Two things have popped up on my Twitter Feed today that have got me thinking (more) about the politics of Neurodiversity.
These are the things:
This was shared by the new online Neurodiversity group “NT Speaks” (@NTSpeaksUK or http://www.ntspeaks.com) and spoke to my own thoughts and questions about the ways in which we sometimes organise ourselves when we want to promote the cause of Neurodiversity – things like large conferences, face to face interaction, public speaking ,social, sensory overload – things that might be exclusionary to many in our autistic/neurodivergent communities, and to my wondering about how we might augment our approaches to be more truly, proactively inclusive.
What (else) could Neurodivergent Activism look like? What else could it involve? How can we make it better?
The second thing was this:
The 7 Demands of Second Wave Feminism were shared by Prof Celia Kitzinger – a psychologist at the University of York (@KitzingerCelia)
And this all got me thinking about what we mean when we talk about Neurodiversity and ‘Autism Acceptance’. We talk a lot about the kinds of accommodation and adjustment that meet our needs – and indeed that is the legal, bureaucratic, institutional language that we have to use if we want to negotiate access on an individual basis.
But what might real equality look like if we could design the social world how we’d choose, rather than reactively adjusting a neurotypical-dominant world to meet our special needs?
I think for me, a few of the things that this might involve would be:
- A world where I don’t have to worry about “disclosing my diagnosis” (or “coming out” – which feels a much better description for the everyday business of being openly autistic in the social world) in case people say – for example – I’m “unsuitable” to be a member of the organising committee of a group I care about “because of my mental health.” (this happened to me a little while ago – still hurts!)
- A world where I can “just” be anxious about the possibility of losing my job because it might be inconvenient in the same way that it would be inconvenient for non disabled people – not because I know, and am frequently reminded, that employment for people of my neurotype is an extremely tricky business, that we’re difficult to “accommodate” (without “specialist” intervention and a lot of personal therapy and development) and that only 15% of people with whom I share a diagnosis are in full-time employment.
- A world where children aren’t made to feel that their worth as a person is directly related to (and judged by) the number of friends they have, and how many children come to their birthday party.
- A world where electric hand dryers and fluorescent strip lights are universally banned!
There are lots of other things that I’d really like, but I think one of the problems is that we’re always told “that’s just how the world is” or “people are just like that” – our job is to adjust and to fit in – and the job of others is to enable us to do that.
I’m often asked by well-meaning professionals if I think it’s a bad idea to put “too much support” in place for autistic people in education, for example, because “the real world isn’t like that”.
Well, those of us who are autistic, who live as autistic, know that “the real world isn’t like that” – that’s our experience, we bear the scars of “the real world” – we KNOW. But I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to base our politics on the premise that the world is incapable of change (that’s kind of the whole point, surely?)
- So what would your Perfect Neurodivergent World involve?
- What would Neuroequality look like in your “real world”?
- What are the “big” things (the policy things)? and what are the “little” things (the everyday, mundane things that would eliminate so many of our daily struggles, but that often seem all the more unattainable for their humdrum, routine normality).
I want more ideas!
I want more information to help me articulate in my everyday life what we’re campaigning for!
Help me out!