The Neurodiversity Movement: Reconciling Different Perspectives

I have been surprised at the attention received by my last blog. I was bedridden with post-flu vertigo while writing the same. The inordinate time that I had to write a few simple sentences probably accounts for why I overcooked the same with literary hyperboles. Despite its flaws it was well received by several hundred Facebook likes. I had introduced the argument for the same in a previous blog (see My personal opinion being that autism does not fall into the normal spectrum of variability but rather is a health-related condition. In other words, autism does not belong in the social sciences but in the medical sciences. In this regard I apologize if I offend the sensibilities of some of the readers. However, contrary to some proponents of the neurodiversity movement I stress the need, in many cases, for medical treatment and much more research. Seizures, mood disorders, and sensory abnormalities may handicap some individuals with ASD and they need all of the help/support that we can give them.

I was misinformed in several points in my previous blog. I thought, from my own readings, that one of the tenets of the neurodiversity movement was avoiding the use of pejorative medical verbiage. Steve Silberman was kind enough to point to me that, “…while some neurodiversity activists have adopted the rhetoric of the antipsychiatry movement, my own research shows the roots of the movement to have been in the attempt to build a bridge between the autistic community and the broader cross-disability rights movement. Thus when you say “neurodiversity had initially the good intention of avoiding terms with negative connotations (e.g., disorder, disability),” that strikes me as precisely wrong. It was the “Aspie supremacy” movement (which was basically a brief Internet fad, in fact at odds with neurodiversity because it further stigmatized or ignored people with ID etc.) that shunned the term “disability.” Meanwhile, the people who came up with the concept of neurodiversity (including Judy Singer) embraced the term disability in a social justice (rather than a medical) context… it’s a crucial distinction”.

I am looking at the ongoing debate as something necessary; an opportunity to vent from the different silos within the autism community. There is a lot of misunderstanding on both sides of the argument. Many neurodiversity proponents as well as those outside of the movement share the same empathy towards the plight of many autistic individuals. We all share a common humanity. For those interested, Damian Milton wrote an interesting WordPress blog on this subject entitled “107 Days of Action” (see Damian is an academician himself diagnosed within the spectrum. He emphasizes in his writing how labels can be offensive and the need for acceptance. I would also like to direct the attention of the reader to another blog on subject, this one written by Paul Isaacs (see Paul is a role model for others within the spectrum. I have written a review of his first book and I continue to be amazed by his insights, knowledge, and productivity. According to Paul empowerment is gained by listening to everyone on the spectrum. “The only way to break down stereotypes [is to] give other people the chance to express their realities”. Hopefully people reading these blogs will find it an edifying experience born from constructive dialogue.

5 responses to “The Neurodiversity Movement: Reconciling Different Perspectives

  1. Dear Manuel

    Thank you

    “The only way to break down stereotypes [is to] give other people the chance to express their realities”. to me your first blog was also stating that fact also that all realities should be accounted for including people with classic autism, learning disabilities and people who are functionally non-verbal and use FC and others communication devices for those who have severe metabolic and health system issues for those who have seizures. You were also stating that Autism is not a “one size fits all” disorder but it is much more than that. And no one should speak for all (even people on the spectrum) that is dis empowering others, you have challenged the stereotypes that make people and parents feel alone and confused. To me you are and have a Egalitarianism quality to you (you acknowledge all realities and see people as human and equal) and you state the importance of personhood. 🙂 Your intention in the first blog were to question who is representing and how it is being that was a much needed thing to do. 🙂 I take a moderate/neutral stance an believe all realites should be accounted for not just projected by a certain set of people .


  2. Neurodiversity has definitely avoided medical verbiage in the past. Steve Silberman does not know what the heck he is talking about. I wish you had not apologized for any contents of the post because as it originally stood it was spot on. Ari Ne’eman, one of neurodiversity’s most eminent leaders has stated he does not believe autism and asperger’s are disabilities. Judith Singer in her original writings stated that autism should not be looked upon as a disability. The main tenet of the ND movement is that autism should be demedicalized and not looked upon as a disability. You were not misinformed in your original post at all, contrary to what some persons have said.


  3. I am very glad to see you refer to autism as medical condition.As Johnathan states in the comment above mine,this runs contrary to the basic tenents of neurodiversity.I believe those of us who wish to counter neurodiversity really ought to begin making one of our key points the idea that neurodiversity and the antivaccine movement as two different sides of the same coin.The one thing both have in common is that both antivaxers and neurodiversity adherents are science denialists,they have just selected their own parts of science to deny.


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