Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Neurodiversity or disorder?

I get asked about my views on Neurodiversity every so often. Yes, I do believe it's wonderful that there can be different kinds of human brain wiring. The world would be a pretty boring (and unproductive) place if we didn't have different kinds of minds. However, I don't agree that we should just label Autism a "wonderful difference" and end the conversation.

We live in a world where sometimes Neurodiversity gets in the way. A child who has no way of communicating needs help. We can still value his/her differences while teaching him/her ways to communicate with others. Perhaps through speech therapy or ABA. If it isn't hurting the kid, I don't oppose treatment for those things that prevent somebody from having a good quality of life. Yes, the kid may be happy at the moment, but 20 years down the road, it would be terrible if the kid was now an adult in an institution because somebody decided "hey, he's neurodiverse, let's not change a thing". A kid who is self-injurious or hurts others presents a problem and NEEDS help for their sake and their family's sake. It's just not reasonable to "let the kid be" in a case like this.

There's a fine line between helping somebody and trying to make them somebody else, so it takes a bit of thinking on what to treat and what is just "quirky".

And surprise, there are people with Asperger's who WANT treatment. I don't want a treatment, I feel happy where I am. But it's not my place (or anybody else's) to deny a person the right to seek treatment for what they feel impairs their quality of life.

I do however want to point out, I greatly dislike snake oil salesmen and people suggesting dangerous/unproven "cures" for Autism. No, it's not okay to put anybody's life at risk to treat Autism. Please do plenty of research from valid sources before trying anything.

On that note, make sure you read this if you are trying OSR#1, it is NOT safe:,0,747838.story

Some resources to check out treatments before using them:
Alternative Medicine (MayoClinic)

Autism's Alternative Therapies

25 signs of a Quack


outoutout said...

There seems to be some confusion here about what "Neurodiversity" actually means. It's simply a philosophy about human brain development that considers 'autism' to be a natural variation on a wide spectrum, as opposed to a disease that ought to be 'cured'. It does not - repeat, DOES NOT - say that we shouldn't address genuine issues that prevent us from achieving quality of life. Of course we should seek help for these problems. But we don't consider ourselves broken or diseased simply for being what we are.

Brandy said...

I understand what the definition of neurodiversity is; however in this world, which is geared towards neurotypical people; it CAN be a disorder, a disability. Which some people may choose to "cure". If the world was geared towards people on the spectrum, then it would be a disorder to NOT be autistic.

There's nothing wrong with being happy the way you are though. I'm happy with myself. I do acknowledge in this world, now, Asperger's/Autism is a disorder.

I apologize for offending you or confusing you, I consider you to be a friend of sorts.

Autism Mom said...

Nice take on the subject.

My son is funny, delightful and has some artistic talent, all characteristics I do not attribute to his autism so a cure would not change who he is as a person. It simply would allow him to live an independent life.

I will never understand how the mere thought of a cure evokes such strong emotion with visions of an assault on individuality.

Amanda Broadfoot said...

I love what you have to say on this subject. I'm tired of people feeling that it has to be either/or. I feel that I'm firmly in the neurodiversity camp, but I also think my son needs help with communication to ease some of his frustrations (he's only 4). We're sick of the snake oil salesmen too. Early on, we tried just about everything. Now that we're less scared of the A-word (because we understand it a LOT more), we're focused on making his life as rewarding and his progress as enjoyable as possible.

Anonymous said...

We're all wonderful, in our own ways. We each have our talents and our skills, we have all achieved and will go on to do so again, and we are all human. The wires may be a little misplaced in some of our neuro-makeups but that's all it is, and there are many ways to access support. As for a cure, it doesn't exist. Not unless we decide to replace our brain with another, and personally, I love my daughter just the way she is.

Great post, well written.
CJ xx