Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity is a neologism popularized in the late 1990s by Australian sociologist Judy Singer and American journalist Harvey Blume to refer to variation in the human brain regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood and other mental functions in a non-pathological sense.[1] The term is a portmanteau of "neurological" and "diversity" and emerged as a challenge to prevailing views that certain neurodevelopmental disorders are inherently pathological and instead adopts the social model of disability, in which societal barriers are the main contributing factor that disables people.[2][3]

The subsequent neurodiversity paradigm has been controversial among autism advocates, with opponents saying that its conceptualization of the autism spectrum doesn't reflect the realities of individuals who have high support needs.[4][5][6]

History

In a New York Times piece written by American journalist and writer Harvey Blume on June 30, 1997, Blume described the foundation of neurodiversity using the term "neurological pluralism".[7] Blume was an early advocate who predicted the role the Internet would play in fostering the international neurodiversity movement.[8]

The word neurodiversity is attributed to Judy Singer, an Australian social scientist on the autism spectrum, who used the term in her sociology honors thesis published in 1999.[9][10] The term represented a move away from previous "mother-blaming" theories about the cause of autism.[11] Singer had been in correspondence with Blume as a result of their mutual interest in autism, and though he did not credit Singer, the word first appeared in print in an article by Blume in The Atlantic on September 30, 1998.[12]

Some authors[13][14] also credit the earlier work of autistic advocate Jim Sinclair in advancing the concept of neurodiversity. Sinclair was a principal early organizer of the international online autism community. Sinclair's 1993 speech, "Don't Mourn For Us", emphasized autism as a way of being: "It is not possible to separate the person from the autism."[15]

The term "neurodiversity" has since been applied to other conditions and has taken on a more general meaning; for example, the Developmental Adult Neurodiversity Association (DANDA) in the UK encompasses developmental coordination disorder, ADHD, Asperger's syndrome, and related conditions.[16]