Ponderings on Neurodivergency and Pathologisation.

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Neurodiversity as a term is similar to Biodiversity: it encompasses the whole diversity of brains (including typical ones).

Neuro-Divergent is to diverge from the usual.

Those terms evolved from the word ‘Neuro-Typical’ (often shortened to NT) a word created in the mid 90’s within our relatively small online communities due to a need to find a better term to describe those of us who were not Autistic and not ‘Autistic Cousins’ (at the time abbreviated to AC’s: people who had similarities in thinking and experience to us) 1

Previously the best word we had for NT’s was ‘ordinary’ or ’normal’ which had fairly obvious issues.

The term NT also gained popularity partly as a push back / humorous response to being pathologised. An example of that early humour for instance: The Institute for the Study of Neuro-Typicals (ISNT) 2 .

The term “Neuro-Divergent” is now used to describe us when we have perfectly good terms: autistic, ADHD, dyslexic that we were happy with…

I can see it may have it’s uses but there’s something uncomfortable too: my brain is not ‘divergent’ from the diversity of brains: my autistic brain doesn’t diverge anymore than an NT brain does.

I have no problem with the use of words when they are appropriate: there are lots of times we need to discuss diversity of brains. The diversity of brains, neurodiversity is a wonderful thing.

However the use of words and our own terms have seemed to go full circle: The meanings have become lost and we are now referred to as “Neurodiverse” by ‘professionals’ who alongside not understanding that everyone is neurodiverse, seem to think autistic and similar are dirty words and so avoid them at all costs (just like the word ‘disabled’ is by many).

I’m starting to feel as if our own language has been co-opted and used against us by some to pathologise us, the very thing we fought against.

1. https://www.inlv.org/2023/06/29/neurodiversity.html

2. Institute for the Study of the Neurologically Typical: isnt.autistics.org


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