Hello, Jude Morrow here, founder and CEO of Neurodiversity Training International. Today’s topic is on one that everyone knows about, and that is autism awareness. That is the method of training and delivery that is out there in every school and every autism group, and every charitable organization in the land. Although, this is where the problem starts, is that with autism awareness training, what does it really make people aware of?
From the autistic point of view, I’ll tell you. It helps people to become aware of the negativities, for example, that we can’t make eye contact, that we don’t make friends easily, that we have obsessive and repetitive behaviors. This is the normal path for parents if their child is recently diagnosed as being autistic, the GP or the health professional or teacher or whoever it may be, will tell parents to attend a training workshop to learn more about autism, and naturally, where they go at this moment in time is autism awareness training, that parents leave feeling fearful and frightened for the future because their little treasure, their wonderful, gifted child is left with a label that has so many stigmas and negative connotations attached to it that it’s very, very difficult to find an analogy for it.
So why is this model so powerful? The autism awareness model is very harmful because other than finding out what the negatives are associated with autism and autistic people is that autistic people like me have to read these things. Like whenever I go on Google, or whenever I read more into autism, a model the autistic community hold dear, whenever I look up these things, I see nothing but negativity from sources and organizations and charities that aim to help! So how is it helpful whenever people like me can read things about us that, on the whole of it, are very, very untrue, or at least taken out of context?
Neurodiversity is the way forward. Neurodiversity is the future, because it not only is a model of acceptance and understanding, but really what it is, is that it’s an entire attitude shift toward us, an entire attitude shift, that our strengths and positives should be promoted and thrown out into the world as much as humanly possible, as opposed to a deficits-based model that exists today.
So that’s what I bring with Neurodiversity Training International, is that no matter where a child is, no matter where they are on the cognitive sphere, every child has strengths. Every autistic person has strengths, and it’s just so annoying that constantly, it’s always the negativities that are put forward, always, in every case! It’s never that we’re extraordinarily passionate, that we’re driven, that we have positive qualities, that we can become productive members of society. Really, what we feel through models like autism awareness training is that we are somehow a broken version of normal.
I’ll leave you with this. In the dictionary definition, it’s called autism spectrum disorder, but here’s what I want to ask, and I’ve never really got an answer to it. Disordered compared to who, exactly? That’s what I want to know. We should be celebrated and accepted for who we are, not labeled as a disordered version of normal or a broken version of normal, or in order to fit in and thrive in society, we need to be like these people. That’s just not the case, and it needs to stop!