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A Guest Is Coming

  • Posted on May 25, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Perhaps it’s too early to be saying this, since I haven’t gotten confirmation of when the first post will be ready, but I have a guest blogger coming.  I hope to put her first post up on Monday.

I haven’t done much with guest bloggers in the past, but I strongly believe that a key ingredient to productive dialogue is to get two or more people with different points of view to discuss their similarities and differences in a respectful manner.  The objective is not to change people’s minds, but to expand them: to fill in gaps of knowledge we may not even know we have, to correct misinformation we think is true, to share different points of view, and to find—if possible—middle ground we can walk together, and, when that’s not possible, to agree to disagree on those things we disagree on and to agree to cooperate on those things we agree on.

Granted, this is not always possible.  I remember all too well some of the recent debacles in exchanging points of view in the greater autism community.  But I believe I’ve found a stimulating guest who is genuinely interested in sharing her knowledge and learning from those who respond—both “ingredients” are necessary, I think.

She’s a researcher.  She’s “for” curing autism, though what she means by that may not be what I (we?) assume she means by that.  She’s also “for” neurodiversity, though, again, what she means by that may not be what I (we?) mean by that.  Really, she’s for improving the lives of those with autism, and she wants to learn—from parents and people with autism—what that means and what it doesn’t mean.  And that, if nothing else, is something we have in common.  How we view the issues of autism may be different, and I already know that some of them are, but our hope (though, not necessarily our goals) is similar.  That’s something we can build upon.

How this will work, then, is for me to post (unedited) her point of view.  Moderated discussion will ensue (I hope): no disrespectful, mean, derogatory, or troll-like comments allowed.  You can disagree.  You can disagree adamantly.  But do so respectfully, on topic—and definitely not “on person.”  Then, I’ll respond in a post of my own.  This exchange will go back and forth—we’re not sure how long.  We’ll see how it goes.  Again, comments will be moderated.  Be respectful and civil and you’ll get through.  Be a spammer or a troll, and you won’t.  I hope you enjoy this new endeavor!

The True Meaning of Diversity

  • Posted on February 20, 2010 at 3:18 AM

“The true meaning of valuing diversity is to respect and enjoy a wide range of cultural and individual differences, thereby including everybody,” (The Fundamentals of Organizational Behavior, 4th ed., by Andrew J. DuBrin, 2007, pg. 381).

Diversity goes beyond recognizing that we are different in measurable ways.  Diversity goes beyond tolerance.  Diversity goes beyond offering assistance to excluded individuals.  Diversity is about inclusion.

In some sense, I have ignored those diagnosed with Asperger’s who object to being lumped into the same diagnostic category as my children.  Their words, their behavior—it’s beneath my contempt, it makes me angry, and it’s so hypocritical, so absurd that it really doesn’t warrant a response.  Except it does, because there are those who claim their words represent neurodiversity.  It got that response from people much more influential than I.

This post is not about them, though the words I write could apply.  This about what I consider the fundamentals of neurodiversity to be.

Consider the difference between cultural diversity and affirmative action.  Both seek to include people with different racial, ethnic, and national profiles in the workplace.  One does so by focusing on differences and disadvantages.  The other focuses on similarities and strengths.  One assumes that those who weren’t born white Americans need help getting a job.  The other assumes that everyone needs opportunities and can add value to a firm.

Neurodiversity is to cultural diversity what empowerment is to affirmative actionNeurodiversity and empowerment parallel each other in many respects; but, they are not synonyms, they are not the same.  Both have their place, but they are not the same.

Neurodiversity is not about services, accommodations, treatment methods, or any of the issues that are often in the forefront of our dialogues.  People who believe in neurodiversity do not share the same opinion about all of these things.  Those issues are not the essence of neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity is about two things:

1) People are naturally and normally neurologically different.  Some of these natural, normal differences are labeled “abnormal,” “disorders,” “syndromes,” or other value-laden labels that interferes with our ability to understand the different subsets of human neurology.

2) Human beings are valuable, in all their diversity, in and of themselves.

This means:

1) You cannot claim to value diversity and claim to be superior.  Those two statements cannot be combined without the use of a logical fallacy.  It would not, however, invalidate a claim to value diversity if you are struggling with feelings of superiority.

2) You can claim to value diversity and yet desire assistance, accommodations, and/or medical treatments.  The use of assistance, accommodation, and/or medical treatments does not invalidate a claim of valuing diversity.

3) You cannot claim to value diversity and claim to be inferior.  Those two statements cannot be combined without the use of a logical fallacy.  It would not, however, invalidate a claim to value diversity if you are struggling with feelings of inferiority.

4) You can claim to value diversity and dislike specific people because of the things they say or do that are within their control.  For example, you can dislike someone who bullies you and still value diversity.

5) You cannot claim to value diversity and dislike individuals or groups based on traits beyond their control.  For example, you cannot dislike someone who embarrasses you by having a seizure in public and still value diversity.

6) You can support the research of human differences and still value diversity.  For example, you can support the research into the various causes of autism and still support neurodiversity.

7) You cannot support the forced eradication of a group based on an undesirable trait and still value diversity.  For example, you cannot support diversity and research a way to identify and eliminate autistic fetuses.

8) You can advocate techniques that minimize or “un-does” challenges and still value diversity.  For example, a person can support the inclusion of individuals with spinal cord injuries and support researching ways to correct damage to their spinal cords.  A person can also support the inclusion of individuals who cannot talk and support researching ways to give them access to speech.

9) You cannot advocate the “cure” of a diverse group and still value diversity.  For example, you cannot support racial diversity and try to cure “blackness.”  Neither can you support neurodiversity and try to cure autism or bi-polar or any other neurological subtype.

Neurodiversity is about recognizing that the human race has natural neurological variations, accepting the individuals with all those variations, and including them in society.  It is about giving people the power and the opportunity to achieve their own individual potential, not quantifying that potential and dismissing those who do not “measure up” from consideration.  A belief in neurodiversity does not preclude the experience of disability.  A belief in neurodiversity does not preclude the desire to overcome the experience of disability, either temporarily or permanently.  A belief in neurodiversity doesn’t even preclude a belief that the government has no business extending entitlements or “special rights” to disadvantaged groups.  A belief in neurodiversity does, however, preclude the belief that you are in any way superior to another on the basis of things beyond your or their control.  Being smarter doesn’t make you better.  Being more socially adaptable doesn’t make you better.  Being more emotionally stable doesn’t make you better.  If you want to feel “better,” then use your abilities (whatever they are) to help others.  Not only will you really feel better, but it’ll be a better feeling than any false sense of superiority could ever give you.