The free-to-use neurodiversity awareness infinity symbol designed by the Australian sociologist and autism activist Judy Singer who also coined the term neurodiverse in 1998. Whenever we wear it or use it we are also celebrating Judy.
Dr Henry Bond
I am neurodivergent. I am an autistic person. Autism or ASD is not an illness. Autism can be described as one of several neurological styles or types of brain "wiring" that people have. Some other styles include ADHD and Dyslexic. People who are neurodivergent often call the neurological style of the majority neurotypical or NT for short. You can read the internationally agreed ICD-11 definition of Autism Spectrum Disorder here. ICD tends to take what is called a medical "deficit view" of autism. Some of the claims made in the diagnostic criteria in ICD are absurdly misleading and actually grossly offensive to people on the spectrum. Apart from the language and orientation of deficit the ICD definition was of course written mainly if not solely by NTs. So ICD is evidence that NTs often do seek to progress a belief that NT is normal and other neurological styles are "illnesses" afterall the acronym ICD stands for International Classification of Diseases. So this idea that ASD is a disease or an illness is found everywhere that neurodiversity awareness and autism awareness has not yet been established. And that is a lot of places and a lot of people. So the task of educating and informing is both pressing and a matter of empowerment for those with ASD. We rely on each other and Equality Diversity and Inclusion professionals - EDI - on getting the message of neurodiversity out. It is taking time but things are getting better. To call the rise to prominence of EDI as "woke" (used as a derogatory term) is offensive and prejudiced.
On that note autism awareness begins with access to accurate and reliable information such as this excellent workbook. As the WHO autism factsheet clarifies there is no scientific evidence of any link between any vaccine and autism and to make such a claim is misguided and irresponsible. There is no medical agreement about what causes a person's brain to develop as an ASD brain. It is not really massively important as a question either. No more than it is important to determine what "caused" a person to be gay or lesbian. It is likely that in the case of ASD it is a number of factors including genetic heritability. Autistic people make up around 1% or 2% of the population. Some put it higher at around 4%. The fact is that it is very difficult to get a definitive figure on ASD numbers as a percentage because many do not wait to be handed their diagnosis as made by NT doctors in an NT-centered medical system and so prefer to self-diagnose in the context of advice-guidance and insights from others with ASD. Therefore there is no central database from which to draw an accurate number. The point is the number makes those with ASD a minority. People with ASD are protected from discrimination in the UK under the Equality Act and the Autism Act. The Equality Act is the law which requires employers and many others to determine and put in place at their own expense "reasonable adjustments" in order to ensure that a person with autism is not substantially or materially disadvantaged when doing their job or accessing services. A belief that allistic people are superior to those on the spectrum is a type of prejudice called ableism.
A big part of the ASD neurological picture is challenges with sensory processing. Both hyper- (very high) and hypo- (very low) sensitivity to things. These slides on sensory processing in autism are very helpful. This guide prepared for police officers is also valuable more generally. This factsheet from the NAS about meltdowns is very clear. Autistic masking happens when a person on the spectrum expends energy and effort trying to hide and disguise their authentic personality in order to attempt to better fit in with the dominant neurotypical world. Following books by autism advocates such as Hannah Belcher and Sedgewick et al. masking is increasingly being understood as behaviour that is harmful. Masking impacts quality of life and can have serious consequences for both mental and physical health. Here is a very good short article about masking. This video by the NHS is good if you prefer to just watch something.
If you or your organization would like to learn more about ASD and neurodiversity you can contact me and I would be glad to discuss neurodiversity consultation options that I offer. If you are looking at getting an insight into the needs and challenges of those on the spectrum in an NT-dominant world it makes a lot of sense to have someone on the spectrum involved in the decisions being made. I have recently been involved with Tate Modern in discussions and planning of their Quiet Room provision and my input was described using terms including "bold" "valuable" "thoughtful" and "insightful".
Henry Bond 2023