Autism Awareness – Now is the time

November 30, 2021

A well-established norm in our current-day discourse is to celebrate diversity, in gender, in the race, in class, even in sexuality, but, what we forget to celebrate is neurodiversity. Neurodiversity describes how we all differ from each other from a neurological standpoint, ie; it proposes for the several variants of human brains (like autistic ones or people with autism) to not merely be accepted but to be actively treated as a natural and valuable part of humanity’s genetic history. Devon MacEachron, a Psychologist, describes “the neurodiversity movement” as this “new social movement” that should now “take off”.

The formalized advent of neurodiversity

The term ‘neurodiversity was coined in the late 1990s by Judy Singer, who was a sociologist on the autism spectrum, she notably rejected classifying people with autism as ‘disabled’. Her belief that their brains simply worked ‘differently’ from others’ resonated with activists. In the autism community and beyond as they embraced the term. The term subsequently becomes a powerful tool for activists to obliterate stigma while promoting inclusion in schools and workplaces.

Autism

Autism is one of the many variants of human brains, whose Neurodiversity calls to be celebrated. Elisabeth Wiklander, a cellist in the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as the cultural ambassador for the National Autistic Society, was diagnosed with Asperger’s in 2009. She states, “No diagnostic manual can truly explain the multi-faceted experience of autism. It is a neurological difference, with a vast spectrum of representation within its population. It can come with remarkable gifts and skills, as well as devastating traits. But, autism doesn’t necessarily equal disability, and, thankfully today we have a word that challenges this negative terminology; neurodiversity.”

Impacts of societal expectations

Workspaces are unfortunately not always accommodating of neurodiverse individuals. Most often such individuals don’t get hired as their behaviour doesn’t conform to the social norms. Once hired, they can be provided with headphones to prevent auditory stimulation, so as to maximally leverage their abilities. In many cases the accommodations are manageable and the returns are exponentially greater. But in order to avail that, companies need to have a broader definition of talent for their recruitment policies.

Advantages for society

One of the genes associated with ADHD, the DRD4 gene is recognized as ‘the novelty-seeking gene’, it was first documented on the human evolutionary scene 10,000 years ago. Genes associated with autism as well, go back to more than 10,000 years, and a fair amount of research alludes to the facts.

As it lends individuals with exceptional memory skills, heightened perception in vision, taste, and smell, a precise eye for detail, and an incredibly advanced understanding of systems such as animal behavior. These characteristics have evidently endured the test of time, and that has likely happened because these characteristics are indeed advantageous. Artistic creations and scientific discoveries come out from people with autistic minds. The legacy of people with autism includes names of the likes of Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Daryl Hannah, and Michel Angelo among many others.

Embracing neurodiversity 

Winklander described a ramification of her Asperger’s as that her brain processed all information too literally. Therefore she wouldn’t be able to act upon subtle body language, wouldn’t comprehend jokes and sarcasm. Although all of which had a devastating impact on her personal as well as professional relationships with people. And at times such as these, it is natural for neurodiverse individuals navigating the social arena to need someone to talk to in a safe space.

And doing so with individuals with an understanding of their neurodiverse minds would be all the more helpful, which is why seeking online counselling could be an excellent step to combating the social challenges.

Role of heyy

Platforms such as heyy, embrace and celebrate the World Autism Awareness Day as a way to educate and enable easy conversations while maintaining anonymity (if one chooses to) as experts offer support. This can be available not just by individuals with neurodiverse minds. But also their circle of immediate influence, like their parents, teachers, employers, etc.

It can therefore be established that neurodiversity is not a disability that needs to be “cured”, but each individual’s neurological uniqueness which calls to be celebrated. As Wiklander said post seeking support;

heyy, as one of the growing emotional support and online depression counselling India pledges to help others and eradicate depression from people’s life.

Bibliography

Austin, Robert D, and Gary P Pisano. “Neurodiversity Is A Competitive Advantage”. Harvard Business Review, 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/05/neurodiversity-as-a-competitive-advantage.

“History’S 30 Most Inspiring People On The Autism Spectrum”. Applied Behavior Analysis, 2021, https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com/historys-30-most-inspiring-people-on-the-autism-spectrum/. Accessed 1 Apr 2021.

“Neurodiversity: What You Need To Know”. Understood.Org, 2021, https://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/empowering-your-child/building-on-strengths/neurodiversity-what-you-need-to-know.

TEDx Talks. Neurodiversity – The Key That Unlocked My World | Elisabeth Wiklander | Tedxgöteborg. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qvvrme5WIwA. Accessed 1 Apr 2021.

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