“Neurodiversity excludes ‘severe’ children like my son…”
“Neurodiversity is only for ‘high functioning autistics, and it ignores the needs of others…”
“You can’t speak for my child because you can’t possibly know what they go through…”
This is 100% the most common argument against the neurodiversity movement.
That the movement supports the interests of the autistics who speak or live independently while ignoring those who are non-speaking or might require more direct supports from caregivers.
But the fact is… Neurodiversity celebrates all different neurologies. Like… All of them.
Is your child currently non-speaking? Or maybe they have a co-morbid intellectual disability? Or maybe they struggle with meltdowns or aggression?
Yep… Neurodiversity includes YOUR child.
Because here’s the truth: Neurodiversity doesn’t exclude your child… You do.
Neurodiversity Doesn’t Exclude Your Autistic Child… You Do.
Now, before you get too angry with me and click out of this post, I urge you to keep reading.
See, I think you and I have more in common than you might think.
So I’m going to outline some of the core beliefs of the neurodiversity movement and explain how they are often misunderstood.
Because the fact is, the neurodiversity movement includes ALL autistics and people with all different neurologies.
We want to welcome your child, if you’ll let us. So let’s dive in to what that actually looks like.
Neurodiversity Believes ALL Autistics Should Be Celebrated and Accepted
This is one of the core beliefs in the neurodiversity movement, but it’s also one of the most misunderstood.
Neurodiversity believes that all (yes, ALL) autistics should be celebrated and accepted in society.
This is why we focus on acceptance rather than awareness, why we try to normalize autistic behaviors like stimming, and support inclusion of autistics in society.
Many people believe that the neurodiversity movement only believes that one “type” of autistic should be celebrated, but that just isn’t true.
All autistics should be accepted in society.
Flapping and spinning should be accepted. Eye contact shouldn’t be expected as the norm. Different versions of communication (including behaviors!) should be understood.
That’s also not to say that we believe that autism is all rainbows and sunshine all the time, which leads me to my next point…
Neurodiversity Believes ALL Autistics Should Be Accommodated and Supported
So once people understand that neurodiversity believes that autistics should be accepted and celebrated, they come back with some version of this argument:
“If you focus on accepting autistics and autistic behaviors, that means you don’t want to help autistics who are really struggling.”
But here’s the thing… Neurodiversity doesn’t stop with the belief that we should be accepted and celebrated… We also believe that ALL autistics should be accommodated and supported.
It’s true that there are autistics out there struggling with some major concerns.
From comorbid disorders to sensory overwhelm to autistic burnout… No one is trying to say that those struggles should be ignored.
We believe that autistics should have access to the accommodations and supports they need.
We just also believe that time and resources spent searching for the cause of autism (or worse, ‘cures‘) would be much better spent creating better supports and accommodations so that autistics could navigate society more easily.
So please don’t think that the neurodiversity movement wants to simply abandon your child. We want to help your child live the best life possible, and that comes with an increased focus on accommodations and supports.
Neurodiversity Believes ALL Autistics Have a Voice That Counts
Another common argument I hear against the neurodiversity movement goes like this:
“The neurodiversity movement only accepts autistics who can speak for themselves… My child doesn’t have a voice.”
And here’s the thing… Your child may be non-speaking. They may not have an alternative way to easily communicate, either. But that does not mean they don’t have a voice.
It also doesn’t mean that if your autistic child could easily share their voice, they would agree with your opinions…
The fact is, many non-speaking autistics learn new communication skills as they grow up, and many of them are active in the neurodiversity movement.
So it isn’t fair to assume that non-speaking autistics feel like the neurodiversity movement is excluding them… In most cases, it’s parents (unintentionally) excluding their child by assuming their child’s beliefs about autism align with the parents.
Neurodiversity Believes ALL Autistics Should Be Presumed Competent
This goes along with the last point a bit, but it deserves its own section as well.
Neurodiversity believes ALL autistics should be presumed competent.
What does that mean, exactly? Basically, we believe that we should believe that autistics are capable of thinking, learning, and understanding, even if they aren’t showing you evidence of that yet.
For me, this means I don’t buy into the “your child will never” narrative that the doctors push during the diagnosis process.
Oftentimes parents are told that their non-speaking child “will never” do so many things, but the fact is that no one knows that.
It’s so much better if you presume competence with your child (and with all autistics).
Imagine this scenario:
You assume that your non-speaking child doesn’t understand what you’re saying, so you complain about them and their autism right in front of them for years. Then you find that they understood you the entire time. Feeling guilty?
As an alternative, you presume that your non-speaking child understands what’s going on around them, and you make sure to always talk respectfully and positively in front of them. So much better, right?
Side note: I think you should talk respectfully and positively about all people, even if they don’t understand you, but that’s another post altogether.
The main point here is that neurodiversity believes that you should always presume competence, even if the autistic person hasn’t shown you evidence of that competence yet.
Neurodiversity Believes ALL Autistics Deserve Autonomy and Basic Rights
This last point is huge, and I’m going to start it with a story.
In an autism community I’m in (not my Embracing Autism community) someone asked about ABA therapy.
I shared a VERY watered down version of my opinions on why ABA is problematic, including my issues with autistic children’s lack of body autonomy and consent.
A therapist then started arguing with me, telling me that only “severe” children should have to go through ABA therapy.
Oof. It hit me in my core.
See, I believe that ALL autistics deserve autonomy and basic rights. No autistic should be subjected to a therapy that teaches them that their body is not their own and their consent doesn’t matter.
And that is why the neurodiversity movement fights against harmful therapies for ALL autistics.
Because let’s be real. I won’t allow anyone to mistreat my autistic son, period. But I also don’t want anyone to mistreat YOUR autistic child, period.
Neurodiversity Doesn’t Exclude Your Autistic Child Unless You Exclude Your Autistic Child
Neurodiversity is not fighting for my son but not yours. Neurodiversity is fighting for ALL autistics, and we’d LOVE for you to join us in that fight.
To be honest, I believe that you and I are likely on the same side here, we’re just coming at it from different angles.
I also want your autistic child to live their best life possible.
I want your child to have their needs met. I want them to be supported, respected, accommodated, accepted, and celebrated, and I don’t think any of those goals are mutually exclusive.
So if you’re ready to jump in and support your autistic child’s future with neurodiversity, be sure you join our Embracing Autism community.
You’ll be a part of our incredible community that helps parents of autistic children join with autistic self-advocates to learn and grow.
And together we can make a massive change in the way society views and treats ALL autistics.
If you loved this post, you should also check out…
3 Shifts That Happen When Parents Listen to Autistic Adults