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Disability and Neurodivergence


Disability & Neurodivergence  

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Because there’s some confusion about ‘neurodiversity’ and ‘neurodivergent,’ and also because I was curious: 

  • ‘Neurodiversity’ was coined by Judy Singer in her 1998 Honours Thesis (some say 1999, but the description of Singer’s book on Amazon uses the 1998 date). Sources, if you don’t trust Wikipedia, have these popsci articles: Scientific American article (cw: advocates for the medical model, uses rhetoric similar to ‘low vs. high functioning’ concepts; there’s a critical response here), Psychology Today article (cw: says specific labels like ‘autism’ and ‘ADHD’ are stigmatizing, therefore we should use a blanket ‘neurodivergent’ instead of destigmatizing those labels??).
  • The paper is either “Odd People In: The Birth of Community Amongst People on the Autism Spectrum: A personal exploration of a New Social Movement based on Neurological Diversity” (1998) or “‘Why can't you be normal for once in your life?’ From a ‘problem with no name’ to the emergence of a new category of difference.” (Amazon book says 1998, Google and elsewhere says 1999) I can’t find any part of the first paper. The Google Books preview doesn’t have the section where ‘neurodiversity’ is introduced and defined, but I found that part in the Amazon link preview: 

For me, the key significance of the “Autistic Spectrum” lies in its call for and anticipation of a politics of Neurological Diversity, or “Neurodiversity”. The “Neurologically Different” represent a new addition to the familiar political categories of class/gender/race and will augment the insights of the social model of disability.

The rise of Neurodiversity takes post-modern fragmentation one step further. Just as the the post-modern era sees every once too solid belief melt into air, even our most taken-for granted assumptions: that we all more or less see, feel, touch, hear, smell, and sort information, in more or less the same way, (unless visibly disabled) are being dissolved.

  • So as far as I can tell (which isn’t very far), Singer never specifies who exactly counts as “neurologically different,” but ‘neurodiversity’ was coined in the context of autism. 
  • I found a few people who want to differentiate ‘neurodiversity’ from the ‘neurodiversity paradigm’ and ‘neurodiversity movement,’ where ‘neurodiversity’ refers to the simple fact that human brains are varied, the ‘neurodiversity paradigm’ states that this variation is natural, and the ‘neurodiversity movement’ promotes the view of the neurodiversity paradigm. I assume that they equate Singer’s “politics of Neurological Diversity” to ‘neurodiversity movement,’ but I really could not access enough material to see if Singer does ever make the distinction. I’m also getting mixed signals from the 1998 Atlantic article by Harvey Blume, which is credited for popularizing the term. 
  • (PS, the first two links do not use ‘neurodiverse’ as the plural form of ‘neurodivergent.’ Their usage more parallels ‘diverse’ and ‘of color.’ e.g. A cast that includes white and characters of color is diverse. A cast that includes neurotypical and neurodivergent people is neurodiverse.)
  • Singer did not coin ‘neurodivergent.’ I can’t find any good sources on who coined ‘neurodivergent,’ but all of the ones I have found seem to agree that it’s someone named Kassiane (surname: Asasumasu or Sibley?), a biracial autistic advocate whose online presence isn’t all linked together, so I can’t tell if any of them are legitimate. They may run this blog, this Facebook page, this Twitter, and this Tumblr. I generally trust ASAN, and there is an article there by “Kassiane S.,” so I’m assuming there does exist an autistic advocate named Kassiane. As for the other surname, I also generally trust AWN, and they have published a book (All the Weight of Our Dreams) with one of the contributors named “Kassiane A. Asasumasu.”
  • Relevant to the ‘who is neurodivergent?’ question: in the linked Tumblr, there’s a post from 2015 with about 100K notes, and the author signs it off as “Neurodivergent K of Radical Neurodivergence Speaking” (Radically Neurodivergence Speaking is the name of the blogspot blog). From skimming the blogspot blog, the writing style seems to match. The post addresses the definition of neurodivergent and who it includes: 


Neurodivergent refers to neurologically divergent from typical. That’s ALL.

I am multiply neurodivergent: I’m Autistic, epileptic, have PTSD, have cluster headaches, have a chiari malformation.

Neurodivergent just means a brain that diverges.

Autistic people. ADHD people. People with learning disabilities. Epileptic people. People with mental illnesses. People with MS or Parkinsons or apraxia or cerebral palsy or dyspraxia or no specific diagnosis but wonky lateralization or something.

That is all it means. It is not another damn tool of exclusion. It is specifically a tool of inclusion. If you don’t want to be associated with Those People, then YOU are the one who needs another word. Neurodivergent is for all of us.


  • I can’t find anyone contesting this (i.e. I can’t find anyone else claiming to be the coiner and disagreeing with this definition). So it’s very much possible that the coiner of ‘neurodivergent’ uses a very broad definition of the word that includes mental illness. 


I struggle with mental illness. I’m pretty sure I have OCD, but I don’t think I have a diagnosis (maybe??? how do you navigate the American mental health system send help). I don’t know if I’m autistic or a cousin; in any case I am probably alexithymic/I find it difficult to identify and express emotions, and this is related to my being grey aromantic. 

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Hey all -

The Ace and Aro Advocacy Project (TAAAP) is hosting a Pride Chat once a month, the last weekend of each month, on Discord. Here's the discussion description for this month:

In honor of Disability Pride Month and the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the TAAAP Pride Chats’ topic for July will be neurodivergence, disability, and mental health in aro and ace communities. We’re specifically focusing on the importance of inclusion of and accommodations for people with any kinds of disabilities or differences.

The rest of the Discord will still be open, along with new channels specifically to discuss the Carnival of Aros and the Carnival of Aces.

We will be open from 9am on Saturday to 2am Sunday, then from 8am to 11:59 pm Sunday. We’ll have voice chats on both Saturday and Sunday at 11 am and 4 pm. All times are Eastern Time.

To register, go to https://taaap.org/pride-chat-registration/

If you have any questions, feel free to respond to this, or email us at advocacy@taaap.org.

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I'm pretty sure I've got APD or ADHD or some kind of neurodivergence, but I don't know exactly what. I've also dealt with anxiety for a lot of my life, although I don't have any kind of a diagnosis. I don't really think it does influence my aromanticism too much (or vice versa), although I do occasionally feel like they play off each other in ways I can't quite articulate.

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autistic, adhd, and in the process of getting what ever is wrong with me physically diagnosed. i think my neuro divergence definitely contributes to not quite understanding why people are going on and on about romance, and i feel like they play off each other. but i don't feel like my possible physical disability really affects my aromanticism 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Autistic (confirmed) and a shitton of personality disorders (SzPD, AvPD, and PPD suspected). I think being autistic makes it easy for me to stay home during a pandemic. I was already kinda germaphobic and touch-averse and repulsed by large gatherings even before the pandemic. Never really saw the appeal of bars or concerts or sports games, and I always preferred to eat restaurant food take-out instead of sit-down. So it's easy as fuck for me to stay at home every day.

I suspect that my autism has an influence on my aromanticism and vice versa. I have a hard time relating to other people due to my autism, so as a result romantic relationships just feel like really complicated/exclusive friendships to me. Being autistic aroace also makes me loyal to a fault when it comes to my friends, and I tend to be devastated whenever I lose friends.

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I am not sure but something isn't normal.

Throughout most of primary school and a fair part of secondary school I was told I had 'anger issues' and was sent for some sessions in anger management. What I suspect is that underlying mental issues got turned into a label that I simply had trouble controlling my anger which was something the school could justify putting someone to work to fix. In particular I got violent because something was seriously preventing me from dealing with a confrontation by talking it out. Honestly i am struggling to explain it now so long later.

To be fair dealing with it as anger issues was not a bad idea, the primary school in particular was a bit of a scummy place and could not justify detailed mental health for the kids, however they could get in someone to work with kids who were causing the most trouble and stopping us beating the crap out of each other so often.

A long time later I was talking to my mum about it, and she told me she had asked two of the people that had spent time with me on that if they though I was autistic. apparently one was not sure and the other said I was very likely to be. But as around the time she asked I was becoming less violent she decided to just not tell me and leave things alone.

Sometime I will get around to properly looking myself over and working out what my brain is like, but i guess I take after my mum in a way, until something goes badly wrong I am unlikely to put money or effort into working it out.

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Recently I've discovered being autistic. I don't have an official diagnose yet because it's simply expensive and there's probably no profissional near who has experience with adult neuroatypical persons.

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  • 4 months later...
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I'm on the autism spectrum- I was diagnosed back when it was still called Asperger's.  I've also suspected for a while that I might have dyscalculia (basically math dyslexia), but I've never been formally diagnosed- I've just read some medical articles about it, and some of the symptoms are things I've struggled with since childhood.

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