What is Neurodiversity?
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.
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
as the very foundation of the stability
But first, what is Diversity?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
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
- a feature of Earth and its ecosystems
- refers to the total diversity of species that inhabit the planet or its local ecosystems
- was coined as a political term to argue for the conservation of species
- a feature of Earth as a whole, since humans have colonized all its ecosystems
- refers specifically to the limitless variability of human cognition and the uniqueness of each human mind
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 termSome 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
The adjective "Neurodiverse"
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
for dividing "Us" from "Them"
The NeuroDiversity Movement
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
- 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.
- the greater the biodiversity within an ecosystem, the more stable, adaptable and sustainablethat system is
- ecosystems are interlinked in complex ways that affect all life, including human life
Why is biodiversity important?
Why is Neurodiversity important for all humanity, not just for neurodivergent people?
- 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
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...