Pride versus blame: reflections on neurodiversity

Simo Vehmas, Professor of Special Education, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, President of NNDR

In this blog entry, I will discuss very briefly two related and controversial questions that, in my view, arise from the neurodiversity perspective: first, whether neurodiversity has an organic basis, and secondly, whether it is a significant factor regarding responsibility for one’s actions.

Many neurodiversity activists argue that, for example, autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are real conditions, with an organic basis (while some neurodiversity/anti-psychiatry activists say exactly the opposite). Autism, for example, is a matter of different form of brain wiring, something that is very much real and has consequences to one’s behavior. In this respect, neurodiversity has a somewhat different outlook on disability than disability studies perspective, which emphasizes primarily the social nature of the definition of bodily and mental differences. Some scholars and thinkers representing a ‘postmodern’ viewpoint go as far as questioning the definite reality of impairment: everything’s socially constructed, so it makes no sense to talk about impairments as ‘real entities’ that exist independently of our interpretations about them. Continue reading

“Our biggest worry was it could be born a Tory…”; disabled parents on TV!

Philippa Rieck, PhD researcher, Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research, University of Glasgow, UK

Channel 4 in the UK has currently been running the very popular ‘One Born Every Minute’ which attempts to show the ‘real life drama’ that occurs in the labour ward. The show is pivoted on the notion that it represents ‘every day women’s’ experiences of childbirth and of the maternity ward. Whilst interviewing a participant for my PhD research around the experience of citizenship and the body she said “You know that programme one born every minute, well you don’t see any disabled women on it having babies do you? Do disabled people just not have kids…if that show is filmed over a year in a maternity hospital then where are the disabled people?”. Most of the women I spoke to made some kind of reference to the lack of knowledge around disability and pregnancy which has, for them, resulted in a built up fear and a real feeling of exclusion from this realm. Continue reading