Information on the Autistic Rights Movement,  alternative views on Autism Spectrum Disorders


Neurodiversity is an idea that asserts that atypical (neurodivergent) neurological development is a normal human difference that is to be tolerated and respected as any other human difference.[1] The concept of neurodiversity is embraced by some autistic individuals and people with related conditions, who believe that autism is not a disorder, but a part of their identity, so that curing autistic people would be the same as destroying their original personalities. Proponents prefer the term over such labels as "abnormal" and "disabled". Some groups apply the concept of neurodiversity to ADHD, developmental speech disorders as well as dyslexic, dyspraxic and hyperactive people.


History of the term

The earliest published use of the term appears in a New York Times article by Harvey Blume on September 30, 1998:[2]


“ Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment? Cybernetics and computer culture, for example, may favor a somewhat autistic cast of mind. ”


Previous to this, although Blume did not make explicit use of the term Neurodiversity, he wrote in a New York Times piece on June 30, 1997:[3]


“ Yet anyone who explores the subject on the Internet quickly discovers an altogether different side of autism. In cyberspace, many of the nation's autistics are doing the very thing the syndrome supposedly deters them from doing -- communicating. Yet, in trying to come to terms with an NT-dominated world, autistics are neither willing nor able to give up their own customs. Instead, they are proposing a new social compact, one emphasizing neurological pluralism.The consensus emerging from the Internet forums and Web sites where autistics congregate (...) is that NT is only one of many neurological configurations -- the dominant one certainly, but not necessarily the best.


Blume is also notable for his early public advocacy and prediction of the role the internet would play in fostering neurodiversity.[4]


“ There is a political dimension to this bond with the Internet. A project called CyberSpace 2000 is devoted to getting as many people as possible in the autism spectrum hooked up by the year 2000, reason being that "the Internet is an essential means for autistic people to improve their lives, because it is often the only way they can communicate effectively."
[ ... ] the community of autistics, which may not have matured and come to self-awareness without the Internet, presents the rest of us with a challenge.


The challenge we will all be increasingly confronted with, on-line and off, is, to look at ourselves differently than we have before, that is, to accept neurological diversity.


NT is only one way to be.”


The term mostly appears within the online autistic community, but its usage has spread to a more general meaning; for example, the Developmental Adult Neurodiversity Association (DANDA) in the UK encompasses developmental dyspraxia, ADHD, Asperger syndrome and related conditions.[5] Usage of the term has seen a boost with a 2004 New York Times article by Amy Harmon, "The Disability Movement Turns to Brains".[1]


Views on prejudice

This section does not cite any references or sources.
Please improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unverifiable material may be challenged and removed. (November 2007)


The term neurodiversity is usually used as a statement against alleged prejudice and bigotry towards sufferers of autism and other neurological disorders, which has been claimed to be the following by neurodiversity proponents:


Attempts to cure, medicate, institutionalize or force behavioral changes in autistics either against their will or without knowing their will.
References to the neuroanatomical differences of autistics as "abnormalities" or "damage".
Intolerant attitudes toward autistic behavior that may be perceived as odd or unusual.
Intolerance toward difficulties autistic people often have.
Discrimination against people for being autistic or because of autistic traits or behaviors.
Lack of accommodations for difficulties associated with autism.
Attitude that autistics are inferior to neurotypical people.
Belief that autism is a disease that needs to be cured or that there is something wrong with being autistic.
Institutions designed without consideration of autistics (for example: schools with heavy demand on social skills that may be hard for autistics).
Barriers to participation in society due to difficulties associated with autism that could have been accommodated (for example, a technically competent autistic person may lose a job because of social awkwardness or may never get past the interview stage).
Lack of protection for autistics in equal employment opportunity legislation.
Administration of drugs to children for minor conditions that won't affect their normal development such as ADHD.


Proponents and opponents

Please improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unverifiable material may be challenged and removed. (November 2007)


Many supporters of neurodiversity are anti-cure autistics, who are engaged in advocacy; some parents of autistic children also support neurodiversity. Such parents say they value their children's individuality and want to allow their children to develop naturally. For example, Morton Ann Gernsbacher is a parent of an autistic child and a psychology professor, who argues that autistics need acceptance, not a cure, and endorses the theory that autism cannot be separated from the person.[6] According to proponents, autistics may need therapies only to cure comorbid conditions, or to develop useful skills. Forcing autistics to act as desired, or trying get rid of autistic neurological wiring is condemned. The proponents think that if autistics face more difficulties in life, the source are the society's institutions and habits, not autism itself.


The arguments for considering autism and other conditions a form of neurodiversity (as opposed to true disorders) are the following:


It has not been demonstrated that autistic behavior, in all or most cases, has a cause that is pathological in nature.
Autism is about as heritable as personality or IQ.

The genetic variations (or alleles) that account for the autism genotype have not been shown to be pathogenic, and in fact, some of the gene loci identified so far are prevalent in the general population. Even if a genetic variation is a rare mutation, that in itself does not imply pathology.
Some autistics report that they like being autistic, or that autism confers them with a special way of looking at the world, or a special talent, claiming that autism "is a beautiful thing." This is inconsistent with the way most pathologies are perceived by sufferers.

Autism is not life-threatening in general, as the life expectancy of autistics is about the same as that of neurotypicals.

Because autistic people usually have some challenges in life, there are some people who think finding a cure for autism would be in the best interest of autistics. These people believe a cure for autism is the best way to solve the problems of autistics, and see it as unfair and inappropriate to characterize the desire to cure autism as bigotry. At issue is whether autism, ADHD and other conditions are true disorders or better explained as neurodiversity. The term has not been addressed much in the scientific literature; as of 2007, no reference to the term appears in the Medline index.



1 Harmon, Amy. Neurodiversity Forever; The Disability Movement Turns to Brains. The New York Times, May 9, 2004. Retrieved on 2007-11-08.
2 Blume, Harvey. "Neurodiversity", The Atlantic, September 30, 1998. Retrieved on 2007-11-07.
3 Blume, Harvey. "Autistics, freed from face-to-face encounters, are communicating in cyberspace", The New York Times, June 30, 1997. Retrieved on 2007-11-08.
4 Blume, Harvey (July 1, 1997). "Autism & The Internet" or "It's The Wiring, Stupid". Media In Transition, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved on 2007-11-08.
5 Home page. DANDA. Retrieved on 2007-11-08
6 Gernsbacher, Morton Ann. "Autistics Need Acceptance, Not Cure"., April 24, 2004. Retrieved on 2 February 2007.


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Many in the autism rights movement prefer to not be seen as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder, but as simply being different, especially groups such as Aspies for Freedom