Celebrating Neurodiversity

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Earlier this week I talked about how the social model of disability revolutionized my life. Today I’d like to talk about another concept that did the same: the neurodiversity movement.

For my entire life, I have felt like I am wired fundamentally differently from other people. Processing sensory information — touch and sound in particular — without discomfort is difficult for me. I always thought that there was something wrong with me, that those challenges were “problems” that needed to be “fixed,” and medical professionals often did too, which was very shaming.

It wasn’t until I found a fantastic doctor and started reading about the experiences of others with similar challenges (mostly folks on the autism spectrum) that I began to realize that I wasn’t broken! I was just different from the neurotypical average.

What a relief! No longer did I feel shame. I still struggled, of course, and searched out strategies that could help me modulate the input from my environment better, but no longer did I see myself as a giant Problem with a capital P. And that was incredibly liberating.

Part of that liberation involved seeing my struggles as part of a greater civil rights movement. For over 60 years, autistic people have been subjected to often-coercive and inhumane treatments delivered in an attempt to “cure” them at any cost, which is absolutely harrowing. (Please note that I am not anti-intervention at all cost, either. I support interventions that directly allow an autistic person to live a more comfortable and empowered life, and are put in place respectfully with the consent and collaboration of the autistic person.)

I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to no longer feel broken and fundamentally flawed. I still have challenges, often on a daily basis, but I view them as just that: obstacles that can be mitigated. And I give thanks to the neurodiversity movement on a daily basis, too, for providing me with a model for self-worth and even pride.

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