Advocating For Neurodiversity

The campaign for neurodivergent people to achieve equality and higher living standards.

To Label or Not to Label?

The debate around whether or not to label neurodivergent individuals, or even anyone at all, is a complex and ongoing one with many opposing opinions.

On the one hand, some argue that getting a diagnostic label can be liberating and provide an opportunity for people to identify with a community of others who share similar experiences. They believe that it helps individuals better understand themselves, facilitates access to appropriate support and services, and promotes a sense of identity and community.

Critics, on the other hand, argue that labels should be used for jars, not people. They find that labels can be stigmatizing, limit opportunities, and create harmful stereotypes.

Levels of Functioning

When discussing neurodiversity, you might sometimes hear the words ‘low-functioning’ versus ‘high-functioning’.

In general, low-functioning has been used to describe people who have more severe impairments in areas such as communication, socialization, and daily living skills. Conversely, high-functioning refers to individuals who have fewer impairments and are able to function relatively independently.

While the usage of these terms can be useful in certain settings, many worry that the terminology can imply that those with lower levels of functioning are somehow less valuable than those with higher levels. Instead, they recommended using terms such as ‘high support needs’ or ‘low support needs’.

It is also worth noting that even within the same individual there can be significant variations in their level of functioning depending on context and environment; what might appear to be low-functioning behavior at one time could become high-functioning behavior under different circumstances.

Intersectionality and Neurodiversity

Intersectionality acknowledges that different forms of oppression can intersect in a way that amplifies their effects.

It refers to the interconnected nature of social categories such as race, gender, sexuality, class, religion, age, and disability.

It is important to consider intersectionality in discussions of neurodiversity, as individuals with neurodivergent conditions may also face discrimination and marginalization based on other identities. For example, an autistic person who is also a person of color may face additional barriers and discrimination related to both their neurodivergent condition and their race. Similarly, a queer person with a learning disability may experience discrimination in different interacting ways.

What is the Neurodiversity Movement?

The Neurodiversity Movement is a social movement that originated in the 1990s. It suggests viewing neurodivergent conditions as normal variations in the human genome. It also advocates for the recognition and acceptance of neurodivergent individuals, challenging the medical model that views these conditions as disorders to be cured.

Key principles include the rejection of cure-based approaches, the promotion of support, and the recognition of neurodivergent individuals as experts on their own experiences.


The movement can be linked to the positive psychology movement, which was led by former American Psychological Association president Martin Seligman. He advocated that psychology has previously placed too much emphasis on the negative aspects of human personality and should now examine its positive side.

The Neurodiversity Movement is based on the values of acceptance, respect, and inclusion. Advocates strive for greater understanding and awareness about neurological differences, with the aim to create a society where neurodivergent people are seen as valuable members of their communities and given equal opportunities.

Challenges and Controversies in the Neurodiversity Movement

The Neurodiversity Movement has achieved several things, including raising awareness of neurodiversity as a natural variation in human neurocognitive functioning and advocating for greater acceptance and inclusion in society. However, the movement has also faced challenges and controversies.

For example, some have criticized the movement for not sufficiently addressing the needs of those who are severely affected by their neurodivergence and for potentially ignoring the medical aspects of certain conditions. They argue that the movement’s agenda only favors people with low support needs and that it overlooks those who have more difficulty accomplishing everyday tasks.

Especially families with severely affected children may not agree with the idea that we should avoid searching for treatments or a cure.

Finally, some critics argue that the movement is not inclusive enough of other neurodivergent conditions besides autism, and that more attention should be paid to conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia, and Tourette syndrome.

The Social Model of Disability

When sociologist Judy Singer started writing her thesis on neurodiversity in the 1990s, she had been greatly inspired by a book about the social model of disability.

The social model suggests that individual limitations are not an inherent part of a disability, but that they rather arise from society and the social and physical barriers that prevent someone from fully participating in that society.

The problems someone faces are therefore not necessarily due to their impairments or differences, and instead result from inaccessible physical environments, discriminatory attitudes, and a lack of supportive policies.

In contrast to the medical model, which focuses on individual medical diagnosis, treatment, and cure, the social model emphasizes social change and removing barriers to inclusion.

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