Tuesday 21 May 2019

NeuroWars??? What NeuroWars?

There are no NeuroWars as far as I can see.

There are however, fringe skirmishes in the borderlands.

On the one extreme, we have a handful of “Rainbow People”  who,  it seems to me, want to define “Autism” as whatever it is that they like about themselves. And who want to expunge the word “severe” from the lexicon.

Rising up against them in inevitable reaction, come a handful of "Angry Young Men" (OK, not all men, and maybe not all young, but I couldn't think of a better phrase) who storm against the idea of Neurodiversity. Again, just my perception, they seem to want to leverage the real hardships associated with autism for their own emotional need for recognition. 

Each feels silenced by the other. But they are both factions of the Neurodiversity Movement whether they like it or not, part of the evolving dialogue.

Although both have sides have given me a hard time, I am grateful to them because they define the boundaries of the discourse and help me to critically examine, refine and clarify my thinking.

We all need recognition. Most of us have suffered exclusion,  humiliation and disadvantage as a result of our misunderestimated (sic)* neurodivergent traits.

It's not surprising that our coping mechanisms range from rainbow-washing to storming. But..

There can be no rainbows without storms
nor light without dark

Most of us occupy the centre

We simply want more understanding, acceptance and accommodation of
the absolute wonder that is human diversity.

Both sides imagine they are fighting for a bigger share of the same small piece of pie.

That pie is imaginary, folks!

Our Western nations are actually immensely wealthy, creative and adaptive. There is enough for everyone as long as everyone gets a fair share.

We can work together to add more ingredients and make
a Bigger and Better Pie


 * Misunderestimate (v): to underestimate someone because you misperceive them
What a fabulous word! 
As a lover of neologisms, I reckon this perfectly sums up how neurodivergent people have been viewed for far too long. Without a doubt, George W. Bush's greatest contribution to posterity. 

Tuesday 7 May 2019

Why I don't identify as #ActuallyAutistic

I have an official diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome
3 generations
But I don’t identify as #ActuallyAutistic 

I have described myself as being “in the middle of three generations of women somewhere on the Autistic Spectrum”

This is as much as I will commit to, as I don't want to be pigeonholed into any particular views

I find that #ActuallyAutistic lacks both the specificity and the authority that the word "Actually" implies

I'll leave it at that for now, but hope to learn more when I get to the UK

I am aware that the word "Actually" may have different connotations for Britons than it does for Australians.

But here is how I described myself in my thesis, "Odd People In" in which I used the word Neurodiversity for the first time. 

There is one sentence in particular that I have redacted and wish I hadn't written.  I intended to be ironic, but its raw bitterness does show that I never thought autism was the benign difference some want to make it out to be.

Situating myself (p22, Odd People In)

My answer is complex:
·      A locus of the historical forces of ethnicity, class, disability, and gender of course.
·      A partial self, always in the act of inventing itself.
·      A moving point on a sliding scale between free will and neurological determinism, between essentialism and social constructionism.
·      The daughter of a woman with Asperger’s syndrome.
·      The mother of a daughter with Asperger’s syndrome.
·      “Somewhere on the spectrum” myself, somewhere between low-functioning normate under-achiever, and high-functioning autistic survivor-against-impossible-odds.  And a bemused observer fascinated with this latest classificatory schema imposed on an infinitely complex reality.
·      Deeply ambivalent as I live out the contradiction between feeling the victim of my mother’s deficit, and yet wanting to be the protector of my daughter’s right to difference. A contradiction that doesn’t automatically lead to an altruistic politics. 
·      Deeply ambivalent as I live out the contradiction between feeling the victim of my mother’s deficit, and yet wanting to be the protector of my daughter’s right to difference*. A contradiction that doesn’t automatically lead to an altruistic politics. XXX XX XXXXX XXXXXXX XX XXX XXXXXXX XXX XXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXX XXXX XXX XX XX X XXX XXXXX.
·      Somewhere between a divine spark embedded in universe full of meaning and purpose, and a biological machine, engineered by the purposeless but necessary operations of physical laws.

*   The autobiographical chapter following should make this point more understandable

Wednesday 1 May 2019

Video greetings to Montreal Neurodiversité book launch

My greetings from Sydney to the Montreal Neurodiversité Collectif's launch of their book Neurodiversity: 20th Anniversary of the birth of the concept

My first attempt at making a video!

The book is collection of essays by the speakers at their 2018 conference celebrating that anniversary. It features an introduction by Steve Silberman, author of Neurotribes, and chapters by Joel Monzée, Josef Schovanec, Melanie Ouimet and myself.

My chapter in the book is titled Reflections on the NeuroDiversity Movement 20 years on

You can order either French or English versions of the book at https://etsy.com/ca-fr/listing/701221413/neurodiversity-20th-anniversary-of-the?ref=shop_home_active_4&frs=1

Pre-order English copies of La NeuroDiversité book

Congrats to Melanie, Alexandre, Lucille, Matthieu and the rest of the Montreal-based La NeuroDiversité Collectif for the launch of this collection!


The book is available in both French and English and features essays by speakers at the Montreal World Neurodiversity Day Conference 2018 celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the birth of the concept.

The book includes an introduction by Steve Silberman and my chapter Refections on the Neurodiversity Movement 20 years on, amongst articles by prominent francophone autism advocates.
Can't wait to read the other writers in English! My Franglais was not up to the task of following their presentations.