Every individual has an agenda. Every movement has an agenda. Words and ideas do not have agendas, though they may communicate the agendas of those who use them.
Neurodiversity is not an agenda. It’s an idea. Parsing the root words, the idea of neurodiversity is that human beings are neurologically diverse. When considering the history behind acknowledgements of diversity, it’s apparent that such an acknowledgement is usually accompanied by a desire for tolerance, acceptance, inclusion, and accommodation for the diverse nature of human existence. The word neurodiversity, essentially, speaks for itself: human beings are neurologically diverse, and human beings deserve to be tolerated, accepted, included and accommodated in their neurological diversities.
There is nothing inherent in the word neurodiversity that says it’s strictly (or even predominantly) about autism. There is nothing inherent in the word neurodiversity that says it’s solely used by or for autistics. There is nothing inherent in the word neurodiversity that creates an us/them dynamic with the autistics being “us” and everyone else being the unwanted “them.”
But a word is not an active participant in human debates. It’s a tool. Any tool can be misused and the word neurodiversity has been used to further the agendas of individuals and groups within the great autistic population. Is this a misuse of the word neurodiversity? Well, that’s a matter of on-going debate.
I believe the answer lies in how the word is used. If, as Socrates said in a comment to KWombles post, “Neurodiversity, is all about us, not you,” then I would say, yes, neurodiversity is being misused. Diversity isn’t an us/them paradigm; diversity—whether it’s neurodiversity or racial diversity or cultural diversity or any other kind of diversity—is about all of us. If it’s not, then it’s not diversity.
It’s the difference between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. One had a dream about black children and white children playing together. The other considered black people superior to white people and wanted to increase the separation between them.
The origins of neurodiversity are not hateful, separatist, or superior. Neurodiversity originated from a hope for the tolerance, acceptance, inclusion, and accommodation of people with differences in their neurological wiring. And, yes, autism is a big, big part of that. Autistic advocates are special, because—if their primary adversaries were right—they shouldn’t exist at all. If autism really did steal souls and the like, autistics wouldn’t be able to advocate for themselves. They can and they do, and that’s great.
BUT not all self-advocacy is representative of neurodiversity. Anytime an autistic self-advocate ridicules neurotypicals for being neurotypical, they are betraying the ideals of neurodiversity. Anytime an autistic self-advocate excludes someone with a different neurological difference, they are betraying the ideals of neurodiversity. Anytime an autistic self-advocate makes an us/them argument and claims he or she speaks on behalf of neurodiversity, they are misusing neurodiversity.
This doesn’t make neurodiversity a bad thing. It doesn’t even, necessarily, make the self-advocate anti-diversity. It means we’re human. We make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are intentional, sometimes they’re not. Ideals are just that—ideal. That means, unfortunately, that they’re not attainable without a lot of hard work, self-reflection, and the occasional paradigm shift. The ideals of neurodiversity can be a work-in-progress inside each and every one of us, but it may never be wholly achieved in any of us. We can open ourselves up to being open to people who are wired differently than we are. It’s not easy, but we can do it. It’s a choice.