To assist schools, universities, and other organisations in preparing for Neurodiversity Celebration Week (15 to 21 March 2021) I have compiled a list of learning resources that allow people to familiarise themselves with the way in which neurodiversity and neurodivergence play out in people’s lives.
Complexification is the civilised© operating model for normal™ human primates®. I remain an uncertifiable life form in a perfect® world.
Undercover autists as well as all other weird non-conformists are compromising their mental and physical health in toxic school and work environments on a daily basis. In W.E.I.R.D. societies management by fear is the norm in most organisations, and groupthink is celebrated as a virtue.
Neurodivergence is at the core of creativity. Striving to be popular is incompatible with being creative. This is either the truth, or it is a case of autistic black and white thinking. Not wanting to be popular is what allows autistic and artistic people to act as agents of a healthy cultural immune system within human societies. Autism and other forms of neurodivergence are genetically-based human neurological variants that can not be understood without the social model of disability.
In the broadest sense, the social model of disability is about nothing more complicated than a clear focus on the economic, environmental and cultural barriers encountered by people who are viewed by others as having some form of impairment – whether physical, sensory or intellectual. – (Mike Oliver 2004).
Often those who can not speak remain the most misunderstood and the most misrepresented.
CommunicationFIRST, ASAN, and AASR have created a toolkit for people who want to learn more about nonspeaking autistic people, methods of communication other than speech, disability representation in media, autistic meltdowns, trauma-informed care for autistic people, restraint and seclusion and their alternatives, and how to best support nonspeaking autistic people and survivors of restraint and seclusion.
Autistic life in 2021
The vast majority of adult autists have no formal diagnosis, and in sick W.E.I.R.D. societies they can’t afford to be open about their neurology. The autism industrial complex insists that only those who have fallen off the cliff, whose mental or physical health has been severely affected by isolation, discrimination, and bullying, are eligible for a “diagnosis” of autism.
Our society has been constructed such that the only assistance available to autistic adults consists of an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. If the severely injured autist is still alive, the assistance available addresses the acute symptoms of distress, without any thought being given to the toxic social environment that led to the acute crisis. A disproportionate numbers of autists take their lives before receiving a “diagnosis”. This points to a violation of human rights, to institutionalised discrimination and bullying in our society, and not just to a lack of adequate crisis support services and healthcare services.
The list of negative stereotypes incorrectly associated with autistic people is not getting any shorter. So-called “Autism at Work” programmes for example are predominantly focused on specific industries and professions that reinforce the stereotype of the autistic engineer and the stereotype of the autistic savant. This contributes to the creation of corporate ghettos of officially diagnosed autists, who are confined to working in specific roles – often for very small salaries, who must at all times be appropriately “managed”. Autistic people are prevented from interfering with the bigger social picture, which “autists can’t possibly understand” – by virtue of the pathologising language that is imposed by the autism industrial complex, which in larger countries has become a multi billion dollar industry.
This social climate has two effects:
- Firstly, many undercover autists who are more or less successfully clinging to a job that provides them with a livelihood will strive to remain undercover at all costs – that is until they reach breaking point and fall off the cliff. Similarly, given all the incorrect negative stereotypes, only few autistic artists, musicians, and academics openly identify as autistic.
- Secondly, virtually all undercover autists who are working in non-stereotypical roles, for example as social workers, clinicians (often highly competent in their areas of specialisation), as carers, nurses, teachers, administrators, etc. will remain undercover until they fall off the cliff or exit the workforce. The size of this second group may well be as large as the first group, but it hardly ever gets mentioned because the stigma is so extreme, and because the bullying in the healthcare sector is pervasive, and not limited to autistic people.
Tools for surviving in a W.E.I.R.D. world
No large organisation can claim to have a genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion if it does not subscribe to independent oversight by marginalised segments of the population.
Companies can subscribe to independent oversight via the Employer Rating Service coordinated by the Autistic Collaboration Trust. Individuals and companies can contribute to and engage with the Employer Rating Service via two anonymous surveys in conjunction with the related Bullying Alert Service:
- The psychological safety baseline database ➜ Additional context ➜ The survey, which does not collect data on specific employers but does collect information on the location (country) and the economic function/sector of the employer.
- The employer rating service ➜ The survey, which collects data on specific employers. Employers are encouraged to subscribe and to use the service for regular psychological safety audits. Please note that in order to maximise the protection of employees, the Autistic Collaboration Trust will never share information about who participated in the survey nor any of the anonymous individual responses with employers nor with any other party.
Thriving in a less W.E.I.R.D. world
Like bees and ants, humans are eusocial animals. Through the lenses of evolutionary biology and cultural evolution, small groups of 20 to 100 people are the primary organisms within human society – in contrast to individuals, corporations, and nation states. The implications for our civilisation are profound, a topic that I explore in detail in my new book The beauty of collaboration at human scale – Timeless patterns of human limitations, which is now in the peer review stage.
The following organisations, initiatives, and people are working towards a world in which all people can thrive:
- Autistic Collaboration Trust – a hub for mutual support, and encourages neurodivergent individuals and ventures to connect and establish long-term collaborations.
- Neuroclastic – A collective of neurodivergents cataloguing the experience, insights, knowledge, talents, and creative pursuits of autistics.
- Autistamatic – Here to help people understand more about the lives, challenges and above all potential of autistic people in society today.
- S23M – Collaboration for Life; enabling knowledge to flow to all the places where it can be put to good use.
- Democratizing Work – Working humans are so much more than “resources.” This is one of the central lessons of the current crisis
- Design Justice Network – An international community of people and organizations who are committed to rethinking design processes so that they center people who are too often marginalized by design.
- P2P Foundation – Researching, cataloging and advocating for the potential of P2P and Commons-based approaches to societal and consciousness change.
Celebrate neurodiversity to make the world safer for everyone
The journey towards a healthier relationship with the ecosystems which we are part of starts with the most powerful tool at our disposal, the introduction and consistent use of new language and new ways of thinking about diversity and the human species.
Neurodiversity Celebration Week is an invitation for your school, university, or organisation to ‘take the pledge’ and celebrate the intelligence, ability and employability of neurodivergent students and staff.