You are neurodiverse….

23 May

We don’t all think the same way. We just don’t. There is a “diversity” in our thought processes. Our neurology.

So, I find it interesting when people talk about “those neurodiverse” or in some other way try to make it an “us vs. them” subject. As Jake and Elwood said,

Some things that make us all the same. You, me them, everybody, everybody.

In this case, it is our differences that make us the same. Everybody is neurodiverse. Everybody’s mind thinks just a little different from anyone else’s on this planet. And, that is what makes us all neurodiverse.

The problem comes up when we move from “Neurodiverse” to the “Neurodiverisity movement”.

As Kev notes in his recent post, there is no organization or official position on what is Neurodiveristy. But I think the basic idea is clear:

Just as there is a diversity amongst people by gender, race, ethnicity, and culture, to name but a few ways we vary as a people–just as there are those diversity categories, we also vary by neurology.

And, just as we need to respect each other even though we come from diverse gender, racial, ethnic, cultural, and other backgrounds, we need to respect each other even though we think in different ways.

That’s not so hard a concept, is it?

The analogy to other diversity movements is very clear. For example, no one way of thinking is better than any other.

This is where many people get confused. They say, “Neurodiversity proponents don’t see autism as a disability”. When one says, “no one way of thinking is better than any other”, that is a far cry from saying, “no one way of thinking makes life easier than any other”. The question is, if life is made easier for you because of your neurology, does that make you “normal”? More importantly, if your neurology makes your life easier, doesn’t that give you the responsibility to help out those who may need a hand?

The thing is, neurodiversity is about human rights. The question isn’t, “Do you believe in neurodiveristy”, but, rather, “How can you not believe in neurodiversity”.

20 Responses to “You are neurodiverse….”

  1. daedalus2u May 23, 2009 at 17:31 #

    This relates to what is known as the Wisdom of Crowds.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wisdom_of_Crowds

    There is a similar technique for making predictions known as the Delphi Method. What makes the Delphi method work is that the systematic biases of each individual are different and in the aggregate they average out.

    Diversity of thought is good and allows for better decisions when that diversity is taken into account. But you have to listen to, understand and take into account multiple viewpoints.

    This is why the anti-neurodiverse can’t tolerate dissent and heavily censor comments on their various forums. They can’t handle the truth and instead try to impose groupthink.

  2. autismjabberwocky May 23, 2009 at 17:41 #

    Neurology (via http://www.answers.com/neurology) –

    The medical science that deals with the nervous system and disorders affecting it.

    I don’t think that word means what you think it does. You are talking about though processes which presumably reside in the brain – neurology refers to the entire nervous system of which the brain is small but important part.

    Regardless, the idea that everyone things differently has nothing to do with the reality of what ND is about. Of course everyone thinks differently – that is part of what makes a person a person.

    The problem is that ND takes the idea of different thought processes and attempts to twist that logic into the idea there is nothing “wrong” with that people with autism because autism is just a “different” thought process.

    The end result of this chain of logic is relabeling autism as a difference of though (neurodiversity) instead of a disorder and that concept is very harmful. That concept leads people to be against research into the genetic basis of autism as well as advocating against the treatment of the core symptoms of autism.

    A similar idea could be applied to people who have depression. They also have differences in brain chemistry and clearly “think differently” than is “normal”. Does this mean we should ignore the depression and not attempt to treat it?

    Notice I am not saying that people with autism are somehow “lesser” because of their disorder – that idea is equally absurd. Everyone is a person and should be treated equally and having a disorder does not make you less of a person.

  3. joeyandymom May 23, 2009 at 18:42 #

    Actually, autismjabberwocky, I think the term “neurology” was used correctly. The more we discover about our son and how his nervous system works, the more pervasive autism seems to be manifest over the his entire neurology- not just his brain. His whole nervous system seems to work differently!

  4. dr treg May 23, 2009 at 19:14 #

    Autism appears to affect the whole neurological system i.e.
    1.Clinical hyper/hyposensitivity to extreme negative and less frequently extreme positive thoughts and feelings.
    2. Clinical hyper/hyposensitivity to higher sensory modalities
    – Vision. Hearing. Taste. Smell.
    3. Clinical hyper/hyposensitivity to peripheral sensory modalities – Touch. Proprioception. Vibration. Pain. Temperature.
    4.Obsessive-compulsive behaviour.
    5.Gross/fine motor and speech delay or hyperactivity.
    6.Clinical hyper/hyposensitivity of the autonomic nervous system.
    Psychiatric nosology seems outdated.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18560252?ordinalpos=167&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    All “normal” people have some of these hyper/hyposensitivities/extreme thinking and feeling and obsessive-compulsive behaviour or “defects” to some degree except perhaps Judges hence the term “sober as a Judge” It`s all a question of how many and which of the defects are present and how they affect the person/other people`s lives.

    There are excessive hyper/hyposensitivities/extreme thinking and feeling and obsessive-compulsive behaviour or “defects” in autism and other psychiatric diseases that affect the patient/other people`s lives in such a detrimental way to call them diseases and use treatments to improve the quality of life for such patients.

  5. Kev May 23, 2009 at 19:34 #

    Hi MJ,

    As someone who has manic depression (aka Bipolar) myself your analogy is not quite on the money. Firstly, depression is frequently a life threatening illness. Research has also shown that 66% of suicides had a depressive illness. To not treat depression is tantamount to abetting suicide. Autism by comparison is not fatal.

    Secondly, there is a growing movement amongst people with a mental illness like and unlike mine that is neurodiversity in all but name.

    Neurodiversity is not – and never has been – confined to autism.

    The end result of this chain of logic is relabeling autism as a difference of though (neurodiversity) instead of a disorder

    No, its really not. People such as yourself and Harold and Jonathan etc really have to stop seeing this as a black or white thing. Its a difference _and_ a disability _and_ a disorder. And lots of other things. Sometimes all at once.

    That concept leads people to be against research into the genetic basis of autism as well as advocating against the treatment of the core symptoms of autism.

    There _are_ no treatments available for the core symptoms of autism, save maybe Speech and Language Therapy and no one I know is against that. Can you be more specific?

  6. Joseph May 23, 2009 at 19:46 #

    @autismjabberwocky: What you’re arguing is simply that some neurological differences are such that they need to be considered pathologies and not just differences. Certainly, a cancerous brain tumor shouldn’t be just considered a difference. It needs to be looked at using a medical model. This is non-controversial.

    It’s not always clear-cut, though. In reality, no one really knows how to best distinguish pathology from non-pathology. Anyone who says they do is full of crap. People have proposed subjective ideas on how you go about it, but there’s no biological test that can give you a clear answer. It’s a philosophical question, rather than a scientific one.

    How do you know that your intuitive perception as to the pathological status of a condition is not simply the result of personal biases, prevailing popular opinion, and cultural upbringing?

    In fact, if I were to ask for evidence that autism is a ‘disease’ or ‘disorder’, the answer will invariably involve argument from authority. (Or biological group differences between autistics and non-autistics, which are frankly irrelevant to the question.)

    Consider: What makes left-handedness not a pathology? What makes homosexuality not a pathology?

  7. writetoed May 23, 2009 at 19:48 #

    autismjabberwocky said: “Notice I am not saying that people with autism are somehow “lesser” because of their disorder – that idea is equally absurd. Everyone is a person and should be treated equally and having a disorder does not make you less of a person.”

    Weather you could describe such a distinction or not, claiming that those who are leading the mainstream view of autism that includes quack cures, phony claims against needed vaccines, and inappropriate and abusive treatments for autistic people DO NOT use irrational propaganda and ugly degrading stereotypes to promote their point of view is false.

    Describing a person as whole and yet still needing aid that doesn’t degrade the person has been the theme used to promote the rights of disabled people all along. Like Sullivan said neurodiversity is about human rights. Claiming that the Neurodiversity movement is against aid is a much used type of propaganda that can and is used to further deny the rights of disabled people and is degrading to autistics.

    Ed

  8. AnneB May 23, 2009 at 21:54 #

    I wonder why people who are uncomfortable with the idea of difference tend to refer to a difference as “just” a difference. Differences can be profound.

    Neurological difference (neurodiversity) is a fact of life. From all the discussion, I understand that there are people who are comfortable with their differences, and there are those who aren’t. Our community somehow has to absorb both.

  9. Sullivan May 24, 2009 at 00:05 #

    “I don’t think that word means what you think it does”

    Inconceivable!

    Actually, the word means what I think it does–it just was used very imprecisely in this post 😉

    Neurology precisely used is a field of study, not a descriptive of a person. However, I think the looser/colloquial usage is common enough. I couldn’t come up with a brief way of saying what I wanted to say.

    The major point to me is that the position many take that there is an “us vs. them” on who is neurodiverse doesn’t make sense.

    Second, I will note that the idea of not supporting Neurodiversity–the idea that people are worthy of respect and human rights no matter whether they have differences/disorders/disability is basically an untenable position in modern society.

    People who say, “those ND’s” almost always (if not always) are stuck defining neurodiversity as something it is not.

  10. dedj May 24, 2009 at 01:54 #

    “The problem is that ND takes the idea of different thought processes and attempts to twist that logic into the idea there is nothing “wrong” with that people with autism because autism is just a “different” thought process”

    And is correct in doing so. There is nothing ‘wrong’ about being autistic. Same as having diabeties.

    However, some of the consequences of having autism – or rather – autistic behaviour can lead to situations that require some form of re-adjustment. Same as diabeties.

    An autistic person walking down the street is not – at that moment- being ‘defective’. Same as someone with diabeties.

    “The end result of this chain of logic is relabeling autism as a difference of though (neurodiversity) instead of a disorder and that concept is very harmful. That concept leads people to be against research into the genetic basis of autism as well as advocating against the treatment of the core symptoms of autism.”

    Given just how many of the ND movement are openly and publically involved in autism services, this last claim can be taken as being contradicted by the actual real-world behaviour of self-identified ND people. In light of this, the implied claim that ND intrinsically leads to opposing treatment is equally absurd.

    But I digress. There is nothing in ND that states that autism cannot lead to disordered situations. There is nothing in ND that states that autism cannot be both a different way of thinking and also classified as a disorder at the same time.

    What some people who are openly ND do point out is quite simple: one can be behaving autistically without it being internally disordered behviour.

    Symptom management is just one of many treatment approaches/frames of reference that one can take. No one who wants to remain employed and licensed will offer blanket refferals on the basis of pure prescence of diagnosis unless it can be justified on a quality of care basis (as it is in things like stroke). Any such person will rapidly find themselves having to justify it to thier boss, the responsible clinican, the case manager and the budget holder quite quickly.

  11. autismjabberwocky May 24, 2009 at 02:40 #

    Kev you said –

    “To not treat depression is tantamount to abetting suicide. Autism by comparison is not fatal.”

    That distinction is arbitrary. Do we only treat something if it could be life threatening? What about schizophrenia, personality disorder, alcoholism, intellectual disability, and anorexia? Should all of these not be treated because they aren’t as fatal as depression?

    What about the “diversity” that happens in the mind of a serial killer? There has been much speculation that these people think completely differently than is “normal” so should that difference be respected as well?

    Which differences should be accepted as just being different and which should be treated? And who gets to make that decision?

    “People such as yourself and Harold and Jonathan etc really have to stop seeing this as a black or white thing. Its a difference and a disability and a disorder. And lots of other things. Sometimes all at once.”

    If you really believe that then I would suggest that in addition to the focusing on all of the acceptance and promoting autism as just a “difference” that ND spend more time talking about the problems associated with the disorder and what can be done to help the situation. From where I am sitting the majority of the focus is on the difference idea and very little on the disorder side.

    “There are no treatments available for the core symptoms of autism, save maybe Speech and Language Therapy and no one I know is against that. Can you be more specific?”

    Really? How about the slew of behavior programs such as ABA or floortime. These programs can be designed to treat two of three core problems (communication and social) and help mitigate the third.

    Writeoed you wrote-

    “Claiming that the Neurodiversity movement is against aid is a much used type of propaganda that can and is used to further deny the rights of disabled people and is degrading to autistics.”

    Bullshit. There are members of the ND movement who are very much against treatments that have been proven to help people with autism. Anyone need any help naming a prominent person with autism who is actively trying to convince parents not to use ABA? How many people out there are completing against a theoretical “cure” for autism? If you need an example look in the current month’s issue of newsweek.

    There is a very large difference between the rights of any person – whether they have autism or not – and the ND movement. You may think they are the same but speaking about against ND does absolutely nothing to “deny the rights of disabled people” nor is it “degrading to autistics”.

    Sullivan you said –

    “Second, I will note that the idea of not supporting Neurodiversity—the idea that people are worthy of respect and human rights no matter whether they have differences/disorders/disability is basically an untenable position in modern society.”

    From my experience, the ND movement as it relates to autism is not simply the idea that people are worthy of respect no matter whether they have differences. If that were all it were about then I don’t think anyone would have a problem with it – I know I certainly would not. But as I said in my first comment it is “just a difference”, anti-treatment, and anti-cure mentality that causes the problems.

  12. dedj May 24, 2009 at 03:18 #

    “Which differences should be accepted as just being different and which should be treated?”

    It isn’t as simple as what ‘should be accepted’. What matters is ‘how’ things get ‘accepted’. Like it or not, acceptance of such things are a matter of consensus and not always a property of the condition itself. This is similar to what happens in common physical conditions.

    By pointing this out, the ND movement is neither ignoring reality or being contentious.

    “From where I am sitting the majority of the focus is on the difference idea and very little on the disorder side.”

    Well that’s about the stupidest thing I’ve seen written here in a long time.

    Not only is it factually wrong that people that are openly ND do not spend time focusing on the ‘disorder’, as I’ve pointed out above, but part of the central paradigm of ND is that we need to discuss what the differences are and why, not just wheter they can be seen as disordered. We already know the latter, it’s not under contention.

    You’re basically trying to argue against ND by arguing that ND people are arguing for ND.

    ND is not an intervention, but – like humanism – can be assimlated within your frame(s) of reference. There is no rational reason to expect discussion of ND to go into detail about specifics of ‘disorder*’ or intervention. Not only do ND people like Chew and Arnold discuss and debate specific behaviours and specific interventions, but people like Ari discuss national actions.

    Although I do not doubt your claim is honest, it is far from factual or well supported.

    Perhaps you might like to furnish us with some quotes or references?

    *which is odd, as ND basically support the social model, which is about how we define ‘disorder’, so you fail on two counts in the same sentence.

  13. Sullivan May 24, 2009 at 04:36 #

    If you really believe that then I would suggest that in addition to the focusing on all of the acceptance and promoting autism as just a “difference” that ND spend more time talking about the problems associated with the disorder and what can be done to help the situation. From where I am sitting the majority of the focus is on the difference idea and very little on the disorder side.

    Problems?

    How about acceptance as a major problem? Seriously, it is a major problem.

    How about lack of respect? How about putting people with autism in danger? How about people who consider it acceptable to apply poorly rationalized and untested “therapies” to people with autism? Did you catch that comment by Mark Geier, where he says he doesn’t care if a person retains fertility at age 25? Is that his choice to make? Does that sound like a person who believes he is “recovering” anyone?

    How about people who would subvert the research process in the US to suit their political needs? How about people who dominate the IACC with single-topic agendas (vaccines), at the cost of learning how to serve adults and ethnic minorities with autism?

    How about adults with autism? How about people who actively deny the existence of adults in order to promote an “epidemic” of vaccine-caused autism? How about the problems of underserved minorities who, again, are sacrificed in order to promote that same “epidemic”.

    There are a lot of problems that I have discussed at great length on this site. If you chose to ignore those, or don’t consider those to be problems, that is your choice.

  14. spectrumtimes May 24, 2009 at 04:52 #

    Hey Kev, no matter what anyone says, you have my support, I am a proud Aspie, & look forward to you & lbrb supporting our civil (both Neurodiverse & Autism & Spectrum) rights! thanks! 🙂

  15. spectrumtimes May 24, 2009 at 05:03 #

    & to Sullivan as well! keep up the good work guys!

  16. Kev May 24, 2009 at 07:49 #

    That distinction is arbitrary. Do we only treat something if it could be life threatening? What about schizophrenia, personality disorder, alcoholism, intellectual disability, and anorexia? Should all of these not be treated because they aren’t as fatal as depression?

    Actually all of those have an increased risk of depression (except intellectual disability) and therefore suicide.

    But that’s besides the point. I was merely pointing out your analogy was flawed: you weren’t comparing like with like.

    What about the “diversity” that happens in the mind of a serial killer? There has been much speculation that these people think completely differently than is “normal” so should that difference be respected as well?

    I think the clue is in the name MJ. Serial _Killer_ . If you want to contend that that is a good thing to fight for then be my guest. For me though, killers forfeit their rights.

    Which differences should be accepted as just being different and which should be treated?

    Well, based on your examples, I suggest when a fatality is involved.

    And who gets to make that decision?

    Society MJ.

    If you really believe that then I would suggest that in addition to the focusing on all of the acceptance and promoting autism as just a “difference” that ND spend more time talking about the problems associated with the disorder and what can be done to help the situation. From where I am sitting the majority of the focus is on the difference idea and very little on the disorder side.

    The majority of the content of this blog is about the scientific ineptitude of anti-vaxxers etc. I’m also personally involved with the Autism Science Foundation. Hardly a position that states ‘its _just_ a difference’. That said there are several sites you can go to that discuss disability and disorders associated with a wide range of things – including autism. I don’t see a need to replicate what they do.

    Really? How about the slew of behavior programs such as ABA or floortime. These programs can be designed to treat two of three core problems (communication and social) and help mitigate the third.

    I think even the most rabid ABA fan would agree that it is neither effective 100% of the time nor in 100% of cases. I think they would also agree that there is no _treatment_ involved but rather training to help cope.

    And going back to the ‘position’ of ND on this, there are several ND people I know who use ABA or its derivatives. You really have to try and stop seeing things as black or white MJ. Very little in life is.

  17. daduvil May 24, 2009 at 12:21 #

    While many associated with the neurodiversity community have contentions against aspects of Lovaas therapy, this is not necessarily the same as opposing something that benefits people on the spectrum. Rather, they might argue that a treatment doesn’t benefit people on the spectrum, and opposing something that doesn’t benefit people on the spectrum really isn’t the same as opposing something that does.

    Michelle Dawson, which I believe MJ was refering to earlier, has raised concern about the ethics related to behavior therapy, arguing that the therapy has often been more intended to please parents wanting their children to look superficially more normal, more so than to help their children live more fulfilling lives in their future. This can also hardly be interpreted as opposing something that benefits people on the autistic spectrum.

  18. Joseph May 25, 2009 at 19:17 #

    That some people who are thought to be associated with the neurodiversity movement question ABA has little to do with neurodiversity, and more to do with science and ethics. Certainly, Michelle Dawson often states that autistics deserve good standards of ethics and science, like everyone else, and this view of hers is probably consistent with the idea of neurodiversity, but that’s about where the connection ends.

    There are no peer-reviewed adult outcome studies of autistics who had ABA as children, even though theoretically there could be. There’s one randomized trial of ABA (Smith et al. 2000, but see errata Smith 2001) and its results were not very impressive. The only other randomized trial (Sallows & Graupner, 2005) found no differences in outcome between groups. Other controlled studies show no between-group differences (Maglati et al. 2007) as do real-world observational studies (e.g. Eaves & Ho, 2004.)

    It is well known that in autism trials that are not randomized and blinded are of little value (e.g. see Secretin.) Yet, it is expected that ABA science be accepted as a whole due to its sheer volume and appeals to authority, not its quality. Why is this standard of science acceptable when it comes to autistics?

    Wouldn’t accupuncture also be “evidence-based” if these types of standards were accepted in general?

  19. dr treg May 25, 2009 at 21:40 #

    Things are changing slowly.
    “Under the direction of Dr. Martha Herbert, assistant professor at Harvard University, the objective of ASA’s Treatment-Guided Research Initiative (TGRI), established in 2006, is to support a new generation of treatment-based research that will bring early and effective treatment to all people with autism. “We need both to help those who need it now, and to learn more about providing the most effective help,” states Dr. Herbert in her article Treatment-Guided Research: Helping People Now with Humility, Respect and Boldness (Autism Advocate, First Edition 2008). “Ideally, this should mean a marriage of research with treatment, with research improving treatments and treatment responses informing the direction of research.” From The Autism Society Of America.

  20. cpu52362 May 26, 2009 at 18:30 #

    Well said.

    Rhetorical: What Group or Sites are actually helping people to get some support, or feel better about themselves, or their loved ones? (Or maybe even have people make contact to motivate their lords/representatives/senators in a positive light?)

    I count Left Brain/Right Brain with sites of positive impact, for the most part. Of course some negative news happens and gets written about, but altogether this is not a site that has the seething anger of some, or support for what appear to be treatments of questionable merit.

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