10/2/2021, by Julie Roberts, M.S., CCC-SLP
Note: There are over 100 free neurodiversity resources and educational material links at the end of this article.
- Neurodiversity Movement – neurodivergent activists and allies galvanized towards human rights, disability rights, social justice, and civil liberties.
- Neurodiversity Lite*** – using neurodiversity as a buzzword, a way to profit from the appropriation of a human rights movement. It’s an intentional strategy to sell more stuff.
Neurodiversity, simply put, is the diversity among human minds… The neurodiversity paradigm starts from the understanding that neurodiversity is an axis of human diversity, like ethnic diversity or diversity of gender and sexual orientation, and is subject to the same sorts of social dynamics as those other forms of diversity—including the dynamics of social power inequalities, privilege, and oppression. From this perspective, the pathologization of neurominorities can be recognized as simply another form of systemic oppression which functions similarly to the oppression of other types of minority groups. – Dr. Nick Walker
Walker, N., & Raymaker, D. (2021). Toward a Neuroqueer Future: An Interview with Nick Walker. Autism in Adulthood, 3(1), 5-10.
Increasingly and alarmingly, clinical professionals and companies that are clearly operating within a highly pathologizing model of assessment and treatment – a medical model that is the anthesis of the Neurodiversity Movement, are selfishly, systematically using a human rights campaign for their own personal bonanza. They are appropriating a human rights movement, watering it down, and commercializing it to advertise or sell their:
- Neurodiversity handbook or neurodiversity-affirming autism eBook
- Neurodiversity Master Class or Training
- Neurotypical Social Skills Training, classes, products and materials, books, materials, CEU events, etc.
- ABA services or advertise their clinic or company
Neurodiversity lite has created a cottage industry for therapists, clinics, and companies to sell their associated products, classes, books, training to the public without having a clue about neurodiversity. Suddenly, everyone is ‘neurodiversity-affirming’ and ca$hing in.
If you are spending your money on a neurodiversity product, it doesn’t necessarily mean your money is going to someone who is knowledgeable about the movement, and it doesn’t mean that their product or masterclass or handbook is going to end up helping neurodivergent people in a neurodiversity-affirming manner.
Parents of autistic and otherwise neurodivergent children and teens who are seeking out information about neurodiversity, as well as therapists who genuinely want to learn about the neurodiversity movement so they may adopt respectful and empathetic neurodivergent-affirming practices, are paying outrageous prices for anything associated with ‘neurodiversity’, but are they actually getting their money’s worth?
What are some signs that you’ve wasted your money on a neurodiversity-lite product, book, or class?
- Whoever sold it to you charged you an exorbitant amount of money for neurodiversity information that is widely available for free.
- The source uses the term “neurodiverse” to describe autistic or otherwise neurodivergent people, or neurodivergence as a neurotype.
- The source uses pathologizing language throughout their ‘neurodiversity’ product, class, or advertising, uses a medical model to describe a diagnosis of autism, pathologizes spoken and unspoken social communication, pathologizes authentic play and social skills, uses examples of autistic stereotypes throughout, and may include the use of inspiration porn on their social media.
- The source may recommend following ‘Autism Mom’ social media accounts to learn more about neurodiversity. The source may recommend that parents follow the source themselves and other neurodiversity-lite neurotypical therapists to continue learn about neurodiversity-affirming practices. The source makes no mention of parents joining autistic or otherwise neurodivergent-led parent groups, or attending training conducted by autistic or otherwise neurodivergent people.
- The source claims that ABA is “controversial” or a “family choice”. There is nothing controversial about ABA because there’s nothing neurodiversity-affirming about it on any level. A legitimate neurodiversity-affirming therapist or company would never recommend or use ABA, play-based ABA, or positive reinforcement because the stated goal of ABA is to make autistic people appear indistinguishable from their peers.
- The source advertises their therapy company or therapy services as ‘neurodiversity-affirming’ but maintains a collaboration or financial association with an ABA company, clinic, or provider where both sell/profit from reciprocal referrals, training, or certification. Or the source is an apologist for ABA providers and practices.
- The source markets neurotypical social skills training, materials, and classes that actively train autistic masking and camouflage. They advertise and label the social skills training as ‘neurodiversity-affirming’.
- The source is a neurotypical provider who has rebranded themself as a ‘neurodiversity expert’; they have little to no understanding about authentic lived experiences, or authentic neurodivergent social communication, or the important research surrounding neurodiversity, including The Double Empathy Problem, Monotropism, Diversity in Social Intelligence, and the significant harms and trauma of Autistic Masking and Camouflage.
Performative Neurodiversity or neurodiversity-light conveniently ignore the genuine reasons behind the Neurodiversity Movement – a disability human rights campaign seeking acceptance, rather than conditional acceptance based on meeting neurotypical standards, inclusion, equitable access, social justice, and civil liberties.
The primary problem with shamelessly appropriating a human rights movement and turning it into one’s personal cash cow is that anyone can sell anything and claim it’s neurodiversity-related, when in fact, what they are selling is not related to the cause at all, or even worse, the things they are selling contain harmful components that are the complete opposite of the end-goals of the neurodiversity movement.
The commercialization of neurodiversity trivializes what the neurodiversity movement is all about, limiting and silencing real activism, distorting its message and its causes. Performative neurodiversity transforms advocacy into individualized, easily marketable products and services that shut down the entire purpose of the movement, while turning the focus of neurodiversity onto the companies or the therapists themselves. It’s offensive and it’s unethical.
*** Neumeier, S. “To Siri With Love’ and the Problem With Neurodiversity Lite”. Rewire News Group. (Feb 9, 2018) https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2018/02/09/siri-love-problem-neurodiversity-lite/
den Houting J. Neurodiversity: An insider’s perspective. Autism. 2019;23(2):271-273. doi:10.1177/1362361318820762 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1362361318820762
Roberts, J./Therapist Neurodiversity Collective. Facebook. (June 22, 2021)
Critical Neurodiversity. “Simon Baron-Cohen, Neurodiversity-lite, and the History of Eugenic Thought”. (Sept. 5, 2021). https://criticalneurodiversity.com/2021/09/05/why-are-cambridge-men-so-great-simon-baron-cohen-neurodiversity-lite-and-the-history-of-eugenic-thought/
Roberts, J./Therapist Neurodiversity Collective. Facebook. (September 13, 2021)
Roberts, J./Therapist Neurodiversity Collective. Facebook. (September 26, 2021)
FREE NEURODIVERSITY RESOURCES
Therapist Neuordiversity Collective:
8 Signs of a Respectful Therapist
We don’t train social skills
ADHD & RSD
Why We Don’t Use Social Thinking® (or any commercial Social Skills programs
IEP Makeovers for Neurodivergent Students
IEP Makeovers Part 2
Terms therapists should know
Parents Guide to ABA Therapy
Collective Membership Commitment
How to Be an Ableist Therapist
Eye Contact Goals
ABA Therapy in Skilled Nursing Homes
The Double Empathy Problem
Diversity in Social Intelligence
Contrasting Therapy Approaches
Social Skills Training & The Research
Learn Neurodiversity Terminology
Shocking Pro-Neurodiversity Therapy Practices
Question of the Day – Setting Boundaries
Be Aware of These Buzz Phrases
SLP vs BCBA
Relevant Themes in Institutional Racialisation in Autism and Research Practice
Explicit and Implicit Biases Toward Autism
A Conceptual Analysis of Autistic Masking_ Understanding the Narrative of Stigma and the Illusion of Choice
Social Cognition, Social Skill, and Social Motivation Minimally Predict Social Interaction Outcomes for Autistic and Non-Autistic Adults
You might be an ableist therapist if
AAC Connection and Autonomy
ABA has not changed
Q & A with Kieran Rose – Autism
We don’t treat Autism
We Practice Like This
The Tone Police
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
Behavior: Self Harm or Aggression
Non-ABA Evidence-Based Practice
Non-ableist Pragmatic Language Therapy
Why not Positive Behavior Support (PBS), Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), or Positive Reinforcement?
Social Skills Training
Welcome to the Autistic Community – The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network – ASAN
Start Here: a guide for parents of autistic kids – The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network – ASAN
Welcome to the Autistic Community – The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network – ASAN
Understanding the Autistic Mind, Volume 1 – NeuroClastic
Coming Out to Family and Friends as Autistic – NeuroClastic
How Do I Tell My Autistic Child About Autism? – NeuroClastic
TO TELL OR NOT TO TELL- WHY IT SHOULDN’T BE A QUESTION – Autism LevelUp!
“This open access book marks the first historical overview of the autism rights branch of the neurodiversity movement, describing the activities and rationales of key leaders in their own words since it organized into a unique community in 1992. Sandwiched by editorial chapters that include critical analysis, the book contains 19 chapters by 21 authors about the forming of the autistic community and neurodiversity movement, progress in their influence on the broader autism community and field, and their possible threshold of the advocacy establishment.” Editor: Steven K. Kapp
Increasing Neurodiversity in Disability and Social Justice Advocacy Groups – ASAN (Autistic Self Advocacy Network)
Social Media Accounts
Autism Inclusivity (over 85k members)-https://www.facebook.com/groups/199323440844846
Ask Me, I’m an AAC user! (24 Hour Rule!) – https://www.facebook.com/groups/456220758119314/
Ask Autistic Adults – Resource for Parents of Autistics – https://www.facebook.com/groups/2138776736451241
Therapist Neuordiveristy Collective (if you are a therapist) – https://www.facebook.com/groups/NeurodiveristyCollective
The AAC Coach Files – https://www.facebook.com/groups/3778277638881250
More FREE Neurodiversity RESOURCES AND DOWNLOADS
Kieran Rose – Advice for Parents (YouTube)
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- Neurodiversity-Affirming Therapy: Positions, Therapy Goals, and Best Practices - April 4, 2022
- Neurodiversity and Autism Intervention (ABA) can’t be reconciled. - November 5, 2021
- Performative Neurodiversity – the appropriation and watering down of a Human Rights Movement for profit - October 2, 2021