‘To Siri With Love’ and the problem with neurodiversity lite

The word "neurodiversity" and the idea it represents—that autistic people and other people whose minds function in atypical ways are equal, not less—has gained a tenuous foothold in the public consciousness. Still, many members of the autistic advocacy community remain skeptical and wary, suspecting that the changes are superficial.

For years, autistic people have been in the position of having to refute the notion that any awareness of autism is better than none. In doing so, we’ve pointed to campaigns and rhetoric that have stereotyped, dehumanized, and even justified violence against us in the name of “awareness.”

Thanks to the tireless advocacy of autistic activists, open and unabashed hate of this kind has dropped off over the past decade and a half. In recent years, the widely criticized charity Autism Speaks cleaned up its rhetoric (at least on its English website) by taking steps such as eliminating explicit references to finding a cure in favor of the vague language of “solutions.” After years of pressure, it also added two autistic members to its board of directors. Meanwhile, books on autism by both autistic and neurotypical writers such as Temple Grandin, John Elder Robison, and Steve Silberman have garnered significant attention, and there has been an increase in media representation—both good and bad—of autistic people.

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9th February 2018