Neurodiversity: Definition and Discussion

Judy Singer's Official Definition of Neurodiversity ©

Creative Commons LicenseContent created on this website by Judy Singer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

NOTE: There is a perception that I am some kind of "Social Model" fundamentalist against the "Medical Model". Those who read my book know that I critiqued aspects of both, and I am for striking a balance between the two extremes. 


CONTENTS

Please scroll down to find 

1. The Minimalist Definition
2. A more detail definition
3. Indepth discussion of concept

Apologies if there are overlaps or even contradictions between the 3 sections as this is an ongoing work. The Minimalist definition contains my latest thoughts, in response to some critiques that I have not made the distinction between ND as Biology and ND as Sociology clear. 

MINIMALIST DEFINITION


Prerequisite knowledge


Diversity (n):       a measurement of the the degree of variability in a specific location

Neuro- (prefix):   of the nervous system

Nervous system:
    1. Biological: Brain, Spinal Cord and Nerves
    2. Socio-Biological: a complex continuously evolving system influenced by external sensory input: perception and learning

Neurodiversity (n): 

 A biological truism that refers to the limitless variability of human nervous systems on the planet, in which no two can ever be exactly alike due to the influence of environmental factors

  • Usage
    • encompasses ALL Humanity 
    • is an advocacy term to name the Neurodiversity Movement, a civil rights movement for psycho-medically labelled minorities and their allies
    • is a category of  the intersectional factors that define advantage or disadvantage that 
  • Misusage: 
    • Does not mean "Neurological Disability" or "Otherness" 
    • Is not a diagnosis
    • Is not a descriptor of genomes

    Literally, the term refers to all beings with a nervous system, but since I coined it for a human rights advocacy purpose, I limited it to Homo Sapiens. The term Biodiversity covers the rest.

Neurodiverse (adj)  describes a space, not a person


Preferably don't use it. Use Neurodivergent/Distinct/Minority etc.
Neurodiverse is literally an "unreal word" in the same sense as an "unreal number", since every location that has more than one individual in it is "Neurodiverse".
However since the word has been widely adopted as an identity, and has no other usage,  and people who identify thus find it useful, I reluctantly accept this usage
  • Misuse 
    • Does not mean "Neurologically Disabled"

Neurominority (noun or adj) 

Neurominority is my preferred term for people with medically labelled conditions, since Neurodiversity names an activist concept. Using the minority label prevents the movement being reabsorbed into the ownership of the Psycho-Medical Complex


The Neurodiversity Movement

Is a continuously evolving public discourse, discussion or debate that aims to improve the status of Neurominorities. Anybody who engages in the discourse, whether they are "For" or "Against" the Movement ARE the Movement

The Movement has achieved massive social change without a central organisation, a hierarchical leader or an official spokesperson.

Inevitably we are seeing the rise of  business entities who have attempted to claim a global leadership role within the movement. They are also part of the movement but I urge scepticism in another article of my blog titled: Is the Neurodiversity Movement being colonised? 

Misusage

There is no place for the words "Normal" or "Natural" in definitions of Neurodiversity because:
  1. The word Natural  is redundant.
     "Neurodiversity" is simply an authoritative-sounding synonym for ALL "Humanity". We are clearly all a part ot Nature. 

  2. Despite the good intentions of  Neurodiversity activists, Natural does not mean"Benign" or "Good". 
    This is absurd. Nature is an amoral agent sometimes described as "red in tooth and claw", which weeds out anything that can't adapt to its environment. Humans are not inherently good: the dark triad of Psychopathy, Narcissism and Sadism are also part of Humanity and therefore Neurodiversity. It is humans who are moral, and it is our duty to create a benevolent niche for everybody. That is where the Neurodiversity Movement which I intended to name came in. 

  3. The word "Normal" evolved from Eugenics to separate Normal "Us" from  Abnormal"Them". Its intent is pejorative. 

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How to cite the concept


The term Neurodiversity was first theorised and published in a 1998 Sociology Honours thesis presented to the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) by Judy Singer who identified as being "being the middle of 3 generations of women on the Austistic Spectrum". The thesis, was based on her participant observation of online egroups within the Autistic Self-Advocacy Movement. It had the title


Odd People In:
The Birth of Community Amongst People on the “Autistic Spectrum”
A personal exploration of a New Social Movement based on Neurological Diversity

A full version of the thesis is republished within her short form book, Neurodiversity: the Birth of an Idea

More detailed definition 

What Neurodiversity is

Neurodiversity is a subset of Biodiversity
Just as Biodiversity refers to ALL the species in a specific location or ecosystem, Neurodiversity refers to ALL Humans (the species Homo Sapiens) in a specific location, the Planet Earth. 

Just as Biodiversity was coined for a political purpose, to advocate for the conservation of the environment, I intended the term Neurodiversity specifically for an advocacy purpose: 
  1. Implicitly to suggest a Banner or Umbrella term for an emerging Human Rights Movement based on the pioneering work of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Movement which was being joined by other Neurological Minorities with medically-labelled conditions such as ADHD, the "Dys"abilities andTourette's Syndrome  . 
  2. To add Neurodiversity to the intersectional categories of  Class, Disability, Ethnicity, Gender,  since Disability" was limited inadequately to "Physical Disability, Intellectual Disability" and "Mental Illness".
Original thesis description: A political term to add to Intersectionality


What Neurodiversity is NOT

Since "Diversity" does not mean "Disability"
  1. Neurodiversity is NOT a synonym for "Neurological Disability". 
  2. Neurodiverse refers to a place, not an individual.
Some advocates want to insist that an individual can be neurodiverse in themselves, because they have different tendancies. This is also absurd unless they have more than one individual nervous system in their bodies. And also it would be a reversion to the medical model of disability. 

Caveats

If a member of the general public wishes to call themselves "neurodiverse", they should not be corrected. But professionals and academics should get this right. Please read the indepth discussion below. 

In my thesis, I made clear that I was only referring to what was then known as Asperger's Syndrome, as I had no experience of Classical Autism. 

In retrospect, I realise that Aspergers Syndrome shades from an Identity to a Disability. I believe the  blame for the current "Autism Conflicts" rests on the shoulders of the powerful American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of  Mental Disorders, (DSM V) for its fiat of rolling the two together without listening to the objections of either the Aspergers or Autistic Communities. 

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Indepth Discussion of Concept


Spurred by the environmental disaster of Australia's bushfire season, and now by the coronavirus pandemic, I have updated my concept of Neurodiversity to emphasise its place within Biodiversity.

In times of loss of diversity, threat of economic collapse, and increased competition for scarce resources, we need a strong argument against a primitive "survival of the fittest"  fortress mentality against "outsiders", however they are defined.

Until recently, the sanctity of all human life in Western culture was underpinned, however imperfectly, by Judaeo-Christian belief in divine command.

With belief in divine authority waning, we need a convincing new argument for the sanctity of all lives to counter the inhuman logic of economic rationalism which forever teeters over an eugenic abyss.

Perhaps the idea of respect for Biodiversity and its subset Neurodiversity
as the very foundation of the stability 
of our floating global home provides that argument

But first, what is Diversity anyway? 

It is surprising difficult to find a definition of the concept of Diversity, let alone Neurodiversity. No wonder the public is confused 

It all becomes much clearer when you realise that Diversity is a measurement of  the degree of variability of a given variable in a given population or place

It is NOT a characteristic of the individuals in that population

It is measured by terms like high/medium/low degrees of diversity. Think Rainforest/ Desert/ Planet/ City/ Nation etc


The elements can be anything that varies: flora, fauna, objects, humans 

The place can be
  • the planet, the biosphere, an ecosystem, a habitat
  • a nation, a village, a tribe,
  • a school, a workplace etc

Neurodiversity is thus a property of the human population of Earth

While Neurodiversity itself is just an indisputable fact about the planet, the Neurodiversity Movement is something else again.

It is built on the idea that just as conserving biodiversity is necessary for a sustainable, flourishing planet, so respecting neurodiversity is necessary for a sustainable, flourishing human society. 

Neurodiversity is a subset of Biodiversity

Biodiversity

  • is a feature of Earth and its ecosystems
  • refers to the total diversity of species that inhabit the planet or its local ecosystems
  • was coined in the 1980s as a political term to argue for the conservation of species
Neurodiversity 

     
  • is a feature of Earth as a whole, since humans have colonized all Earth's ecosystems 
  • refers specifically to the limitless variability of human cognition and the uniqueness of each human mind
  • was coined, I believe, by myself in the 1990s, as a political term to argue for the importance of including all neurotypes for a thriving human society
Both are descriptors of environments and not of individual species, of which humans are just one

Is Neurodiversity a scientific term?

No, it's a political term

Some critics of the Neurodiversity movement like to scoff that "Neurodiversity" is not a scientific term. It should be clear from the above that it was never intended to be. It simply names an indisputable fact about our planet, that no two human minds are exactly alike, and uses it to name a paradigm for social change.

My idea was based on a recognition that the Autistic Self-Advocacy Movement was shaping up to be the last great identity politics movement to emerge from the modernist era. I hoped it would follow in the footsteps of the Women's and Gay/Lesbian Movements. What all these movements had in common was that their members were misunderstood, devalued and treated as second class citizens at best. At worst, villified and abused. The Womens and Gay Movements had changed the world, and now it was the turn of people "on the autistic spectrum". At the same time, it was clear that other groups of people with, as far as I knew then, ADHD and the "Dys"es, were also in the same boat, and new coalitions were bound to emerge. The new movement I imagined would need a catchy name. My thesis was subtitled "A personal exploration of a new social movement based on Neurological Diversity" But "The Neurological Diversity Movement" was too much of a mouthful. That's when I had an Aha! moment: Why not "A Neurodiversity Movement"?

I did not actually use the exact phrase as I never dreamed the idea would take off. But it is clear from what I wrote below that I intended the word to be added to the categories of what we now call "Intersectionality", or the intersections of class, race, gender and disability. Intersectionality itself is a tool of social analysis.



In summary, my original conception of Neurodiversity was as 

  • an addition to the categories of intersectionality
    thus an analytical lens for examining social issues such as inequity and discrimination 
  • an umbrella term as a possible name for a civil rights movement for the neurological minorities beginning to coalesce around the pioneering work of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Movement

"Neurodiversity" is NOT a diagnosis!

Every heard the phrase "People with Neurodiversity"? About as absurd as "Josephina Bloggs has come down with a bad case of Neurodiversity", Just don't. 

"Neurodiverse" is NOT a diagnosis either

We are ALL Neurodiverse because no two humans on the planet are exactly alike 
Our planet has a neurodiverse population
If you are an employer, for example,  you can talk about a neurodiverse environment eg. a workplace or team, if you mean that you consciously seek to increase the neurodiversity of your workplace, because it makes good business sense
But you can't say that Worker A is "neurodiverse" while Worker B is not. 
However,  if Worker A has identified themselves with a specific syndrome, e.g. Autism, they can be called "autistic". But they are no more neurodiverse than anyone else on the planet



Do not use Neurodiversity as a scalpel
for dividing "Us" from "Them"



The NeuroDiversity Movement

is an umbrella term used to advocate for the common interests of various neurological minorities, as were originally described and differentiated by the 20th century Psycho-Medical Complex

The movement grew out of the pioneering work of the Autistic Self-Advocacy movement and its allies

It is an evolving, decentralized and leaderless social movement

The idea of a NeuroDiversity Movement is a memetic phenomenon, a cultural idea that is reproduced virally by the action of all those who engage with the concept. This includes those who speak out against it - whether they like it or not! To understand why, see Richard Dawkins' original Meme Theory

The movement's aims evolve dialectically, that is, its boundaries are fuzzy and represent the locus of debate and discussion by those who engage with it

Despite there being no official definition or spokesperson for the movement, its consensual aims can be discerned. They are to:
  • shift mainstream perceptions of marginalized NeuroMinorities
  • replace negative, deficit-based stereotypes of NeuroMinorities with a more balanced valuation of their gifts and needs
  • find valued roles for neurologically marginalized people
  • show that all society benefits from the incorporation of NeuroMinorities.


Fundamental Principles


Neurodiversity
is a term that refers to an obvious and indisputable feature of Earth's biosphere

Neurodiversity refers to the virtually infinite neuro-cognitive variability within Earth’s human population.  It points to the fact that every human has a unique nervous system with a unique combination of abilities and needs.

Neurodiversity is a subset of Biodiversity, a term mostly used for the purpose of advocating for the conservation of species

Biodiversity posits that human self-interest requires the conservation of all species irrespective of their perceived utility or attractiveness to humans. This is based on the postulate that:

  • the greater the biodiversity within an ecosystem, the more stable, adaptable and sustainable 
    that system is
  • ecosystems are interlinked in complex ways that affect all life, including human life

It follows that the more Neurodiversity is respected and facilitated within a culture, the more stable, adaptable and sustainable that culture is

The Neurodiversity Movement arose in the post-modern era of the late 20th century as a new kind of  civil rights movement.

The term Neurodiversity in its political form caught on because it captures the authority of both environmental science and neuroscience to replace the purely negative and unbalanced characterization of neurological minorities by the 20th century Psycho-Medical Complex

ALL humans are neurodiverse, because each one of us has a unique brain, comprised of our genetic heritage (Nature) and cultural and experiential recordings (Nurture). Thus it can be seen that Neurodiversity is simply a catchy name  for "Human Nature". This reminds us that there is an environmental basis for respecting the variability of cognitive differences, both abilities and disabilities.

Neurodiversity is a morally neutral term. It does not say that all people are inherently good, nor that nature is benign

Neurodiversity pertains to the planet, but morality pertains to the human mind. It behoves us to look deeply and thoughtfully at ourselves and others. 

Neurodiversity changes nothing about Human Nature but gives us a new lens for examining it


Neurodiversity as a conservation issue


It is important to locate Neurodiversity within the wider picture of Biodiversity

Why is biodiversity important? 


Biodiversity refers to the incalculable variety of life on Earth and its ecosystems and habitats. A high level of biodiversity within an ecosystem is considered desirable and necessary for an ecosystem to thrive. The term was coined with a political aim, the conservation of all species not just those species that humans value.

From a purely selfish anthropocentric viewpoint, 


Why is Neurodiversity important for all humanity, not just for neurodivergent people?

As a subset of biodiversity, Neurodiversity is as important for a viable culture as biodiversity is for a viable ecosystem.

Any reduction of biodiversity results in a less stable and self-sustaining environment. Complex ecosystems are self-healing over time, being able to select from a vast diversity of genes. But the phenomenon of desertification shows that there is a tipping point beyond which there is no return.

Consider the risks and benefits of human-imposed monocultures in agriculture. Yes, there are efficiency to humanity in efficiency, but consider the maintenance costs:  disease, pests, degradation of  soil, and constant labour and vigilance.

Obviously a human monoculture is not about to emerge any time soon. It's not technologically feasible, although it cannot stop the march of science, whether we like it or not.

The dream of some for a genetically engineered cure for autism is unlikely to happen - the condition is simply not down to a single set of genes.

The more sinister dream is a totalitarian Social Darwinist vision (based on a misconception of evolutionary theory) which seeks to minimize or even extinguish human diversity. It manifests as: 
  • Racism: the dream of excluding minority ethnic groups from equal opportunity and power, and ultimately of enslaving and even annihilating them 
  • Sexism: the dream of excluding women from equal opportunity and returning them as men's handmaidens
  • Homophobia: the dream of reverting to an imagined state of nature in which only heterosexuality exists
  • Eugenic euthanasia: the dream of eliminating disabled people
  • Ideological censorship: the totalitarian dream of eliminating diversity of opinion
Germany's Nazis turned Europe into a laboratory of evil for a monstrous "Social Darwinist" experiment by trying to turn this fantasy into a reality and create an Aryan Master Race. In the end, it rebounded on Germany. Nearly as many "Aryans" ended up dying as the Jewish and Rom peoples that the Nazis had tried to exterminate (the Nazi's shameless word, not mine). 
Slight divergence: Have we learned anything from this? Or are our means simply becoming more subtle? Are cutbacks in welfare for minorities a back-door form of genocide by neglect?  But that's a topic for another article...

Neurodiversity as a Conservation issue?  

I developed the term Neurodiversity for a political purpose, which I now see in more broad conservationist terms than the identity politics terms I originally thought of. I have written elsewhere about the limitations of Identity Politics beyond its initial consciousness-raising phase.

In  biological terms, Neurodiversity is about the conservation and revaluing of neuro-cognitive minorities within the planet’s dominant species, Homo Sapiens. The Latin derivation of Homo Sapiens is "Wise Human", affirming that what differentiates humans from other species is the possession of a  highly developed brain

In order for a species to flourish, we must protect its habitat. Even more so for endangered species, which need extra resources to regenerate their habitats and may need individual support.

Similarly, in order for humanity to flourish, we must protect and create safe habitats for minority cultures, whether indigenous, displaced, disabled, impoverished, queer, aged and so on. For disability and neurological minorities,  additional resources must be supplied from the taxes of the majority so that neuro-minorities can flourish and make their contribution to society.

But there is a rub: 
Nature is beautiful but also "red in tooth and claw"


The Dark Side of Neurodiversity

Nature may be beautiful but it is amoral.

Nature simply generates variety. It is a given habitat which determines whether an organism will find its niche and thrive, survive or perish in that habitat.

Not all mutations are positive.  Nature will rapidly eliminate any mutation that doesn't fit its habitat.

Similarly, Neurodiversity is a positive principle, but it is NOT a moral principle.

It has nothing to say about Good vs Evil, Fit vs Unfit, Different vs Disabled

In nature, things either survive to pass on their genes, or they don't.

We should not be blind to the reality that Neurodiversity includes anti-social categories like the "Dark Tetrad":  Psychopathy, Narcissism, Machieavellianism and Sadism. In certain situations, and within limits they have social value, boldness, confidence, will to achieve, but they confer an unfair advantage for those who are able to charm, beguile and hide anti-social, self-aggrandizing aims, 

If we are going to create Neurodiverse Workplaces, it includes a responsibility to assess such behaviours which are often found in people in leadership positions, to ensure that all are protected from the negative aspects.

Sure, there is a niche for everyone, but for some it must be protective custody, though much more humanely administered than our current penal systems

If some of this is beginning to sound like an argument for eugenics, don't panic! Read on and find out why not.

Neurodiversity and Eugenics

While Nature is amoral and red in tooth and claw, human civilization is not.

However clumsily,  Homo Sapiens continues to evolve towards true wisdom, which at heart is ethical and just. Civilization depends on it. The horror of the Nazi holocaust against ethnic and disabled minorities, which ultimately consumed even mainstream Germans, taught us that we will destroy each other if we choose to eliminate rather than accommodate ALL humans.

Therefore it is society's responsibility to provide a niche for all humans, not just as a matter of ethics, but also of self-interest, as attested by the powerful post-war German poem, "First they came...''. 

Fortunately, as a species, we have a genius for 
creating new niches, new spaces and new ideas.

For those who must see things in economic rather than moral terms,  it is to our economic benefit to create spaces where disabled people can flourish. This is an economic activity which creates jobs and wealth for all the caring professions and all those who support them - the administrators, the designers, and so on.

Win-win!

At the same time, we all have the responsibility of restraining our excessive consumption “to live simply so that others may simply live”.

An afterthought: Neurodiversity and Difference vs Disability.

Early commentators have urged me to say something about this vexed question

As I noted above, Nature, or Neurodiversity doesn't distinguish between Difference and Disability. That is a human concept, within a specific cultural context.

Indeed, the notion of "Disability" as it is currently understood is an artefact of western welfare systems. Is is a means of separating The Worthy Poor (those classified as disabled by the medical profession) from the The Unworthy Poor (those without a diagnosis). Those considered worthy then may get a dole, while the unworthy are punished and frequently vilified. This goes deep. Even today, while society has evolved to the point where we rightly condemn vilification of ethnic, gender, and disabled minorities, it is always open season on "The" Unemployed.

This word Disability is tricky! And has many different definitions depending on who you ask.
Ask yourself what you mean by it before condemning other people's opinions. Do you mean the Welfare System's definition? Do you mean your personal experience of disability? Are you differently affected depending on whether you are poor, breaking even, or wealthy?  Are you talking about pain and suffering? Are you talking about time you have to give up from other pursuits as a carer? You can think of other questions.

The future of Neurodiversity


Neurodiversity has been a world changing idea. It will continue to be of importance as long as Neuroscience is considered the ultimate authority on the capabilities of the human nervous system, and as long as we retain an environmentalist perspective on the importance of diversity. 

Its meaning will continue to evolve as part of a dialectical process of change. Any world-changing idea (thesis) will be incomplete, will polarise people, will engender opposition and critique (antithesis). This is a good thing. After all the debate and discussion, a new synthesis will emerge, which will then be further refined and so on...




If you are reading this, you are creating the future of Neurodiversity

It's up to all of us!




Note for readers and commentors

Science and social science progress through critique and the dialectic process. I value and am stimulated by constructive criticism. This is a work in progress, somewhat like life itself, and my ideas are constantly evolving. If you have constructive suggestions and criticisms I would love to hear them, either here o on twitter @singer_judy


Please share and discuss on social media if you value this work

Given limited time and energy, I regret I may not be able to respond individually.

 Attributions and Copyright

OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay: Umbrella, Magnifying Glass
Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay: Scalpel, Planet Earth
Piqsels.com public domain: Doctor showing brain image
The Five Kingdoms, adapted by me as an image of Biodiversity is licenced at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ but appears to be in the public domain

All other images by me including remixes of the above are licenced thus. It basically means you can share them and adapt them but you must attribute me, and use the same Creative Commons Licence

Creative Commons License
Content created on this website by Judy Singer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://neurodiversity2.blogspot.com/p/copyright.html.





38 comments:

Christoffer de Graal said...

Horayee, horayee horayee. Thank you Judy, very much, for your clarity, in writing this.

ABSOLUTELY *NO* to Neurodiversity being used as separatist term .. of a new kind of labelling for 'hidden disability', old school medical model.

SO important to keep clarity on this and not that support a subtle but powerful societal and institutional discrimination.

It would be unthinkable to have cultural diversity as a label for non-white people... that would be going backwards.

It is similarly not ok to do this for Neurodiversity. - if Neurodiverisity covers the whole range of human variation - it needs tobe be, clearly, that.

Sharman said...

Thank you for this blog post Judy. I feel I have most likely been using the ND term indiscriminately and perhaps not promoting the clarity which you express here. I first heard the term quoted by DANDA and the late Mary Colley who worked so hard to support adults with a broad range of challenges and liked its inclusiveness. I will continue to enjoy watching the emergence of discussion and dialogue. Best wishes, Sharman

Frazzle said...

Judy
Thank you for clarifying your intent behind the term ‘neurodiversity’, and for driving this agenda.

I have used this term differently because I was introduced to it in a different way, I meant no harm in using it to represent myself and others. Only to show pride that my brain is wired differently.

The issue with words and labels, is that within cultural terms you can not keep them pure, as everyone will see them from a different angle or with different lens. I can understand the frustration being the creator, and I hope I don’t offend, in the same way that other movements have taken a word and used it to identify or unify a group for good. I think this should be celebrated, I belong to a neurotribe, I celebrate my difference as a strength, and I disagree that the term will ever be corrupted to be a negative. As the movement has a real passion to change the discourse for the positive
Jenny

Judy Singer said...

Hi Jenny and Sharman

I have admitted in an article at https://www.geniuswithin.co.uk/blog/theres-a-lot-in-a-name-diversity-vs-divergence/ that I understand that words evolve according to the social forces that play upon them.

So if the words "neurodiversity" and "neurodiverse" fall into popular usage as synonyms for "neurological disability" and "neurologically disabled" but are used to create a better world, who am I to quibble?

I can put my oar in for a nuanced usage, but only time will tell whether "neurodiverse" will go the way of "handicapped", "disabled", "neurologically challenged" and other well-meaning words that soon became tarnished by stigma.

In any case, it is becoming increasingly obvious that I have lost this particular debate, as no better word has come up for "neurodiverse people" as the preferred adjective for people who belong from neurological minorities. "Neurominor people" really doesn't cut it, it does it?

Amanda Kidby said...

We have a tension with the medical model sitting alongside which is a deficit paradigm driving people to need and want a diagnosis to be able to access services. While I agree with what you are saying we are also in a state of categorisation occurring for resource allocation and people wanting or needing a label to use as a ‘ticket’ for communication or to access support.

For some people having this label allows an opportunity for sharing ideas and experiences and feeling less alone.
Personalisation of provision is still far off for most. I don’t have an answer but we need to continue the discussion. Interestingly AI with big data sets is reiterating the variability in humans and that many assumptions are being challenged in the way we have ‘boxed’ people - not them and us but rather all of us.

Thanks Judy for this

cundiamor said...

I have also self defined as Neurodiverse and use in a positive way. In my practice with young people with ASD, ADHD, DYSLEXIA they have been able to redress their negative view of self to a positive one by using this concept.

I'm not a researcher or academic but an educator working in alternative provision secondary schools where learners
have been excluded from mainstream education.

Whizper said...

Finally a clear definition of neurodiversity I can throw my weight behind fully! Thank you for this important thing, Judy.

THE AUTISTIC EDUCATOR said...

Neurosuperior?

Unknown said...

Hi Judy,

Re: "no better word has come up for "neurodiverse people" as the preferred adjective for people who belong from neurological minorities."

Have you really not heard of the commonly used adjective "neurodivergent", coined by Kassiane Assumasu?

We should all use that, and reserve "neurodiverse" for its proper purpose, which is to describe a characteristic of human populations (or even any kind of population of living beings).

Janine Booth said...

I like a lot of this. It is refreshingly clear and sharp.

But I would be interested to know what the evidence is that Psychopathy, Narcissism, Machieavellianism and Sadism are neurological.

Judy Singer said...

Thanks Amanda,
Totally take your point. While increasingly, expert and lived experience opinion suggests that support should be allocated on the basis of need and not on reductionist labels, as long as "welfare" systems demand them. we are forced to paint ourselves into their boxes, thus increasing bureaucratic confidence in the reality of these boxes. Until welfare systems change, we are locked in, and it would be foolhardy not to present for disability support without conforming.
But change must happen. I see my role as being to push the boundaries. It is sad too when people feel that they have a disability as defined by this outdated bureaucratic model, and reduce their self-identity to a single word.

Judy Singer said...

Roger Kulp

There are indeed some vocal people on social media who identify with the Neurodiversity Movement who take the extreme views you mention. I do NOT endorse such views, and it is one reason why I have named this blog "Neurodiversity 2.0: Reclaiming the Centre".
I have been been misrepresented, lied and gossiped, intimidated, trolled by both such extremists and their anti-Neurodiversity to the extent that it affected my physical health. I am now recovered and intent on reclaiming the centre space to the extent that time and energy permit.
I have amended this essay already to take on the question of difference vs disability

Judy Singer said...

Unknown: Please read my blogpost "Neurodivergent from what, exactly", where I acknowledge Assumasu. I have said that neurodiversity is a property of the planet, not of individuals in this article, and elsewhere used the term "Populations" I agree with you, and am in the process of clarifying this in the current essay.

Judy Singer said...

Janine, if you do a bit of research, you will find plenty of evidence that those personality traits have a genetic component. The difference is that people with Autism can't hide their traits but the aforementioned can, are often successful, and dont require services, so they have not been studied as much. Big topic. I plan to write more about the "Dark Tetrad" to argue that the term should be dropped... how bizarre of Psychology, a respected, if soft, Science, to use the word "Dark" as a descriptor. I think "Machiavellianism" is a bit dodgy too.

Judy Singer said...

Finally, thanks to all who have taken the time to encourage my work. I read everything, though I must confess that given time constraints I put my energy into oiling the squeaky wheels and correcting misconceptions

hdlmatchette said...

I'm just curious...I've seen some anti-neurodiversity proponents misusing what you've written here to claim that autism is not part of neurodiversity and therefore not to be respected. Could you please publicly address this in order to avoid further misunderstanding?

Judy Singer said...

hdlmatchette, please supply a link.
Though I obviously can't deal with every possible misconception individually

Fran said...

Thank you so much for this blog. I'm currently working on my thesis and trying to find my angle on how to talk about neurodiversity in the workplace and inclusive processes. I'm struggling a lot with this division between "us" and "them" that seems to emerge in many writings. I agree with your vision of neurodiversity but somehow, I always come back to the need for a diagnosis to access services or to obtain adaptations.
This gets frustrating because inclusive environments, promoting neurodiverse teams, should not need diagnosis. It creates these tunnels where organisation offers specific adaptation for specific profiles. Inclusion is about adaptability in the environment in itself, not about labels and division. I suppose this justifies my thesis' subject since the discussion must continue... At least, I hope so!

I'm very grateful for this article. It allows me to come back "to the roots" of neurodiversity and recenters me on what matters.

Judy Singer said...

Hi Fran, glad it is useful for your work! I agree with your entirely, but recognize that we are a long way from shifting from label-based to needs-based supports. And there will probably still need to be some discrete labels, but I think the definitions will have to be tightened up, as at the moment its getting more and more confusing with all the overlaps. I understand why people would want cling to their labels, having been seen as "failures" by neurotypical criteria. And in order to qualify supports, you are forced to narrow your identity. A perfect example from personal experience, is neurodivergent friends who were forced to label themselves as "suffering from depression" and then actually took on the depressed role and lost a lot of confidence in their abilities.

Caroline Turner said...

Hi Judy, what you say makes so much sense. I love that you are feeling your way forward and I for one are grateful for your insight. I am happy using neurominority or neurodivergent - I don't mind as long it as it gets the point across to those listening.

Anonymous said...

I struggle with the idea that disability can be understood purely as socially constructed, and especially an artefact of welfare systems. Before welfare systems came along there were people with limbs missing for example who would not have been able to do certain things that human beings have evolved with two legs to be able to do. Yes, social reality is partly socially constructed.

Judy Singer said...

Hi Anonymous

Disability is partly socially constructed and partly biological. There's no simple rule of thumb. Being hard of hearing in old age is an impairment and can be a damn nuisance, but if you can't afford a hearing aid because your country doesn't have Medicare, like we do in Australia, and your age pension doled out by your government is inadequate, then you are disabled by government policies.

THE AUTISTIC EDUCATOR said...

hdlmatchette No you haven't.

catherine said...

Thank you so much. Until reading your blog, I thought neurodiverse meant different because of the counterpart that is used and is useful: neuro-typical... But as a global definition I find the concept of neuro diversity fantastically inclusive... can both be used side by side ?

Unknown said...

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Fawn said...

Hi Judy, I hope you can still see comments here.
Touching on the comments earlier about the term being used for ND people... I recently had a friend clarify their difference and it might be helpful:
Neurodivergent = neuro-minority people, because we're diverging from the norm.
Neurodiverse = the entire neurological diversity of humanity.

Surely this means we can eat our cake and still have it?
It keeps it's original meaning while also having a related term specifically for us neuro minorities.

Also, I just wanted to thank you for touching on genocide via welfare cuts! As someone from the UK who has been saying for some years now that the government's been committing genocide against the disabled for that very reason, it was reassuring.
We love to think we're past things like genocide or conversion therapy (which could very easily be considered another form of genocide), but we're not. We have a long way to go to really embrace neurodiversity.

Hopefully this year will mark a significant step forward, as we're celebrating our first 'Autism Acceptance' year, (changed from Autism Awareness). :)

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giovanna silvestre said...

Hey There great share ! just missed the last part of your article but overall you shared some really good stuff keep up the great work and keep sharing with the community Regards

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LuĂ­sa Pires said...

Hi Judy ,

Thank you so much for this incredible piece and I have read your book. It really is a gift to the world.

I am a student of architecture and stumbled upon neurodiversity in my 5th year as a student how? I had spent my life dealing with anti-social types and had enough when I started to deal yet again with another individual. What you are saying is very right and particularly in workplaces some individuals are vulnerable. I was faced with the reality that complaints procedures don't do much in relationship to covert abuse because emotional and covert manipulation is so hard to prove how do we operate against it? What I found out was the best way was through advocacy and raising awareness of the neither vulnerable neither predatory folk so that everyone can take some responsibility for managing the collective environment.

I came up with a piece called "The Flower Umbrella" which I am hoping to turn into a charity that sits at the intersection between neurodiversity, technology and sustainability.

Gosh I have so many questions for you here are a few:

- what are some of your favourite books or documentaries or movies?
- Do you include machines, AIs as part of neurodiversity? I guess if it is a subset of biodiversity it doesn't include machines, software AI etc...?
- What about Cyborgs? Are their added senses and tools considered to be a neurodiversity even though they are not necessarily biological?

I just wanted to also thank you because your thesis and concepts have given me some existential relief !

Best

Luisa

PS: you can see The Flower Umbrella here www.luisapereirapires.com

Abigale Huels said...

I recently came across your post on "What is Neurodiversity?" and found it to be an incredibly insightful and informative read. As someone who is neurodivergent, it's always great to come across resources that aim to educate and spread awareness about neurodiversity.

One thing that particularly I like is of the "lucy in the sky refund policy" refund policy. It's refreshing to see a company that not only acknowledges the needs and preferences of neurodivergent individuals but also goes out of its way to accommodate them. As someone who often struggles with sensory issues, I can definitely appreciate a company that prioritizes the comfort and well-being of its customers.

Thank you for sharing this valuable information, and I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future.

Anonymous said...

Hi! This blog post was so helpful for me! I feel like I've learned more much about the neurodiversity movement from this blog than from neurodiversity online communities. I appreciate Judy's seemingly balanced approach. I understand that the intention of this movement is to increase acceptance for people with Aspergers by helping people understand that diversity is good and healthy and people with Aspergers have value because they too are part of the neurodiversity.

I'd be interested in reading a blog post that addresses some of the more extreme ideas that seem to have come out of the neurodiversity movement and how it is consistent or inconsistent with this initial conception of neurodiversity or the pros/cons of the some of these aspects of the movement. For example, I've heard people in the neurodiversity movement say that only autistic people should speak about autism, self-diagnoses of autism should be accepted, severe autism doesn't exist, we shouldn't treat any aspect of autism, and certain treatments (Applied Behavior Analysis) are inherently bad/traumatic, anyone who tries to treat autism is a Nazi.

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Vettel2011 said...

I wish to be more minimalist

Judy Singer said...

@Vettel2011 Don’t worry,.your IQ already is. Didn’t even need to wave my magic wand.
Signed
Your Neurodiversity Fairy Godmother

Judy Singer said...

@Luisa Pires and others. https://www.blogger.com/profile/16882098427766549567
Thank you for reaching out. I am so sorry, but as I am sure you will understand, with so many connections on so many platforms, I am just one person, and cannot respond to all individual correspondents.

For this reason, I have had to create this form letter.

You may be able to find the answer to any questions, along with my latest thoughts, events and bibliography on my blog Neurodiversity 2.0 (https://neurodiversity2.blogspot.com/)

For more depth you may be interested in reading my book,

"Neurodiversity: the birth of an idea" https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HY0QTEE which contains my original thesis, biographical detail, and a contemporary introduction

Best wishes for your life and work,

Judy Singer