Thursday, August 4, 2011

Neurodiversity Loses a Follower

It is always a good day when the neurodiversity movement loses a follower -
By choosing to have the neurodiversity symposium encompass and showcase facilitated communication, the key promoters of the construct are signalling their support for a debunked communication form and actively supporting its continued use. And they are obviously, openly anti-cure. Based on the language here, one could argue that if an autistic individual happens to communicate by smearing feces, that this should be celebrated. I hope that's not what they mean.
Perhaps there's a failure to think through here on their part, but regardless, it seems to be an extreme position that I can not, after having worked  for two decades with my son to help him overcome obstacles, to learn to communicate, to function in the wider world, support. I have not sought to make him neurotypical, but I have worked to help him function better, to master new skills, to become more autonomous (the same as I've done for my daughters). Imagine if I'd chosen to celebrate his (and their) autistic forms of communication and self-expression involving feces instead. 
Since I have been somewhat critical of Kim Wombles in the past, I though I should take this opportunity to point out when she gets something right.  As I have been saying for years now, the neurodiversity movement is not a good thing for the majority of people with autism because it ignores the needs of those who are disabled by their autism and creates unrealistic ideas of what it means to have autism.

Don't get me wrong, the basic idea of neurodiversity isn't a bad one.  Every person - disabled or otherwise - is entitled to be treated with respect and dignity, and you should respect a person's right to be different.  But like other grand philosophical systems (i.e. socialism), there is a disconnect between the lofty ideal and what it looks like in practice.

In practice, neurodiversity starts out with a respect for the individual and acceptance of their differences, but quickly degrades into an anti-cure, anti-treatment movement that attacks people who are trying to help their loved ones.

Acceptance is a wonderful thing, but no amount of acceptance is going to give my children the ability to function on their own.  Acceptance can't teach them how to talk or socialize.  Nor will any amount of acceptance give them the ability to take care of themselves or live independently when they are older.

In practice, neurodiversity is a movement that ignores the fact that most people with autism are actually disabled by their autism.  It is a movement that ignores the major challenges that autism creates and instead focuses almost exclusively on the "autistic quirks" of extremely high functioning.

There is a fundamental difference between the "quirks" of someone who doesn't like velvet but can function well enough to serve on the IACC and a child that can't talk, can't socialize, and is almost incapacitated by their rigidities.  The neurodiversity made up of the former but pretends to speak for the needs of the latter while at the same time ignoring their very real needs.

So, I am happy to see that the neurodiversity movement has lost a follower.  Good job Kim.


  1. I could not agree MORE with your observations; Michelle Dawson, a former Montreal postal worker who is HFA, has spent years espousing the anti-cure/anti-treatment philosophy. All the while we were working to recover our children from autism she scorned me (and hundreds of other parents) for our so-called misguided efforts. My view is that if my neuro-typical child was struggling with algebra I wouldn't just embrace this 'difference' but rather I would get him/her a tutor to help him meet the challenge. Why is it that parents are so highly criticized for trying to help their autistic children in this same way? Michelle Dawson did not (and still does not) speak for my children -- and now, after years of therapy they speak for themselves. If Michelle Dawson or any other member of the ND crowd were to ask my chidren if they would have preferred to remain autistic instead of losing their diagnoses, they will answer with an emphatic no... the truth is, life is much easier being typical... and don't we all just want an easier life for our kids?

  2. your praise of ms. wombles is misguided. Nothing she says in that post changes the fact that she is a bully and a hatemonger who laughs at handicapped people when others mock them. Her shtick about respecting persons with disabilities regarding their functioning level is still crap and she's still a hypocrite.

  3. Hi Jonathan,

    I wasn't really trying to praise Ms. Wombles per se, just the fact that she seemed to finally realize what the ND movement is all about. As you pointed out, she has a few other glaring character flaws that are somewhat problematic.

  4. Jonathan,

    Anyone who can carry around a grudge for two years is obviously owed an apology. You have my sincere apology for not handling that situation better. The individual's comments should have been deleted and I should have made it clear that regardless of the lack of agreement that ridicule of a disabled person such as yourself was not appropriate. By leaving the comment up and noting that it was funny, I erred. Instead, criticism should be leveled directly at actions and words rather than engaging in ad hom attacks, despite the tremendous rush of satisfaction that one often feels when engaging in such an attack.

    MJ, don't we all have our glaring character flaws?

  5. reducto ad absurdum: infants should be accepted for what they are; any attempts to teach, control, or shape them are a violation of rights.

  6. Hmmm..this is quite remarkable. I never expected Ms. Wombles to apologise for anything. She is, after all, assured in her fanaticism and self righteousness that she shouldn't have to. In her mind, anyway. While her apology is a bit surprising, it definitely rings hollow to me, especially considering her past behaviour regarding those with different point of views. It is my recommendation that you take her words with a considerable bit of skepticism.

  7. Anonymous,

    Even though Ms. Wombles starts out her apology with a little bit of back-handled jab at Jonathan, I think there is a very real possibility that she is being sincere and regrets her actions. My opinion is that we should take what she says at face value and move on.

    We all do things that we regret later and I believe that everybody deserves the benefit of the doubt. Besides, the only real way to know whether her apology was sincere is to see what she does in the future.

  8. MJ, I hate to disagree with you here, but I have to agree with what Anonymous said. I don't feel the apology was sincere because I'm not sure which of her two faces she was making it from.

  9. the cure movement is not good for autistic people because it ignores anything good about autism. if people don't see anything good about it, most likely it's cause they aren't autistic themselves or were influenced by their peers that they were ill

  10. the anti-cure movement argues that non-autistic people should not be making decisions for autistic people, and clearly they shouldn't. the cure movement to me doesn't seem to care though. they're mostly non-autistic people who think they are the boss of our decisions, and they aren't.

  11. well the cure movement simply stereotypes us by saying those who don't want a cure are all higher functioning, which is not the case. Amy Sequenzia, Amanda Baggs, Tracy Thresher are all good examples. they're lower functioning, which means they might need more help, but they don't want a cure, not cause they don't have problems (believe me they have their share as much as those who are diagnosed with the same condition as they are) but because of what positives it brings, like really good memory, intelligence, sense of detail, a lack of spite, a flood of compassion, ect.

    1. Again, I say really? Do you actually know what autism is? Here's a hint - It doesn't give you a good memory, intelligence, or any of those other things but it does impair your ability to communicate, socialize, and regulate yourself and your interests.

      Have you ever met a person with even moderate autism face to face and seen what they were like? And I don't mean people who say they are lower functioning because by the time they have they the communication and social skills to make that pronouncement they aren't.

  12. are YOU autistic? cause if not, i'm not surprised you would give me such a one-sided reply