Psychology Wiki

Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Social psychology: Altruism · Attribution · Attitudes · Conformity · Discrimination · Groups · Interpersonal relations · Obedience · Prejudice · Norms · Perception · Index · Outline

Autism rights movement
Ethical challenges to treatment
Controversies about labels
Aspies For Freedom
Autism Network International
Neurodiversity · Neurodivergent
Michelle Dawson · Jim Sinclair
Judy Singer

Neurodiversity is a concept that atypical (neurodivergent) neurological wiring is a normal human difference that is to be tolerated and respected as any other human difference. The concept of neurodiversity was created by some autistic individuals and people with related conditions, who believe that autism is not a disorder, but a part of who they are, and that curing autistic people would be the same as destroying their original personalities and replacing them with different people. Some people apply the concept of neurodiversity to dyslexic, dyspraxic and hyperactive people.

Views on prejudice

The term neurodiversity is usually used as a statement against prejudice and bigotry towards autism and other neurological differences, which has been claimed to be the following by neurodiversity proponents:

  • Attempts to cure, medicate, institutionalize or force behavioral changes in autistics either against their will or without knowing their will.
  • References to the neuroanatomical differences of autistics as "abnormalities" or "damage".
  • Intolerant attitudes toward autistic behavior that may be perceived as odd or unusual.
  • Intolerance toward difficulties autistic people often have.
  • Discrimination against people for being autistic or because of autistic traits or behaviors.
  • Lack of accommodations for difficulties associated with autism.
  • Attitude that autistics are inferior to Neurotypical people.
  • Belief that autism is a disease that needs to be cured or that there is something wrong with being autistic.
  • Institutions designed without consideration of autistics (for example: schools with heavy demand on social skills that may be hard for autistics).
  • Barriers to participation in society due to difficulties associated with autism that could have been accommodated (for example, a technically competent autistic person may lose a job because of social awkwardness or may never get past the interview stage).
  • Lack of protection for autistics in equal employment opportunity legislation.


Most supporters of neurodiversity are anti-cure autistics, who are engaged in advocacy. In addition, some parents of autistic children also support neurodiversity and the view that autism is a unique way of being, rather than a disease to be cured. Such parents say they value their children's individuality and want to allow their children to develop naturally. According to proponents, autistics may need therapies only to cure comorbid conditions, or to develop useful skills. Forcing autistics to act as desired, or trying get rid of autistic neurological wiring is condemned. The proponents think that if autistics face more difficulties in life, the source are the society's institutions and habits, not autism itself.

Dr. Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., a prominent critic of ADHD as a disorder, has adopted and endorsed the term neurodiversity [1]. Autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen, without using the term explicitly, has allowed for the possibility that high-functioning autism may lead to 'difference' rather than 'disability' [2].

The arguments for considering autism and other conditions a form of neurodiversity (as opposed to true disorders) are the following:

  • It has not been demonstrated that autistic behavior, in all or most cases, has a cause that is pathological in nature.
  • Autism is about as heritable as personality or IQ. Notably, it appears to be more heritable than homosexuality.
  • The genetic variations (or alleles) that account for the autism genotype have not been shown to be pathogenic, and in fact, some of the gene loci identified so far are prevalent in the general population. Even if a genetic variation is a rare mutation, that in itself does not imply pathology.
  • Many autistics report that they like being autistic, which is inconsistent with the way most pathologies are perceived by sufferers. Some of them have claimed that autism "is a beautiful thing."
  • Many autistics report that autism confers them with a special way of looking at the world, or a special talent.
  • Autism is not life-threatening in general, as the life expectancy of autistics is about the same as that of neurotypicals.
  • The unexplained rapid increase in the prevalence of autism is a strong indication of the subjectivity involved in diagnosing autism as a disorder.

Opposing views

Because autistic people usually have some challenges in life, there are some people who think finding a cure for autism would be in the best interest of autistics. People who are interested in a cure for autism include physicians, therapists and parents of autistic children, who believe the unique subjectivity experienced by the autistic is not worth the social and functional strains entailed by it. These people believe a cure for autism is the best way to solve the problems of autistics, and see it as unfair and inappropriate to characterize the desire to cure autism as bigotry. [3] [4] [5]

However, the existence of neurodiversity itself has not been challenged. At issue is whether autism, ADHD and so on are true disorders or better explained as neurodiversity. So far the term has not been addressed much in the scientific literature.

Many parents of autistic children believe neurodiversity is an excuse not to treat autism and a coping mechanism for avoidance and denial. But others point out that pro-cure attitudes often stem from denial of any genetic contribution from the parents. Neurodiversity and autism acceptance (rather than denial) are generally thought to be related.

History of the term

The first citation of the term "neurodiversity" is generally held to have occurred in an essay by Judy Singer:

Judy Singer, "'Why can't you be normal for once in your life?'" in Disability Discourse, Mairian Corker ed., Open University Press, February 1, 1999) where it is used to describe a post modernist critique and addition to the social cleavages of class, gender, race and so on.

However, Judy Singer actually first used this term in her Honours Thesis, written in 1996-7 and presented in 1998.

Singer, J (1998) "Odd People In: The Birth of Community Amongst People on the Autistic Spectrum: A personal exploration of a New Social Movement based on Neurological Diversity" Faculty of Humanities and Social Science University of Technology, Sydney, 1998.

Judy Singer wrote: For me, the significance of the Autistic Spectrum lies in its call for and anticipation of a Politics of Neurodiversity. The Neurologically Different represent a new addition to the familiar political categories of class / gender / race and will augment the insights of the Social Model of Disability. The rise of Neurodiversity takes postmodern fragmentation one step further. Just as the postmodern era sees every once too solid belief melt into air, even our most taken-for granted assumptions: that we all more or less see, feel, touch, hear, smell, and sort information, in more or less the same way, (unless visibly disabled) are being dissolved. (pp 12-13)

Judy Singer believes she coined the term, as she had done extensive literature and internet searches, and had not come up with the term anywhere. Nor was it mentioned in any of the Autistic egroups ANI, InLv, Autinet that she was a member of.

Since the idea was meant to bring together the insights of socio-biology/evolutionary psychology and sociology/ disability studies in a positive synthesis, it's unlikely that anyone else would have thought of it since sociologists and disability activists abhor sociobiology. Judy Singer talked about the politics and sociology of neurodiversity on the InLv forum for Autistics at the time, and it may have spread from there. Judy Singer knows that Jane Meyerding asked her for (and she gave) permission to use the term on her website [6].

A print citation is given for the Coventry Evening Telegraph (U.K.) (Jan. 14th 2004 )with reference to the Coventry and Warwickshire Neurodiversity Group who define the term thus:

"Neurodiversity is a word that has been around since autistic people started putting sites on the internet. It has since been expanded to include not just people who are known as "autistics and cousins", but to express the idea that a diversity of ways of human thinking is a good thing, and dyslexic, autistic, ADHD, dyspraxic and tourettes people to name but a few all have some element in common not being neurotypical in the way our brains work."

Whilst the term most appears to have originated within the online autistic community, its usage has spread outside to a more general meaning sometimes hotly disputed between its proponents as to whether it is inclusive of people with conditions like Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis etc. Whilst others prefer to confine it to the invisible conditions such as those outlined by the Developmental Adult Neurodiversity Association in the UK.

Certainly the term has been eagerly sought amongst top level domain name registrations, with and being examples, and there is no doubt that the term has seen a boost with the New York Times article by Amy Harmon.

Amy Harmon, "The Disability Movement Turns to Brains," The New York Times, May 9, 2004

See also

External links

  • Supporting Views
  • Opposing Views
    • GenerationRescue Website that believes autism is a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning.
    • Hating Autism Blog by a parent who believes autistic children should be treated biomedically
    • ASAT The Association for Science in Autism Treatment
    • FEAT Families for Early Autism Treatment, a parent run pro cure site.
    • Cure Autism Now The Cure Autism Now Foundation

es:Neurodiversidad jbo:benficsi'a

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).