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Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Neurodiversity Movement

At Psychology Today, Jason Tougaw writes about the movement:
Ari Ne’Eman is the founder of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, appointed by Barack Obama to the U.S. National Council on Disability. John Elder Robison is an autobiographer, policy consultant for the national Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, and visiting faculty member in The College of William and Mary’s Neurodiversity Initiative, the first university program of its kind. Carly Fleishmann is the nonverbal host of Speechless, a comedic YouTube talk show, and co-author (with her father, Arthur Fleischmann) of Carly’s Voice: Breaking through Autism. Neurodiversity blog's include Dani Alexis Rykamp's Neuroqueer, a collective blog for multiple authors “queering our neurodivergence” and “neurodiversifying our queer; Debra Muzikar's The Art of Autism, another collective blog focused on visual art; an Erin Human's illustrated blog, which includes infographics, writing, and graphic design. Cartoonist Ellen Forney has published Marbles, a graphic memoir about her bipolar experience and Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice From My Bipolar Life, perhaps the funniest self-help book of all time. DJ Savarese, the first nonspeaking graduate of Oberlin College, is a prolific poet who co-directed, DEEJ, an intimate, political film about his experience. In his words, "Inclusion shouldn't be a lottery."

Neurodiversity--the concept and the movement--is not without controversy, particularly surrounding autism. In a recent Scientific American article Simon Baron-Cohen observes that proponents of a more strictly medical model of autism "argue that the severe challenges faced by many autistic people fit better within a more classical medical model. Many of these are parents of autistic children or autistic individuals who struggle substantially in any environment." Fierce debates rage between those who advocate for a medical cure for autism and neurodiversity activists who argue that a world built on neurotypical norms prevents neurodivergent people from thriving--and, in fact, extends a historical legacy of severe medical mistreatment of people whose minds and brains diverge from those norms.

One thing is clear: The neurodiversity movement has demonstrated--and made public--the talents an cultural contributions of people once dismissed wholesale. In many cases, these talents and contributions emerge directly from the eccentric neurologies of people like Amethyst Schaber and Eleanor Longden. The evolution of culture, art, science, and politics depends on a diversity of minds and people.