Having Mixed Feelings about Autistic Neurology and Disability?

July 26, 2022
Chelsea Budde

If neurodivergent humans were included in discussions about shopping centers, social customs, and curriculum design a generation ago, what might be different today? We could likely expect more universal design, which is to say something that would work for any neurology - not just the neuromajority.

Maybe malls would have more spaces for quiet decompression. Perhaps celebrations would include less clapping and more stimming. It’s possible that instruction would be more whole-body experiential and less verbally-loaded narrative.

These thoughts align with the concept of the social model of disability. The premise as it relates to autism is that autistics wouldn’t be impaired by their neurology if society were designed to be inclusive of them. Environments wouldn’t be so overstimulating, leading to dysregulation. Lessons wouldn’t be so theoretical that they’d be confusing and frustrating. 

So where does that leave people on the spectrum in July, when many in the United States are marking Disability Pride Month? There is, after all, an acknowledgement of neurodivergence in the colors of the zig zag stripes. It’s a great question to ask your favorite autistic human!

Remaining curious is an authentic way to invite dialogue with anyone who diverges from your lived experience. Even among neurodivergents, there are bound to be mixed feelings. Perceptions could range from “Autism isn’t a disability” to claiming the identity-first moniker “disabled”, which decades of ableism have relegated to “less than”.

Let’s do our part to take pride in our abilities and those of our commUNITY members!

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