Neurodiversity Movement


Neurodiversity refers to the idea that people experience the world differently based on their neurological attributes. It is most commonly applied to people with autism-spectrum conditions such as Asperger’s Syndrome, but has also sometimes been applied to describe certain mental illnesses, learning disabilities, and other neurological differences. The neurodiversity movement parts company with the disability rights movement in that it does not recognize neurological differences as disabilities, but rather as equally valid, unique, and socially beneficial neurological experiences of the world that should be celebrated.


While the actual term ‘neurodiversity’ was not seen in print until 1997, The neurodiversity movement is often thought to have begun with a speech made by Jim Sinclair at the 1993 International Conference on Autism at Toronto, called ‘Don’t Mourn for Us.’  In this speech, Sinclair asked the parents of autistic children to try to understand that ‘Autism is a way of being.  It is pervasive; it colors every experience, every sensation, perception, thought, emotion and encounter.  It is not possible to separate the person from the autism’ (Sinclair, 1993). He further asks them to understand that what it is they feel they have lost, when they speak of ‘losing a child’ to autism, is not the actual child him/herself but the idea they had of what that child would be like, what kind of relationship and experiences they would have with the child.  The parents of an autistic child, he says, have not lost a child, but an illusion.  They must mourn the passing of the illusion and then accept the child on his/her own terms (Sinclair, 1993).



Some key players include, Jim Sinclair -who is also autistic. His speech stood as a representative of the very beginnings of a self-advocacy movement for social acceptance and self determination that was developing within the autistic community in the mid-nineties.  While there had always been autistic advocacy groups, it was not until recently that these groups were led by members of the autistic community themselves.

Another key advocate is Ari Ne’eman is the founder of the Autism Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) and a well-known activist on behalf of the rights of individuals on the autism spectrum.

Writers, bloggers and website owners have helped increase awareness and offer support that had not existed. Among the writers and speakers, is Dr. Thomas Armstrong (author, speaker, and educational consultant).He has written books and speaks out about honoring the diversity.


The focus on freedom from psychiatric constraint and behavioral conformity within the neurodiversity movement has its roots in the ‘anti-psychiatry’ movement.These people want the right to be treated equally and do not want their differences to be labeled as disabilities. They want the right to live with the mind they were born with. They should not have to be forced to fit into the “box” that society creates.  People with neurological differences want to be valued for their differences and not forced to change and conform to society’s definition of normal.


I also located a blog written by a man with autism, check it out:

4 comments on “Neurodiversity Movement

  1. Dear Laura, After reading the information you posted about the neurodiversity movement and what it stands for I was instantly remainded of the movie I just watched for our class called “Adam”. It is a story about a man with Asbergers syndrome and how he copes with it on a dialy basis. What was truly remarkable about him was that he was able to see his “condition” as something that gave him an intellectual advantage that most people do not posess. At one point in the movie he claims that it had been said that many of the great inventors that have come and gone throughout history had Aspergers. That they posessed “great imaginations”.

  2. I agree completely with the excerpts of Sinclair’s speech. Parents see it as if they have a kid with autism or a form of it then they miss out on the “normal” perception of a family. Even if a kid has autism or aspergers syndrom,they can still live a normal life. They feel they can’t have the stereotypically normal family that is portrayed everywhere and they forget that there are movies and stories portraying these scenarios but it seems as people don’t want to be the ones in those scenarios.

  3. I do not think anyone with a neurological problem should be treated differently. They are people too and just because their brains don’t function like everyone elses does not mean they should be discriminated against.

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