Thursday 16 July 2009

Embrace Neurodiversity

From Tyler Cowen's discussion of autism:
In many areas of human neurodiversity, including autism, we still don't know the answers to many basic questions. There is still not even agreement on the basic definitions of autism, Asperger's, and related concepts. In the meantime we are applying lots of stereotypes and negative descriptions to autistics that we would not dream of using to describe racial or ethnic groups. It's high time that colleges and universities got out in the lead to fight these common prejudices. The rhetoric coming out of higher education needs to match up to the reality of higher education as a common avocation for autistic people.

It's a little tricky to talk or write about the autistics who may work in your institution. If you work at a college or university, there is a good chance you are interacting with people on the autism spectrum on a very regular basis. Maybe the reaction of the reader is to draw up a mental list of people in the workplace and start applying various stereotypes to them. Maybe you'll be on the lookout at the next dean's meeting for people who exhibit "autistic traits" and then gossip about those perceptions to your friends.

That's human nature, but I'm suggesting an alternative tack. Embrace individualism. Question your stereotypes. Maybe even look in the mirror. When you're done, it's likely that you'll see far more talent, in far more unorthodox varieties, than you expected.
HT: Arts & Letters Daily

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