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What is neurodiversity?
Creating a better understanding by clearing up common misconceptions about the neurodiversity movement.
- The neurodiversity movement began in the late 1990s with sociologist Judy Singer.
- Previously (and in many places, currently), these neurological differences were considered medical deficits.
- Neurodiversity is the concept that there are many different variations of human functionality and that each and every variation needs to be better understood and respected.
What is the difference between neurodiversity and the medical model approach?
Credit: Hatsaniuk on Shutterstock
What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is the concept that there are many different variations of human functionality and that each and every variation needs to be better understood and respected.
Previously (and in many places, currently), neurological differences such as autism or ADHD were considered medical deficits. They are still considered things that need to be treated and cured. Neurodiversity is an alternative approach to learning and disability that shifts the focus from treatment and cures to acceptance and accommodation.
The neurodiversity movement began in the late 1990s, when sociologist Judy Singer (who is on the autism spectrum), came up with the word to describe conditions such as ADHD, autism, and dyslexia. This ideology recognizes that neurological differences (such as autism or ADHD) are the result of natural variations to the human genome.
What is the medical model approach?
The "medical model" approach to neurological differences such as autism and ADHD focuses on treatment and suggests that there are cures and preventable causes for these neurological differences.
According to Scientific American, many of the people who adopt this medical model approach to autism call for prevention and the cure of serious impairments that can be associated with autism. In contrast, those who support neurodiversity see such language as threatening and offensive to individuals with neurological differences.
Myth: Neurodiversity is not a valid opinion/construct.
Neurodiversity is the diversity of brains and minds. That is the basis of this movement. In this way, neurodiversity isn't just an opinion or construct, but a biological fact. According to Autist Inquisitor, it's parent term, biodiversity (meaning the diversity of life), is as much a fact as neurodiversity.
Myth: neurodiversity only refers to autism.
While the term was originally coined by an Autistic sociologist, as time passed, the neurodiversity movement expanded. Neurodiversity in itself is the diversity of all brains and all minds. Neurodivergence can therefore be associated with things like ADHD, epilepsy, etc.
Myth: the neurodiversity movement does not recognize disabilities among neurodivergent people.
The social model of disability says that a person is "disabled" when the (societal) environment doesn't accommodate their needs.
Hypothetically, in this social model, if there were ramps and elevators everywhere to accommodate wheelchair users, they would not be considered "disabled," as they would have access to all the same things as a person who walks (schools, jobs, restaurants, etc). Of course, providing equal opportunity wouldn't mean ignoring the difficulties wheelchair users face.
According to Scientific American, culture and history can have an impact on what we view as a "disability".
"Depending on time and place in history, epilepsy could make a person a respected shaman or suspected of demonic possession. Gluten allergies are much easier to accommodate now than they were 20 years ago before food companies started offering gluten-free options. If wheat and rye went extinct, gluten allergy would never be a disability again!"
The model of neurodiversity doesn't aim to pretend that autistic people don't have impairments, but this model also doesn't assume that every impairment an autistic person has is a problem or disability.
"Not wanting to socialize is different from wanting to participate and being unable to. Both are possibilities for autistic people. One requires acceptance, the other requires assistance."
Myth: the neurodiversity movement opposes medical interventions and therapies.
While the main goal of neurodiversity is to understand, accept, and help accommodate people with neurological differences or difficulties, there are medical interventions and therapies that have been proven to be beneficial in certain circumstances. A common misconception about people who adopt the neurodiversity movement is that they are calling for an end to medical interventions and therapies.
While therapies such as ABA (applied behavior analysis) are quite controversial due to their focus on "curing" autism instead of assisting the neurodivergent individual, there are many people who believe in both neurodiversity and the assistance of medicine and therapy. For example, a neurodiversity advocate may feel that ADHD doesn't need to be "treated" and "cured", but that the difficult symptoms of ADHD that prevent the individual from excelling in certain areas of their life could be alleviated with medication and/or therapies.
For more information on neurodiversity, click here.
- Study: autistic brains develop differently before birth - Big Think ›
- Heather Heying ›
- Neurodiversity: Many mental 'deficits' are really hidden strengths ›
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Researchers dramatically improve the accuracy of a number that connects fundamental forces.
- A team of physicists carried out experiments to determine the precise value of the fine-structure constant.
- This pure number describes the strength of the electromagnetic forces between elementary particles.
- The scientists improved the accuracy of this measurement by 2.5 times.
The process for measuring the fine-structure constant involved a beam of light from a laser that caused an atom to recoil. The red and blue colors indicate the light wave's peaks and troughs, respectively.
Scientists at Washington University are patenting a new electrolyzer designed for frigid Martian water.
- Mars explorers will need more oxygen and hydrogen than they can carry to the Red Planet.
- Martian water may be able to provide these elements, but it is extremely salty water.
- The new method can pull oxygen and hydrogen for breathing and fuel from Martian brine.