Published in Quillette October 15, 2017 by Thomas Clements
“Every morning when I wake up I feel a heavy sense of trepidation as I contemplate the complex series of social interactions I will have to navigate in order to make it through the day at work. Being on the autism spectrum makes me instinctively averse to the superficial chit-chat I am expected to engage in in my job as a retail cashier. To my mind at least, small-talk serves no real practical purpose. It just makes me feel on edge and increases my overall stress levels as I expend huge amounts of cognitive energy decoding idioms and non-verbal communication. Unfortunately, retail work is about the only employment option available to me at the moment because my Asperger’s Syndrome affects my ability to relate to others. Because of my condition, I am prone to be blunt, sometimes to the point of rudeness, which is a personality trait that tends not to sit especially well with many members of the so-called ‘neuro-typical’ or non-autistic world.”
“As a relatively isolated 20-something Aspie with few friends, I decided to take to social media in the hope of finding a community into which I could assimilate and no longer feel like a routinely-shunned outsider. In online autism circles, I frequently came across the term ‘neurodiversity’, a term used to denote a collective of atypically-minded people with a range of conditions including ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, and autism. The aim of the movement is to celebrate these distinct conditions as natural variations in the human genome rather than viewing them as pathological disorders deserving of medical interventions and cures. The term itself can be attributed to Judy Singer, an Australian social scientist on the autism spectrum, who wished to encapsulate a notion of neurological difference across humanity akin to the variation we see in plants and animals in biodiversity. The term was an instant hit and went on to spawn a left-wing political movement inspired by past and present civil rights causes. Indeed, the aim of neurodiversity is to champion the rights of ‘neurodiverse’ individuals in society and campaign to achieve the correct accommodations for them in the workplace and the wider society in order that they may live rich, fulfilling lives. The idea of curing conditions like autism is anathema to neurodiversity advocates, who often compare such a notion as akin to curing homosexuality, which was considered a psychiatric disorder until the late 80s.”
“The aims of neurodiversity are ostensibly virtuous and rooted in a compassionate social view of disability. Many of its members declare that they are ‘autistic and proud’, a slogan that was readily appealing to someone who’d long felt ashamed of admitting to being autistic, even to close friends. Reconceptualising autism as a different operating system as opposed to a series of deficits seemed fresh and invigorating and it wasn’t long before I started to champion the movement’s key tenets. I was told by countless enthusiastic advocates that the disabilities accompanying my autism were not so much the result of autism itself but by a systemically ‘ableist’ society that routinely marginalises and oppresses neurodiverse individuals. After years of feeling bitter and resentful at society, it was tempting to run with such a view and become a full-fledged supporter of the neurodiversity viewpoint. However, while some of this rhetoric may contain a kernel of truth, the reality soon dawned on me that autism is a far more complex picture which cannot be reduced to a single redemptive philosophy. The anti-cure stance may ostensibly seem the most moral, at least for the time being, but the prospect of one day finding a cure for autism should not be ruled out entirely.”
I am unable to post the whole piece but urge the readers to visit the Quillette site for the full blog. You can also look on the search function of corticalchauvinism for other blogs on this subject along with opinion pieces offered by myself and some of the readers.