A Concerned Neurodivergent’s critique of Judy Singer’s “There’s a lot in a name… Diversity vs Divergence” article – I – …

I have only incidentally heard about Judy Singer, which is probably due to her two-decade long absence, which she succinctly describes as: “Returning to the field 20 years later”.

As rather erratically “clarified” in her article, these motives seem to be, using the least belligerent term which comes to my mind, complex, motivated mainly as it appears, by Dr Nancy Doyle’s choice of describing “People with Neurodiversity” as being -in Singer’s words- “an assortment of people with a range of conditions like Aspergers, Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, etc.”

Singer herself, in a tweet I cannot access anymore, said that her article was meant as an “opening gambit” to be followed by more moves. She also mentioned to be open to learning and as one might assume, debating, which resulted in my following concern: “Judy, with all due respect, but if ND is ever going to live up to its name, it has to move on from having come to actually represent only a more or less autistic, but loud minority, which has become exclusive by ignorance, of other Neurodivergent conditions…” As a reply Singer condescendingly and literally sent me to go “read more…”

I myself moved, prompted by what I have perceived as a theoretical threat to a desirable progression of Neurodiversity from its “biodiversity” origins onto the emerging, umbrella concept for Neurodivergent conditions.

In an apparently futile effort to clarify a vital segment of reassessing and restructuring the Neurodiversity narrative, I asked her: “[…] Unfortunately, current efforts, well-meaning as they are, seem too much about an integrative sociology of lower dependency autism. When was last you heard e.g. Dyscalculia mentioned?” because I genuinely believe that a Neurodiversity concept and narrative which ignores its complex Neurodivergence architecture, is in danger of becoming a useless and harmful joke, discrediting worldwide efforts to move away from this illusory “I came to the ND word from the Green Movement, […] the word Biodiversity…” onto what Doyle’s “Genius Within” describes as “Passionate about developing talent and achieving success with ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Tourette Syndrome, Mental Health, and all neurodiverse conditions”.

As it turns out, Singer’s real problem seem to be associating “her” Neurodiversity, with Disability, or in her own veiled words, “The problem with the expression “People with Neurodiversity” is that it turns Neurodiversity into the latest fashionable synonym for Disability”.

Reading this, it becomes clear that the danger of what I have several times called a “hijacked” and “derailed” Neurodiversity narrative is real, leaving not much doubt about a  deep-seated desire of a mostly high-functioning autistic and “autistic”, loud minority, to dissociate themselves from the less fashionable, disabling aspects of autism and all other neurodivergent conditions, by following a restrictively enforced set of agreed rules, reminiscent of vigilantism, e.g. language policing, disability terminology avoiding, “autism parenting” abusing, etc…

However, what metaphorically made my spinal fluid boil and my left eye badly twitching were her following statements: “The role of the “NeuroDiversity Movement” then is to be a federation of different Neurotribes”, but even more the “I argue therefore that ND must remain “sacrosanct”, a universal truth that we can point to when insisting on the necessity of our existence.” (emphasis mine).

I do not remember at all, reading Silberman’s Neurotribes, that any of his intentions were anywhere close to Singer’s grandiose ideas that “the role of the Neurodiversity Movement is to unite all the people with simple neurological variants behind the same advocacy banner: i.e. the syndrome formerly known as Aspergers, ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Stuttering, etc.” (emphasis mine).

I do sincerely hope, that thinkers with a much more complex understanding of these conditions, with a scientific and lived experience understanding of the severely debilitating and disabling effects of Asperger’s, Dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, Dyspraxia, Stuttering etc, will be able to see beyond Singer’s unbelievable ignorance in calling these “simple neurological variants”.

And if anyone has any more doubts about the intentionally discriminative approach of this “sacrosanct” version of Neurodiversity, please read again and again and understand, that this derailed “Neurodiversity Movement” has no place for anyone not fitting the “simple neurological variant” criteria.

In conclusion, allow me to remind myself, that my Asperger’s, my Dyslexia, my Dyspraxia, my Dyscalculia, which haunted my school and further education years, which painfully continue to cripple so many aspects of my life, could NEVER be solved by any social adjustments.

Does anyone know what it feels like to be a middle-aged person, holding my hand out at any shop’s till, asking like a broken child the cashier to count the coins out of my hand, because I can’t? Because having Dyscalculia left my analytical mind disabled, unable to count one pound from coins having their sizes disproportionate of their values?

And there’s no cashier’s kind “social adjustment” capable of easing the howling rage inside my mind, for having been born this way…

To be continued…

There’s a lot in a name… Diversity vs Divergence

8 thoughts on “A Concerned Neurodivergent’s critique of Judy Singer’s “There’s a lot in a name… Diversity vs Divergence” article – I – …

  1. This is sort of what I touch in in my latest post, but from an Asian perspective. As much as us neurodivergents profess to be speaking for everyone, at one point even claiming “it’s better to be spoken for by autistics than NTs,” (found that on a Twitter thread) truthfully not one person or group can really do that accurately and realistically. Hell, side note: NTs close to me have actually been the most supportive. NDs have mixed reactions, probably because we’re all still dealing with our feelings and how this has affected us.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I share your thoughts! It is really dangerous for many reasons for anyone to accaparate (monopolise) and extrapolate at will any terminology inclusive of anyone else. Because basically this has become exclusion. And yes, interesting enough I have had cases when the support came from NTs rather than NDs. However, in many such cases, I realised that the so called NDs were manipulative narcissistics.


  2. If I understand what you wrote, I think you’re basically right that “neurodiversity” as currently used is problematic. I tend to think of constructs as a sort of artificial tool we make and use, shared understandings if you will. One thing about your approach that’s particularly useful is that your framework does a better job of including people that aren’t #Actually Autistic on Twitter. Your personal example of dyscalculia is really powerful.

    My sense is that a lot of people are trying to use ND as a sort of universal tool that can handle medical, psychological, political, social problems that really require more than one tool and that ND fits a much narrower range of uses than its proponents/sympathizers think. Fights over severity/functioning levels and which diagnoses/differences to include/exclude reflect this, I think.

    Thanks for these posts. I’m really looking forward to seeing where you go with this.

    Liked by 2 people

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