Thursday, November 09, 2006

What Is Neurodiversity?

There is a new Yahoo! group titled What Is Neurodiversity?. Its stated purpose is the following:

The purpose of this group is simple - to discuss what is and what isn't neurodiversity. There are no formal principles or rules but there is a lot of (mis)information about what neurodiversity is and what it means on a realistic basis as well as a principled basis. Hopefully this Group will serve to set the record straight.

Trolls (yes, we all know who you are) are not welcome.


  1. If "trolls" are not welcome, how will you know if you've defined the sham of Neurodiversity properly? Have I made a poor assumption by thinking you consider all sane people to be trolls?

  2. "In Internet terminology, a troll is a person who enters an established community such as an online discussion forum and intentionally tries to cause disruption, most often in the form of posting inflammatory, off-topic, or otherwise inappropriate messages." (Wikipedia)

    I'll see if Wikipedia lets me upload a picture of you for that article :)

  3. I expect that trolls will be judged as such by their behaviour and not their identity. Anyone who can respect the basic premise of the group, even if they disagree with that premise, will presumably post in a manner that it is not troll-like but. instead, is conducive to proper debate. This may be raising the bar too high for some people.

  4. As if anyone believes a movement or a concept which is out there as a wild meme or mind virus will succumb to whatever the "academie francaise" of an insignificant Yahoo group says it is. I am not interested, Neurodiversity has escaped the autistic spectrum and is well out there. CP, cerebro vascular accident, it is all neurodiversity. What a waste of debating space

  5. Larry
    the group's aims are far more modest than you imagine. There is a specific problem with some people deliberately misrepresenting Neurodiversity to parents of autistic children. We want to engage in a dialogue with those parents and suggest ways in which the idea of neurodiversity can have a positive impact on their understanding of autism.

  6. Well I am not too sure your academie francaise can do that being as you may be arguing from a shack in the back garden at the end of an autistic cul se sac off neurodiversity main street, there are roads less travelled for sure but also roads you don't even want to go down.

  7. Mike; Do you consider me one of those who misrepresents Neurodiversity? If so, how have I misread your position?

  8. Larry's right.

    The word doesn't exist anyway. However, neurotypical exists:

    Dictionary definition: pertaining to autistic persons whose neurological development and function is within the normal range.

    People have different perceptions of the above and the same is true for 'neurodiversity' whether it exists or not. That about sums it up. Do we really need a yahoo group on this?

    Mike NAS Stanton,

    Who is going to disagree with neurodiversity, when the definition hasn't been formulated by a professional body yet?

  9. FWIW, I agree with Larry (which feels really strange to write - nothing against Larry, but we tend to see the world very differently)

    BTW, I also love the "academie francaise" metaphor. (Who says autistics have trouble with metaphors, anyway?) The picture that came to mind for me was of a host of medieval monks debating the number of angels on the head of a pin, while the rest of the world just got on with life, using pins for much more utilitarian purposes.

    If the aim is to "engage in a dialogue with those parents and suggest ways in which the idea of neurodiversity can have a positive impact on their understanding of autism" then why hide it off in (as per Larry's comment) "a shack in the back garden at the end of an autistic cul se sac off neurodiversity main street"? Most parents of autistics will probably not even go there unless they are already converts. A smallish number of people will probably ending up parsing the word to death, possibly insisting on ideological purity, while the real definition and meaning will be whatever evolves in common usage.

    The way to bring a term to life is to get it out in circulation and use it, not to cloister it away and insist that it means only what a small group says it means.

    To use the "academie francaise" analogy, you can insist on calling it 'la fin de semaine', but people in common parlance will still say 'le week-end'.

  10. I don't think the group was created to try to monopolize the definition of the term. It's basically an open group anyone can join to discuss what they think of neurodiversity. Its initial purpose was to post some ideas on what neurodiversity is *not* (and maybe that should've been the name of the group) because there are various misconceptions floating around, e.g. that there's a neurodiversity leadership or that neurodiversity advocates promote "doing nothing".

    Of course, whether the group is useful or just forgotten will be determined, let's face it, by how it's indexed by Google and/or any word of mouth that develops.

    BTW, I'd certainly be against any professional body formulating the definition of neurodiversity, unless you're referring to dictionary makers.

  11. Revenge of Sam;

    Until very recently, our family was in debt to the tune of £250,000.
    We needed a house with a garden for our son. Nothing flashy, just a run down 2 bed Semi.
    We took a risk and were on the brink of bankruptcy, but we just managed to scrape through, and we're out of the woods now.

  12. For what its worth anyway I was responsible for one of the earliest print citations outside of disability literature possibly the first in the UK, though not as early as Harvey Blume in the US press I must admit, but I came across the word before I came across the autistic movement as such because Judy Singer whatever we think of her now, was writing in the context of disability studies that was familiar to me.

    The word has however certainly taken off outside of the purist autistic community anyway.

    Why the word is so powerful is because it fits a wider set of disabilities, and certainly I have seen people from the CP and MS perspectives want to claim it too.

    I suggest people look up the history of CP, look at the normalising dialogue they have had to deal with too, with conductive education, kids sent away to Hungary for treatment, and the same spectrum division of retarded vs high functioning and those whose appearance allows them to hide it and those who cannot.

    Anyway Ian Dury said it all for us years ago with his Spasticus Autisticus.

    It is a case of Hegel and not learning from our common history in my opinion.