Campan FDScMH (Forensic), LTh (Hons), CertEd, QTS,
PgCert Religion, Spirituality & Mental Health,
PgCert Special Psychopedagogy,
PgCert Autism & Asperger’s
This article is an expanded and revised version of my previous post, A Concerned Neurodivergent’s critique of Judy Singer’s “There’s a lot in a name… Diversity vs Divergence” article – I – …
I have only incidentally heard about Judy Singer, which is probably due to her self-acknowledged two-decade long absence, succinctly described as: “Returning to the field 20 years later”.
As succinctly described in her article, these motives seem to be complex, motivated mainly as it appears, by Dr Nancy Doyle’s choice of describing “People with Neurodiversity”, as being -in Singer’s own words- “an assortment of people with a range of conditions like Aspergers (sic), Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, etc”.
I hope to correctly remember the author saying (in a tweet I cannot access anymore), that her article was meant as an “opening gambit” to be followed by more “moves”, mentioning also an openness to learning and dialogue and as one might subsequently assume, debate. Having read the article, I considered necessary to express the following concern: “with all due respect, but if ND is ever going to live up to its name, it has to move-on from having come to actually represent only a more or less autistic, loud minority, which has become exclusive by ignorance, of other Neurodivergent conditions…” and I must add, their various levels of severity.
The essence of Singer’s article perfectly overlaps with a development within the Neurodiversity “movement” I have been following for the past couple of years, which I perceive as a theoretical threat to a necessary progression of Neurodiversity from its oversimplified and absolutely inaccurate “biodiversity” origins, onto an umbrella concept for Neurodivergent conditions, as summarised in DANDA’s graphic representation.
In an effort therefore, to reconcile the double existential divide and dichotomy caused by a lack of balance within the Medical/Clinical Model of Neurodivergence and the Social Model’s denialism, I am proposing what I consider a more objective perspective, which I would call The Medi-Social Model of Neurodivergence/Neurodiversity, applicable to basically all Neurodivergent conditions.
Having worked in forensic mental health for the past few years, I can boldly assert that the structural elements of a Medi-Social Model of Neurodivergence/Neurodiversity have always been present in what has been suggested as the Medical Model, which could have never existed without it’s Social aspects, richly proven by the well-known existence of the Multidisciplinary Teams mandated by legislation to be present at each step of an individual’s journey through their individualised Recovery Pathway.
However, a Medi-Social Model of Neurodivergence/Neurodiversity would open the possibility of exploring new and necessary horizons of how all participants in these multidisciplinary teams, such as the individuals themselves, their caregivers, their clinical team, their social worker team, could change the Recovery Pathway Dynamic from a Clinical Team dependant hierarchical to a more co-participative/intersectional. The proposed model would also represent a justified abandonment of what I perceive as a trend exemplified by Dr Doyle’s “Genius Within” (GW)
revised version of DANDA’s diagram:
Because unfortunately, well-meaning efforts to focus on the ‘good’, have tragically resulted in a complete loss of sight about the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’, clearly seen when comparing DANDA’s and GW’s diagrams, where the central, neurodiversity defining areas have migrated from concepts such as “Difficulties…, Poor…, Low…, Anxiety…” to “Evolution has created specialist thinkers, to bring a variety of expertise to humanity”.
I can’t do any better at this moment, than remember the religiously uplifting “blessed are the poor in spirit” and its agnostic translation “ignorance is bliss” …
Because any attempts to romanticise by avoidance, the consequences of being born with a structurally different brain, which translates into oftentimes insurmountable social integration difficulties, are no better than primarily psychiatric, exclusively medication-based approaches to such neurological differences.
And yes, I cautiously agree that most neurodivergent conditions exemplified in the diagrams are not psychiatric illnesses per se; ignoring however, the often-devastating effects these have on an individual’s overall physical and mental wellbeing, which cannot be addressed from a Social Model perspective only, is no less than gross negligence.
In an effort to clarify a vital segment of reassessing and restructuring the Neurodiversity narrative, I was forced to ask the following, probably uncomfortable question: “[…] Unfortunately, current efforts, well-meaning as they are, seem too much about an integrative sociology of lower dependency autism. When was last you heard e.g. Dyscalculia mentioned?”
Because I genuinely believe that a Neurodiversity concept and narrative which ignores its complex Neurodivergence architecture, is in danger of becoming useless and harmful, discrediting worldwide efforts to move away from this completely misunderstood “I came to the ND word from the Green Movement, […] the word Biodiversity…” onto my proposal’s integrated perspective of Neurodivergence, which understands the intrinsic clinical/medical, physiological and/or pathological aspects of Autism, AD(H)D, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia, Tourette Syndrome, etc, (the list being still debated), as integrated with the extrinsic correlations inevitable given by a neurodivergent’s inescapable social pertinence.
Beneath the surface, it appears that article author’s real problem seems to be associating “her” Neurodiversity, with Disability, or in her own words, “The problem with the expression “People with Neurodiversity” is that it turns Neurodiversity into the latest fashionable synonym for Disability” …
Reading this, it becomes hopefully clear that the danger of what I have several times called a “hijacked” and “derailed” Neurodiversity narrative is real, leaving not much doubt about a deep-seated desire of a mostly high-functioning autistic and “autistic”, loud minority, to dissociate themselves from the less fashionable, disabling aspects of autism and all other neurodivergent conditions, by following a restrictively enforced set of agreed rules, reminiscent of vigilantism, e.g. language policing, disability terminology avoiding, “autism parent” abusing, etc…
Further analysing the article, everything seems to have taken a surreal turn when it read: “The role of the ‘NeuroDiversity Movement’ then is to be a federation of different Neurotribes […] I argue therefore that ND must remain ‘sacrosanct’, a universal truth that we can point to when insisting on the necessity of our existence.” (emphasis mine).
I do not remember, reading Silberman’s “Neurotribes”, that any of his intentions were anywhere close to Singer’s grandiose ideas that “the role of the Neurodiversity Movement is to unite all the people with simple neurological variants behind the same advocacy banner: i.e. the syndrome formerly known as Aspergers, ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Stuttering, etc.” (emphasis mine).
I do sincerely hope, that thinkers with a much more complex understanding of these conditions, with a scientific and lived-experience understanding of “Asperger’s, Dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, Dyspraxia, Stuttering etc”, will understand the discriminative reductionism resulting from redefining these oftentimes severely debilitating and disabling conditions, as “simple neurological variants”, moving away from what has become a questionable attempt by proponents of mainly social sciences, to unilaterally rewrite a neurodivergence narrative pioneered by illustrious figures of medical sciences…
To be continued…