Parenting Neurodiverse Children

Neurodiversity encompasses, but is not exclusive to conditions like Asperger's Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, ADHD, ODD, OCD, Tourettes syndrome, Dyspraxia and Dyslexia.

Neurodiversity is a belief that asserts that atypical (neurodivergent) neurological wiring is a normal human difference that is to be tolerated and respected as any other human difference, like skin color, height or, hair and eye color.

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. This term is preferred by parents of autistic children over such names as "abnormal", "disabled", among others. Neurodiversity is the preferred term applied to autistics, similar to the way intellectual disability is applied to those who are mentally retarded. Some people apply the concept of neurodiversity to developmental speech disorders as well as dyslexic, dyspraxic and hyperactive people.

The term neurodiversity is usually used as a statement against prejudice and bigotry towards autism and other neurological differences.

As Parents of neurodiverse children we often come across issues such as...
* 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, or as a result of our parenting styles.
* 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, especially in the school systems.
* Wisespread attitudes 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, or being labelled as mentally handicapped, slow, or even "retarded"
* 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).
* Administration of drugs for minor conditions that won't affect their normal development such as ADHD.

Many supporters of neurodiversity are anti-cure adult 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. These parents say they value their children's individuality and want to allow their children to develop naturally.

As an example, Morton Ann Gernsbacher is a parent of an autistic child and a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is also the president of the Association for Psychological Science. She defends that autistics need acceptance, not a cure, and endorses the theory that autism cannot be separated from the person.

Supporters of Neurodiversity agree that autistics may need therapies to cure comorbid conditions such a oppositional defiance disorder or obsessive compulsive disorders etc, or to help them develop useful skills they need to be independant in society, but forcing autistics to act as desired by others, 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. 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'.

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. 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.

Some parents of autistic children believe neurodiversity is an excuse not to treat autism and a coping mechanism for avoidance and denial[citation needed]. 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.

The earliest published use of the term "neurodiversity" appears on Sept 30, 1998 in the article "Neurodiversity" by Harvey Blume :
"Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment? Cybernetics and computer culture, for example, may favor a somewhat autistic cast of mind."

Previous to this, although he did not make explicit use of the term 'Neurodiversity', Blume writes in a New York Times piece on April 8, 1997:

... anyone who explores the subject on the Internet quickly discovers an altogether different side of autism. In cyberspace, many of the nation's autistics are doing the very thing the syndrome supposedly deters them from doing -- communicating.

Yet, in trying to come to terms with a neurotypical-dominated world, autistics are neither willing nor able to give up their own customs. Instead, they are proposing a new social compact, one emphasizing neurological pluralism.

The consensus emerging from the Internet forums and Web sites where autistics congregate (...) is that neurotypical is only one of many neurological configurations -- the dominant one certainly, but not necessarily the best.

Neurodiversity is a word that has been around since autistic people started putting sites up on the internet. It has since been expanded to include not just people who are known as autistic, 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.


10 Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew.