Tuesday 14 March 2023

How NOT to define Neurodiversity:

The words Normal and Natural 
have no place in the Neurodiversity Paradigm 

Well-meaning but misguided...

I am appalled to find that the influential journal, Psychology Today, has adopted the above misconceived definition of Neurodiversity disseminated by Stanford University psychiatrist, Professor Lawrence Fung. And that it has been "approved" by a host of their in-house "experts". 

Before proceeding please see my Official Definition of Neurodiversity 

My concept of Neurodiversity was intended to wrest "Neurological Disorders" from the exclusive ownership of the Psycho-Medical professions, to the extent that they practiced under the mindset of what we called the Medical Model of Disability, the idea that disability is located in the body of a contextless individual. Since the 1980s, disabled thinkers and activists, such as Michael Oliver and Lennard, challenged this one-sided model with a Social Constructionist Model. This balanced view sees Disability as part genetic and part constructed by a given society's assumptions, enablers and barriers. e.g. Western societies tend to demand eye-contact, thus stigmatizing many Autistics.Other Societies proscribe it in certain situations: e.g. Indigenous Australians, Ultra-Orthodox Jews. 

Let me make clear: I have huge respect for the psycho-medical professionals. I could not live without my doctors, my medications or my regular sessions with my psychologists, physios, pharmacists, dentists, and other ancillary professions. Why else would I spend about $8,000 per annum on their respective services? And that's after Medicare rebates! How else would I still be alive to harangue you all in my70s? I cannot help observing however, that while psychiatrists are at the top of the tree when it comes to prestige and income, I have found them the least knowledgable and helpful when it comes to understanding neurodivergent conditions. 

So, my intention was to balance the Medical Model with the a Social Model which frames Disability in the context of the intersections of class, gender, socio-economic status, disability, age, etc and gives voice to us as patients, clients, consumers. That is all. 

I know that Dr Fung does great work at Stanford University to afford practical help neurodivergent people. 

But he has no right to redefine "Neurodiversity", which he clearly does not understand. 

Not only is his definition a one way route back to the old Medical Model that wants to define ND in terms of individual "brains" devoid of social context, but it beggars belief that a professor in a science-based profession does not understand basic statistics. Surely...

IF everything is NORMAL, then NORMAL has NO meaning!

Increasingly I am finding that the Psycho-Medical professions are trying to corrall the concept of Neurodiversity back under their own sphere of influence. 

Not that I think they have bad intent. Instead, they suffer from "When-all-you-have-is-a-hammer, everything-looks-like-a-nail" syndrome. 

So, when all you have is psycho-medical training, everything looks like a psycho-medical problem.
Meanwhile the general public and the media are awed by psycho-medical authority. Not unwarranted by any means, as I have referred to above. It's just that Neurodiversity is not a Medical Problem. 

Neurodiversity, like Biodiversity, refers to the degree of variability of a specific variable in a specific location. In the case of  Neurodiversity, it refers to the entire human population of the location called Earth. 

Its usage, as I defined it, was simply to name a Social Movement for people who were misdiagnosed, misunderstood and marginalised by categories invented by the Psycho-Medical Model which aligned itself very much with the needs of the 20th century capitalist economy for a standardised, obedient work force. My intent was  
  1. to broaden the scope of "Disability", which, in 1990s only included 3 categories:
    1. Physical
    2. Intellectual 
    3. Mental Illness (which included everything else that the medical profession didn't understand)
Clearly another category was needed: Neurodivergences is not "mental illness" even though many of us may have been rendered mentally ill by punitive attempts to "normalise us", and by stigma, exclusion, ridicule and discrimination. 

      2.  to ensure that Neurodiversity was always contextualized by what we now call Intersectionality

For those who get histerical* (sic) about "Identity" politics, btw,  suggest to them that they should refuse to fill in their National Census, because if will ask them for their:

Ethnicity | Sex or Gender|  Disability | Class aka Socio-Economic Status| Age etc

These intersectional categories determine our degree of privilege or disadvantage. They have always been tools of government who represent society's attempt at distributive justice, ie "who gets what" support in society. 

So let's keep Neurodiversity as a banner term for our Activist Movement
by Neurodivergents for Neurodivergents!

* You don't have to have a womb to get irrationally angry