reason, cure… but children don’t. Education is the cure. I have never understood why “fixing something” is more important than adapting to one’s needs. It’s not hard, and is selfless vs a selfish kind of thing perhaps.” The other parent who has 5 children but only 1 with Autism stated that her child is “merely wired different and she would not dare change them or try anything that would make them any different than how they are right now”. When asked how she would feel if the child decided to try something deemed a cure when they are an adult she stated that “although it is the persons choice to try anything they deem necessary to have a happy and successful life, she would be firmly against it. How can this world grow and evolve if we try to normalize or change the things that make us different and beautiful?”
This is clearly a hot button topic among proponents on both sides with true merit and logic being brought forth from all involved. We would like to hear from you. Where do you stand on this topic? Do you know someone with Autism? How do they feel about this?