“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 action. Neurodiversity 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.
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.