April 23, 2014

Neurodiversity, Autism, and Neurologically Typical and Atypical Behavior Norms

The neurodiversity (Wikipedia) movement, spearheaded by autistic adult advocates and some parents of autistics, prefers to call so-called "normal" healthy adults "neurotypical" (Wikipedia). These are people with neurological structures which lead to more typical behaviors, which the average person commonly judges as less problematic and more acceptable or tolerable.

Leaders in the autism community would say, for example, that as long as it causes no physical harm to the autistic individuals or the people they encounter, self-stimulatory, hand-flapping behavior is not "bad." A Board Certified Behavior Analyst should not try to squelch this behavior. Rather the surrounding communities should learn to accept or tolerate all kinds of behavior that never truly hurt anybody.

For example, see Zurcher's (2012) commentary on Dawson's (2004) influential paper, "The Misbehaviour of Behaviourists: Ethical Challenges to the Autism-ABA Industry." Zurcher said, "Teaching autistic people how to ‘pass’ so they can blend in better with non-autistics is similar to the belief that a closeted gay person will live a happier and more fulfilled life by being closeted than someone who is 'out.'''

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I am an advocate for people with disabilities certified to teach special education with a Master of Arts in Teaching. I am not a Licensed Psychologist or a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. When in doubt, seek the advice of an MD, a PhD, or a BCBA. My ability to analyze the ethics of ABA stems from the fact that I am disabled and ABA interventions are often done to people like me, which I voluntarily accept, but only when I alone am the person granting consent, and not a parent, sibling, guardian, or institution.