Azeem (Morgan Freeman): "For certain."
Young girl: "Why?"
Azeem: "Because Allah loves infinite variety."
- "Robin Hood Prince of Thieves"
I'm on a mission to throw out the word "normal" from vocabulary and dialog related to autism. The main reason is no matter where I travel in the world or who I meet, I have never come across a "normal" person. The word normal in the lexicon of autism is used to denote an idealized average child. Neurodivergent children, like human skin colors, cannot be based upon any ideal. There is too much infinite variety in everything else about us. Why should our neurology be any different?
|Image Description: Series of photographs of people of widely varied colors under each person's photo is the Pantone number that exactly matches their skin tone ©Angelica Dass pantone skin color spectrum chart|
Artist Angelica Dass has raised the bar on cataloging the spectrum of human color variation with her Humanae project. There is no one in any discipline that serves the autism community cataloging and mapping the spectrum of neurodivergence in people. When research is done on neurodivergence it is never done with the intent of cataloging divergence as variation and recommending accommodation and support where neurology poses barriers to inclusion. We do not have a map of the spectrum of divergence in neurology. As long as we fail to properly study the human brain before making sweeping decisions, such as creating and prescribing medication to suppress and "correct" things we don't understand, the term autism will continue to be used as a multimillion dollar medical model cash cow boogie man that is of no benefit to either neurodivergent people or their families. To set a standard mid point in a bell curve of what constitutes "normal" brain function without cataloging the entire spectrum of human brain variance on this earth is a bizarre way to go about science. An interaction I just had with my neurodivergent son brought to mind the reason for this part of the culture of ableist viewpoints in perception of neurological difference. Most research is done without the input and needs assessment of autistic people themselves. So they have no voice in what is and is not done with regards to the idea of accepting variations in neurology in general and diverse autistic expressions in particular.
Before you rush to say you know of any "normal" person start by defining what normal is in your mind. You'll find that 'normal' neurology is heavily culturally defined.
Look at your neurodivergent loved ones as who they are. Don't compare them to a societally imposed standard they aren't met to meet and find them lacking. Then see about advocating for services, supports and accommodations that will help them gain societal inclusion, autonomy, self agency and self advocacy. Expand beyond the limits of terms like 'normal,' understand that variance in neurology like variance in every other aspect of human expression is meant to exist and help to work on cataloging, understanding, and embracing that variance.
For Sharon da Vanport