The Neurodiversity Movement/Section One

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Section One: The Basics[edit]

This section will: familiarize the student with the basic concepts behind the Neurodiversity and Autistic Rights movements and provide a venue for students to discuss these concepts. Additionally, students are encouraged to research neurotypes and write a section on the neurotype of their choice for other students to read and edit.

What Is A Neurotype?[edit]

The Concept of Neurodivergence[edit]

The Neurodiversity movement is centered around the idea that there are many natural forms of variant human wiring in the brain. This diversity of neurology is where the term "Neurodiversity" originates from. A neurotype is the name given to one individual form of wiring. The so-called "normal" neurotype is referred to as Neurotypical (abbreviated NT) and is what we once thought of as being the most common, or "typical" form of wiring, hence the name. It is frequently considered, by society at large and particularly by medical professionals, to be the most desirable and possibly the only healthy type of brain functioning. The Neurodiversity movement seeks to change that assumption. Advocates propose that there are many different neurotypes, perhaps so many that the so-called NTs are actually in the minority. Furthermore, they believe that each neurotype is its own kind of healthy brain, with both pros and cons of ability, function, etc. Society is designed for NTs and therefore the good side of many neurotypes is not seen because those who are not NT are not able to succeed as easily in society. The movement seeks to make society change, to teach people how to understand and support those who are neurodivergent and create a society which does not discriminate against them.

Historically, though, there has been some disagreement over what a neurotype actually is and what qualifies as one. In this blog post by Kevin Leitch, and in the comments that follow, several different positions are espoused which are fairly representative of the different factions:

  1. Neurodiversity is everyone except NTs.
  2. Everything is a neurotype, and absolutely everyone is part of Neurodiversity.
  3. Only differences that are biologically heritable are valid neurotypes.
  4. All differences, including those that occur after birth, are valid neurotypes, if they happen in the brain.

We can divide different ideas about what is and is not a neurotype into two basic camps: The scientific approach and the social approach. The scientific approach defines a neurotype as literally a completely differently wired brain, which is observable in a lab, able to be classified scientifically, and caused by genetics (otherwise it is not a form of "natural variation"). According to the scientific approach, one cannot have two neurotypes at once and anything that is not genetic, like cerebral palsy caused by an accident, is not a neurotype. In the social approach, however, a neurotype is not defined by what we can observe in a lab. In this approach, a person with cerebral palsy caused by an accident could be considered to have a non-neurotypical (or "neurodivergent") neurotype, because this approach assumes that even things not caused by genetics are a form of natural variation. The social approach also allows that one can have two different neurotypes at once, such as autism and ADHD, if that description suits the person in question.

Now that you, the student, are armed with some knowledge about neurotypes, please share your opinion on what is and is not a neurotype, or ask questions, in the discussion section below.

Discussion[edit]

I want to begin the discussion with some questions: Do you agree more with the scientific or the social approach to defining a neurotype? Do you feel that it might be possible to somehow combine the two?

Of the following list, which ones do you, personally, think should or should not be considered neurotypes (and if you have any to add, go ahead!):

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • ADD/ADHD (do you think these are the same, or separate?)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple personalities
  • Schizophrenia
  • Narcolepsy
  • Down's Syndrome
  • Synaesthesia
  • OCD
  • Tourettes Syndrome

--Luai lashire 19:51, 23 January 2008 (UTC)


If we were to take neuro diversity as a whole it makes sense to include all neurological types including neurotypical as anything more divisive would undermine the ability of research. Research would benefit from seeing the whole picture instead of only being able to look at specific types. When we limit the information due to a preceding idea it also limits the outcome of data overall and if we are searching for any knowledge we should always take a look at the whole picture before during and after dividing things up. How is sensory information prevalent to a neurotypical individual? If we focus on specific types instead of the neurological nature behind them then the research will become limited as well. If we look at neurotypicals as being a part of the neurodiversity which they are then we can see the entire fabric of our neurological being and we can see how each individual interacts with the whole and how we all make up the whole. This will lead to understanding how we all fire and the effects of these firings on the whole. Perhaps this way may pave a path of understanding in other realms of life we have pondered since our beginnings.