Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Zisk, Alyssa Hillary. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Zisk, A. H. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Using #Neurodiversity Wrong

So, I have this thing on called Neurodiversity Weekly. It's actually been useful, since it combs through things tagged #neurodiversity on twitter for links, plus shared stuff from a couple people who share good stuff for me. I've found a few cool things from them. New blogs and such.
I've also found some groups who are appropriating the term neurodiversity, often misunderstanding what it means (not sure if it's intentional) and in one rather egregious case talking about helping "students with neurodiversity." I am not joking. I wish I were joking. Neurodiversity stuff is very strongly identity-first. You do not use "with neurodiversity" as a euphemism for a disability.
But they do.
The two offenders who showed up on my paper were YAI Network (the like to look past disability) and Unicorn Village Academy (they think the neurodiversity movement considers neurodivergent people not to be disabled.)
So, let's go through the wrong here.

Neurodiversity doesn't ask that people look past neurological differences. There's this word "diversity" in there. It's a thing that people give a lot of lip service to celebrating. Neurodiversity says that the neurological differences are a part of normal human variation, and that we should be treating it like any other kind of diversity. I know that the whole "colorblind" philosophy has a lot of supporters, but it's just another form of racism. Similarly, "not seeing" neurological differences or "looking past" disability is just another form of ableism. Look at it, look straight at it, don't try to look past it, know that it's there and it's fine and it can be looked at and talked about and be a part of the human experience.
Which is part of why we go with identity-first language almost exclusively. (Hope Block and her fiance to call themselves people with autism. That's their choice. Within the neurodiversity movement, it's a really unusual choice, but it's their choice and that's fine. It's not the default in neurodiversity. At all.) We don't want to talk about "having" a thing. We talk about being a thing. We are Neurodivergent. We are Autistic. We are dyspraxic, dyslexic, dyscalculic, dysgraphic. We are bipolar, or borderline, or OCD, or ADHD, or whatever else we might be. (Sometimes we reclaim the medical terms, sometimes we come up with our own non-pathologized terms. I've heard "scout-minded" for ADHD and ADD before, though I don't know how common it is.)We do this because we don't want you to ignore or look past our differences.We also do it because separating our brains from who we are doesn't really work. We're not the same person "without," these differences are not tacked on us after some initial expected neurotypical brain.
(I think it would also be "person with neurodivergence" instead of "person with neurodiversity" because one person can't be diverse. One person can diverge from the typical, but can not be diverse. It just doesn't work, there's only one thing. But this is seriously not a conversation we should need to be having.)
And then... this one is probably the strangest I have seen yet. I hear it a lot, it's a common mischaracterization, it comes from a misunderstanding of the social model so far as I can tell. I think it's the same thing Deaf people who think that Deaf=not disabled do? It also sometimes comes as an attack on neurodiversity activists who are "Not Like My Child," in which case it is intentional, but this group is using neurodiversity words in a pathology-type syntax, so I'm really not sure what they're thinking. Contrary to what they might say, we do recognize that neurological differences are typically disabilities. (If someone is gifted and nothing else, eh..., but otherwise yeah, disability. Also, that counterexample is not a person who typically considers themself neurodivergent.) See, under the social model of disability, people have different things that they can or can't do. Some of these differences people accommodate for regularly and without fuss, like needing glasses is currently handled. So my nearsightedness is an impairment, but it is not a disability. Or facial differences that don't cause issues can be disabilities because of how society treats them. Or how Neurodivergent people often have ability sets that would line up nicely with the term "differently abled" and then society turns it into a disability by how they react to it. Disability is a social construct. That doesn't make it not real, it does mean that we can have a paradigm shift and demolish it. (That hasn't happened yet.)
If discrimination against neurodivergent folk for the things that we can't really do and the demeaning of our skills as "splinter skills" or "special interests" were to stop, and we were to be seen as equals, neurodivergence could cease to be a disability. We're not there. It's a disability. We know it's a disability. Kind of like disability rights people know that their disabilities are disabilities, and they know that access barriers and discrimination are why it's disabling, we're in the same boat with a different set of differences.
We're different and disabled, and it's a form of human diversity. Disability is a natural part of the human experience. That doesn't cause it to stop being disability. Neurodiversity is a natural part of the human experience. That doesn't cause it to stop being disability.


  1. Now trying frantically to imagine a person without neurodiversity. Someone who is exactly the same as everybody else?

  2. I've written a book entitled Neurodiversity in the Classroom, but I don't use the term ''students with neurodiversity.'' I'm just trying to provide some tools for teachers so that they see people who are diagnosed as ADHD, bipolar, autistic etc. from a strength-based point of view rather than one that continually harps on deficits, disorders, and dysfunctions. There is all this good research coming out now about those strengths, and teachers and school administrators need to be aware of it. Maybe I'll send the Unicorn Village Academy a copy of my book!

    1. Yes, yes, do it! That would be made of win. I've heard good things about your book and am working on it now and um, *flails* because hi. And the way I've seen you using the word are all ways that make sense. Neurodiversity in the classroom, well, yeah, there's a bunch of people there and these people have different neurotypes. That is sense making. Also, I will take this opportunity to be a bit of a fan person.

  3. Thanks, I really appreciate it! I'll get that book off to the Unicorn Village Academy on Monday!


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