What is Neurodiversity?
All brains and minds are neurodiverse, meaning that each is unique and different, functioning in diverse ways. This term was coined by Australian Sociologist Judy Singer in 1998. Judy believed that neurotypes could be considered a social category much like gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or socioeconomic class. Singer felt that neurodivergent minds were often oppressed the same way different social categories were, such as women, queer folx, BIPOC communities, etc. There isn't a need for a 'cure' for Autism anymore than there is a need to cure the color of one's skin, a person's gender, sexual orientation, etc.
Neurodiversity affirming is the belief that all neurotypes, including the neurodivergent (brains that diverge from the norm/neurotypical including Autism, OCD, ADHD, etc.) have value. This means that Autistic brains are not broken and do not need to be 'fixed'. Autism is a unique way of existing in and experiencing the world. People with autism often have enhanced sensory experiences which is both a strength and a weakness. Autistic brains show hypersensitivity in the areas of the brain that process sensory information They also demonstrate a heightened response to sensory stimulus in the areas of the brain that process emotion; the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the prefrontal cortex.
This is why the Autistic Rights Movement has taken a strong stand against ABA Therapy. Heartstone Guidance Center stands with the Autistic Rights Movement and is opposed to all forms of ABA therapy. You will find a list of articles and resources on the issues with and alternatives to ABA therapy further down this page. There is a growing number of Autistic voices in the Autistic Rights Movement claiming that ABA therapy is unethical and abusive and similar to conversion therapy in that it attempts to extinguish autistic traits. Unfortunately, ABA is estimated to be a $17 billion-dollar-a-year industry, giving it the money and resources to drown out Autistic voices. There is however a growing body of research that suggests ABA is ineffective in the long run and can lead to mental health issues including PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Our Autistic therapists, myself included have a zero-tolerance policy towards ABA therapy.
Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how people communicate, interact with others, and process sensory information. It is a diverse condition that affects each person differently, and it is often misunderstood and stigmatized. However, it is important to recognize that autism is not a disorder or a disease, but rather a different way of perceiving and experiencing the world.
One of the biggest misconceptions about autism is that it is a mental illness that needs to be cured. However, this is not the case. Autism is a type of neurodivergency meaning it is a natural variation in the human brain. Just as there is diversity in body types, skin colors, and personalities, there is also diversity in the way brains function.
People with autism often have unique strengths and abilities. They may excel in areas such as art, music, math, and science. Many people with autism have exceptional memories and are able to focus intensely on a specific task or interest. They may also have a strong sense of fairness and justice and may be very empathetic and compassionate towards others.
It is important to recognize and celebrate the strengths and differences of people with autism, rather than trying to fit them into a neurotypical mold. Neurodiversity should be seen as a positive aspect of society, and people with autism should be treated with respect, understanding, and acceptance.
There is still a long way to go in terms of acceptance and understanding of autism, but we can all do our part by educating ourselves and being more inclusive and supportive of those with autism. Let's embrace neurodiversity and recognize that autism is not a disorder, but rather a unique and valuable part of the human experience.
Neurodiversity-Affirming Autism Links
No puzzle pieces, no cures, and no ABA therapy.
These resources are authentically Autistic and affirming. These are spaces where Autistic voices speak of Autism and are heard over neurotypical voices.
Neuroclastic A collective of autistic voices, cataloging the intersectional experiences, insights, knowledge, talents, and creative pursuits of Autistics. This is a living repository of information cataloging the autistic experience.
Aucademy Autistic academics, researchers, teachers, speakers, trainers, and advocates educating on Autistic experience for Autistic and non-autistic learners. Aucademy also runs several online social groups.
Thinking Person's Guide to Autism (TPGA) is a resource rich, a one-stop source for carefully curated, evidence-based, neurodiversity-steeped information from autistic people, parents, and autism professionals.
Embrace Autism This is a platform
to distribute research and experience-based information on autism. If you think you might be Autistic this is a great place to start, Dr. Natalie has several autism and adhd screeners, that are easy to use posted on her site.
Dr. Walker is a queer, transgender, and flamingly autistic author and educator. Nick wrote Neuroqueer Heresies and his site is a compilation of his writing, comics, etc. Notes on the Neurodiversity Paradigm, Autistic Empowerment, and Postnormal Possibilities
ASAN seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which autistic people enjoy equal access, rights, and opportunities. Nothing About Us, Without Us!
Devon Price is the author of Unmasking Autism and Laziness does not exist. Devon is a Transgender, Autistic social psychologist and writes some of the most thoughtful and intelligent autistic commentaries on the internet.
Meghan Ashburn offers several lists of books on
Autism and neurodivergence. She has multiple blog articles by actually autistic authors and provides
excellent resources for parents and teachers of Autistic children.
Dr. Neff is a neurodivergent (Autistic-ADHD) clinician, parent, and advocate. She had created quite a few ADHD and Autistic mental health and wellness resources
* I am using identity-first language deliberately throughout the website. As an Autistic Human, I prefer identity-first language as do most members of the Autistic Rights Movement. I feel that the Autistic neurotype is deeply intertwined with who we are as human beings. My identity would be completely different if I had a different neurotype. Many of the voices insisting that we use person-first language are parents or professionals who feel we stigmatize Autistic people because they don't see our neurotype as part of our identity. But my genetic materials combined with all of my environmental conditioning to create my personality and identity. My neurotype was determined by the genetic structure of my Autistic brain and all of my environmental conditioning has been heavily influenced by my sensory perceptions and cognitive interpretations of my environment as percieved by my Autistic brain. My Autism is therefor deeply intertwined with my personality and identity making me an Autistic human rather than a human with Autism.