“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Neurodiversity (noo.roh.di.VUR.suh.tee, -dy.VUR.suh.tee) n. The variety of non-debilitating neurological behaviors and abilities exhibited by the human race. Also: neuro-diversity.—neurodiverse adj. (from Word Spy)

So neurodiversity is about how people's minds are different. As Word Spy goes on to quote, it might include people's minds affected by autism, dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia and tourette's syndrome. I would also add people with intellectual disabilities. The key to this definition is "non-debilitating" and who knows what that means? Their assumption is that being autistic, or dyslexic or having tourette's syndrome are not debilitating in our society. But one can be debilitated in a variety of ways. For most people with the differences mentioned, the debilitation is societally caused. Persons with autism, for example, often evidence social skills/social behaviors which are atypical. It doesn't take much in the way of movement ouside of the limited range of "normal" in the area of social skills for one to at worst feel debilitated, and at best to have the feeling, "I am strange."

Generally speaking, I would agree with the notion of acceptance of people who are not "neurotypical" as I would advocate for acceptance of other similar aspects of human diversity. Using autism again, the social differences often evidenced in autism are in no way wrong or evil. They simply require of society a greater openness and a greater willingness to expand the notion of typical or normal. As Marc Gold defined the term "mental retardation"...
Mental retardation refers to a level of functioning which requires from
society significantly above average training procedures and superior assets in
adaptive behavior on the part of society, manifested throughout the life of both
society and the individual (you will get the connection if you are familiar with the old AAMR definition he was referring to)
Individuals with more severe forms of autism will make demands on me in terms of understanding their efforts at communication or in terms of not being put off by atypical behavior; in summary their differences. These differences cause me to change as a person. In reality it enlivens things, it opens things up a bit, it causes me to break out of my social skill normality straightjacket, and truly see innocent, behavioral differences in a morally uncharged manner. I make the decision to recognize that atypical behavior is not necessarily wrong or immoral behavior. It can simply be atypical.

People who are atypical can and do do amazing things that can ultimately change society. They do things like sit in an atypical place in a bus when society demands that they sit in a typical place. They do things like go to an atypical place and live among the poor and destitute when society would tell them to seek greater material wealth. They do things like teach atypical children with profound disabilities when society would tell them to teach the gifted and brightest, and not waste their life. They do things like be present to people who claim to believe in God, showing them who their God really is, and how it is that they might grow to be like him.

The notes on the Word Spy definition go on to say that "there is no such thing as 'normal' when it comes to the human mental landscape." I don't think that I would go that far. There is such a thing as average intelligence or average height and weight, and average could be equated with what is normal or typical. I think the point here is not to say that everybody is the same. The point is to open up what is accepted by the typicals as within the normal range such that people are not excluded. I am tall. You can tell me that I am not tall, but I am still tall. However, you can reject me for being atypical in the area of height, or you can say to yourself, "That guy is very tall, but that is really kind of irrelevant." You might have to hold your neck at a bit of a weird angle to talk to me (particularly if you use a wheelchair although I always try to remember to kneel) but I hope you will still talk to me.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I see your point. Getting to know someone who is different from ourself, whether it's culturally or neurologically, enriches our lives and opens our minds and hearts.