Autistic culture and the conservation of neurodiversity
I’ve worn many professional hats over the years. Perhaps it may be surprising to some when they learn that I didn’t spring forth from the womb clad in rainbow flags and infinity symbols. My undergraduate degree was actually completely unrelated to autism (in the literal sense); I studied forensic and archaeological science.
As part of my training in both forensic and archaeological practices, I had to learn how to conduct environmental impact assessments. Right now, you’re probably wondering, “Why the hell is David telling us this?” You will be unsurprised to learn that I’m going to relate this to Autistic culture.
You can’t consider an environment and its health without first considering the biodiversity that exists within that environment. Neurodiversity can, from an ecological perspective, be considered a form of biodiversity.
The world can be considered an environment consisting of a multitude of cultures and sub-cultures. In this context, we can consider a sub-culture to be a group within an existing culture that shares similarities with that larger overall culture but contains variations, or perhaps deviations, from the perceived normative standards. I would then like to position Autistic culture in an ecological class of sub-culture.
We share many similarities with the wider cultures within the environment. Thanks to the intersectionality of our community, we exist within multiple larger cultures. We do, however, have specific language and a sociality of our own. So, within the broad context of various human cultures autism exists as its own diverse nook.
Why is this important?
The ecology of an environment is a complex machination. Each seemingly insignificant aspect creates the balance required for each living part of that environment to co-exist with each other. Removal of even the smallest part of an environment can create a cascading effect that leads to the failure of a given ecosystem. With respect to cultures and sub-cultures, they are a necessary part of human ecology.
As a species that evolved to be interdependent, neurological diversity allows for the development of the means of not just co-existence with our fellow humans but also the survival of our species. This, then, is why Autistic people find themselves so concerned with cure culture and eugenics. The ramifications of the erasure of Autistic sub-culture are far-reaching, beyond the scope of our mere elimination from the gene pool. It is possible that our erasure could threaten the ecological balance of the human environment.
Neurodiversity has a farther reach than merely our right to exist as neurodivergent people. It considers our need to exist. Autistic people are not just an aberration. We are not a deviation from objective normality. We are a necessary part of human cognition. Human existence, like the existence of any species, is predicated on its diversity. Reduction of biodiversity can and will ultimately lead to our failure to thrive.
So, with the consideration that we are necessary for the existence of the human race. Perhaps it is time to stop making us “indistinguishable from our peers.” It’s not just Autistic people who are being harmed by attempts to reduce us, it’s humanity itself.
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