Viewpoint: Neurodiversity movement hurts people with autism by ‘romanticizing’ the disorder

protest of autism speaks
Neurodiversity advocates protest Autism Speaks. Image: Autistic Cooperative

In the past decade, neurodiversity’s popularity has grown enormously, largely because of the buzz surrounding Steve Silberman’s book NeuroTribes (2015). Today, the internet and mass media are replete with articles proclaiming the benefits of employing people with autism, who have a hidden potential that can benefit endeavours such as branding and design – if only we can stop thinking of them as being disabled.

On the face of it, this sounds admirable – the neurodiversity movement has indeed empowered many with autism.

But the movement is proving to be harmful in a number of ways. Firstly, neurodiversity advocates can romanticise autism. While many with mild forms of autism might lead relatively ‘normal’ daily lives with little or no assistance, many who are more severely affected cannot function properly without round-the-clock care.

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The idea that autism is ‘a variation of normal’ is at odds with scientific understanding of the condition. The general consensus among neuroscientists is that autism has neurodevelopmental origins, with recent research showing that it is associated with abnormalities in brain cell numbers and white-matter structure.

In standing up for their rights, a group of marginalised people are effectively hyper-marginalising the very people they claim to be advocating for.

Read full, original post: Against neurodiversity

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