Today an article about the 'over-diagnosis' of #autism was published in the @guardian in which the concept of neurodiversity was dismissed as a fad, a fashion, an empty philosophy. As someone who believes that the concept of neurodiversity is a valuable one, I must respond.
Neurodiversity is the name given to the conceptualisation of neurological differences being non-pathological. So, autism, adhd, OCD, dyslexia etc are simply varieties of neurology rather than diseases. This means that negative connotations about illness, disease, defect or deficit are stripped from the 'conditions', ostensibly allowing for a more balanced and neutral analysis and understanding that isn't unduly affected by historical biases. It means also, in practice, a more balanced view of living with #autism, #adhd and so forth - so those who are autistic can accept this about the fundamental aspects of their personality, perhaps gaining some peace of mind.
Though there are important non-autistic (neurotypical) advocates for this concept, such as @stevesilberman and his book 'Neurotribes', it is quite powerfully self-driven by the community - especially #autistic people. I see all of this as pretty positive.
Neurodiversity is controversial to some extent. Of course some people who are autistic or dyslexic or who suffer OCD may not feel they want to view things in this way. This is fine - go ahead. Unfortunately, however, it frequently goes way beyond this.
Today's @guardian article is typical of the criticism that Neurodiversity faces. Primarily: some autistic people can't self advocate; autism can ruin lives; autism is a disease and needs a cure; autism is caused by demonic possession (honestly - came across this recently). All of these things are, in my view, either outright wrong or simply too basic (I'm still on the fence about the demons...). But hey, each to their own. But no. It's not enough - instead there are focused, repeated attacks on the neurodiverse community.
For what? For having the temerity to find solace in positive, or neutral labelling? For being happy about some aspects of their condition? For being bloody optimistic?
It's hard to say for sure as many attacks, such as today's in the @guardian, target such obvious straw man arguments that it's impossible to determine what the actual problem is. There seems to be a belief that Neurodiversity is somehow elitist and doesn't encompass those with #autism who cannot speak, for example, or who are unable to live at all independently. This is the harshest possible interpretation.
Firstly, there's the obvious nonsense that people who can advocate shouldn't advocate because some can't advocate. Do you know where this leads? To no bloody advocation. That may suit some, but it doesn't sit easy with me.
Secondly, there is the ignoring of what we call co-morbid conditions. These are common with #autism and can make quality of life very poor and things difficult. But, it cannot proscribe those without these comorbids to speak about their experiences openly and positively.
Thirdly, there always seems to the implicit message (or explicit at times) that there are billions of freeloaders, pretending to be autistic. This is *particularly* hurtful but extremely commonplace, and it lies firmly in the heart of today's misguided article. Being autistic, as you may have gathered, is hard. I may have the capacity to bark at you all on twitter on a daily basis, but this doesn't mean I'm unaffected. It's a terrible daily struggle at times yet ultimately I *want* to make peace with it and find the positive within.
And if we autistic people who *can* share our experiences *don't*, where does that leave those who *can't* share? Suggesting that people who live this struggle are lying, or deluded, or wrong, is cruel. It's arrogant and its presumptive. There should be no space for such assertions in a newspaper of @guardian position.