Autism Spectrum Australia

Neurodiversity and looking through the lens

  • Posted: 14/12/2015
  • Author: Anonymous
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When I wrote my column in the Sydney Morning Herald about my life experiences on the spectrum and the need for autistic people to be included in the conversation about autism, I touched on a rarely discussed concept: neurodiversity. This often misunderstood model plays a key role in helping people on the autism spectrum, their neurotypical loved ones, and organisations like Aspect in providing assistance and support.

Neurodiversity approaches neurological disabilities, such as autism, with the view that they are differences in the brain that occur naturally due to variations in human genetics. Neurological disabilities are not viewed in a pathological or medical way; rather as something that’s as ingrained in human diversity as ethnicity or gender. The neurodiversity concept has brought forth social justice and civil rights efforts such as the autism rights movement.

One of the things I touched on in the editorial was the motto of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, an organisation at the forefront of the movement; “Nothing about us without us”. This motto sums up what the movement is about; ensuring that all people on the spectrum have their voices heard, their quality of life ensured, and removing the fear and stigma that often surround autism. Some of the most famous proponents of autism rights include people such as Dr Temple Grandin, John Elder Robison, Ari Ne’eman, and Amythest Schaber. This is not a movement exclusive to the high-functioning or aspies; autistic people with more severe forms of the disability such as Carly Fleischmann, Amy Sequeinza and Amelia Baggs are also prominent supporters of neurodiversity.

Those of us on the spectrum want to live in a world that understands us better. We don’t want people to think that our autism is a fate worse than death. We want people to celebrate the gifts and talents we bring. We don’t want people to force us into conformity. We want help and therapies that empower us to navigate a mostly neurotypical world and be confident in who we are. We don’t want the challenges, struggles and impairments of autism to be ignored. We want those things to be understood and our needs to be met. We don’t want to be pitied. We want to be celebrated. We don’t want to be feared or abused. We want to be loved.

Aspect’s A Different Brilliant campaign is a celebration of the autism spectrum and the good qualities it gives the people who live with the disability. Aspect doesn’t sugar-coat the realities of life on the spectrum for the autism community and their neurotypical families. But by viewing autism through a neurodiverse lens Aspect is helping these families move beyond the initial fear and grief of an autism diagnosis into a stage of acceptance.

Acceptance helps families quickly gain access to the right help for their children and the right support for themselves and others they know going through the same thing. Acceptance means that parents do not fight against autism; rather they can enjoy their child for who they are and help their child where there are impairments. When families accept the uniqueness of their child on the spectrum, that child will know they are loved unconditionally.

Aspect understands the challenges and gifts the spectrum brings and for this, the Australian autism community will be able to embrace the very thing that makes them so unique.          

By Amy Smith 

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Neurodiversity and looking through the lens