Technorati href="http://www.technorProfile Thinking Nurse: Neurodiversity - A Human Right

Thinking Nurse

This blog will reflect my interests in learning disabilities, nursing, nursing theory, philosophy and politics and my general interests in the arts and literature. (Nursing is an art as well as a science!) Philosophy and nursing have been intrinsically linked since the days of Socrates, his mother was a midwife, and taught him everything he knew!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Neurodiversity - A Human Right

A key human right is the right to think differently from the majority of other people. By this I do not just mean the right to hold different political or religious beliefs, although this is important. I think there is a right to actually think in different ways, we should embrace ‘neurodiversity’ as a concept.

People who have been labelled as ‘autistic’ ‘schizophrenic’ ‘manic depressive’ and ‘learning disabled’ have all made significant contributions to human knowledge, culture and society, often achieving things that ‘neurotypical’ people could not. This is not to idealise these conditions, they are often associated with physical and mental suffering, but the huge social stigma and discrimination that go with these conditions are something that it is possible for nurses, and other human beings to challenge.

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At 9:50 AM, Blogger Comrade_Smirnoff said...

Autistic individuals competely lack social intuition, and the ability to empathise with others, but have a stronger than average grasp of mathematics and systems thinking. A rather cheesey, but sound analogy would be with Data from Star-trek.

However Max, you seem to have strayed from the Marxist philosophy that the human mind is a product of the cultural matrix (base superstructure), espoused so elloquently by the great Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky (

Are you accepting that human nature is, to an extent, innate?

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Thinking Nurse said...

There is a strong need to be very careful about making sweeping generalisations about people who have been labelled 'autistic', it is a blanket term for a whole range of different experiences, conditions and symptoms that occur across a wide spectrum.

That is one reason why I feel the concept of neurodiversity is a better way of approaching the issue.

I also feel that to state baldly that society determines character is a wholely one-sided way of approaching the issue, alien to the dialectical nature of marxism.

I have a link on my blogroll to Erich Fromm's explanation for the origin of human character, describing it as a product of the interaction between social and innate factors:

" social conditions influence ideological phenomena through the medium of character; character, on the other hand, is not the result of passive adaptation to social conditions but of a dynamic adaptation on the basis of elements that either are biologically inherent in human nature or have become inherent as the result of historic evolution."

I feel this is a closer approximation to the truth which is likely to be manysided and complex.

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Thinking Nurse said...

By the way, there is something that has been niggling me since I first read your comparison of people with the label autistic to 'Data' from Star Trek. I should have pointed this out straight away in my reply, and I have been itching to get to a computer so that I can put this right.

I have a few problems with the comparison of people described as 'autistic' with 'Data'. Firstly I do not think the comparison is at all accurate, as I pointed out, it is a gross over-generalisation.

My main problem however is that 'Data' is of course a machine, and not a human being. People who have been labelled autistic are first and foremost HUMAN BEINGS.

Perhaps inadvertently, by using this analogy, you have continued the tendency in our society (which I have pointed out in previous posts), to think of people with mental or physical impairments, or who are simply different from the neurotypical norm, as being less than human.

Thinking of people in this way can have terrible results - it is one justification for the immense discrimination suffered by such people in our society.

I also question whether it is even true that people who are autistic do not feel emotion or empathy. It is difficult to judge what another person is feeling even if they are from another culture - westerners traditionally find oriental peoples 'inscrutable'. It could well be that people who have been labelled autistic feel very intense emotions, but simply express them differently than the cultural norm.

You admitted your analogy was 'cheesey, I think it was more insidious than that - I think it is important to think very carefully what evidence we actually have before we make sweeping judgements about other people, particularly people who society has put into a position where they are often voiceless and powerless.

At 4:05 PM, Blogger MichaelBains said...

Hi Thinking Nurse

I think the Biggest problem with the Data analogy is that the Android was extremely interactive Socially. In every way except his ability to Feel emotions, he was expressive and interactive and intelligent and, quite essentially, a Person.

From my understading of the phenomenon of Autism, the one thing that unites all cases is the much lower-than-normal level of the person's ability to interact Socially with family and peers. They may or may Not be experiencing feelins in there (again, it depends on the person.) My nephew-in-law seemed to have no problem expressing Frustration and occassionally he was profuse in his expression of Affection for either his mom or Grandma; though rarely for anyone else. He most definitely had a different way of interacting than anyone whom I would consider even "kind of" normal though.

I'd even hire him for certain types of work I could imagine any retailer might need done. I'd definitely keep an eye on him though. When HE was done with something determined when IT was finished. LOL!


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