Friday, June 27, 2008

Autism's Neurotypical Heroes

"Neurotypical" is a term used by some persons with high functioning autism and Aspergers to describe persons who do not have an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Wikipedia entries claim that

"While originally coined among the autistic community as a label for non-autistic persons,[2] the concept was later adopted by both the neurodiversity movement and the scientific community."

One of the points not often stressed in the heated and sometimes angry world of internet autism "discussions" is the heroism of the "neurotypicals" from parents who sacrifice and struggle to raise their autistic children and care for them to the teachers, aides and other educators who try to educate autistic children, accommodate the diverse challeges they present, and in some cases deal with physical harm inflicted by those they try to help. These are real, every day, "neurotypical" heroes.

There are also professional neurotypical heroes like Dr. Paul McDonnell, professor emeritus (psychology), clinical psychologist and the mentor behind New Brunswick's (New Brunswick, Canada) evidence based autism service delivery system. Dr. Mickey Keenan in Northern Ireland and Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh in the United States. These are but a few of the many dedicated neurotyical professionals who use their education, experience, time and effort to actually help persons with autism.

I was very impressed recently with the heroic efforts of the neurotypical volunteers who worked for a week to ultimately find ,and deliver to safety, Keith Kennedy the autistic gentleman from Minnesota who wandered off and was lost in the Wisconsin woods near the camp he was staying at. These people sacrificed a lot of their time and comfort to help this autistic man they did not know.

As a neurotypical father of a severely autistic 12 year old boy I give thanks today, not because it is a "thanksgiving holiday" but because I choose to do so, to the many "neurotypical" fellow parents, professionals, educators, therapists, politicians and civil servants who have helped to make life better for my son.

You are all heroes, each and every one.


senzuri said...

Hi Harold,

I'll probably be doing more posting on your blog and his in the future. Like Jonathan, whose blog I've also discovered, I'm a HFA who wants a cure. (I probably would have been in the ND camp if I was younger. But I'm closing in on 40, and the older you get, the harder it gets to maintain your denial and self-delusion.)

I'm not a fan of the word "neurotypical" to describe people who are non-autistic. There are people who aren't autistic, but have disorders like bipolar or schizophrenia. I would not consider them any more "neurotypical" than someone at the mildest end of the autism spectrum.

The term feeds into many autistics' delusions that they're a unique and special minority group being oppressed by the "boring," "normal" majority, rather than people with a bona fide disorder (and again, this is a mindset I myself used to share).

Unknown said...


Thanks for sharing your perspective.

Harold Doherty

jonathan said...

Hi Senzuri, thanks for mentioning my blog. I hope to see you commenting there. I could use some support there, don't seem to be getting too much of it. Seems most of my readers and commentators are knee jerk reactionary neurodiversity people

Anonymous said...

I'll concur on that shout out for Mickey Keenan. He and others, such as Stephen Gallagher, Bobby Newman and organizations such as PEAT have been working hard and in some cases, pro bono, to improve autism services in Northern Ireland and Ireland.

I'm sure they appreciate the acknowledgement.

jypsy said...

"There are people who aren't autistic, but have disorders like bipolar or schizophrenia. I would not consider them any more "neurotypical" than someone at the mildest end of the autism spectrum."

"The concept of neurodiversity is embraced by some autistic individuals and people with related conditions. Some groups apply the concept of neurodiversity to bipolar disorder, ADHD,[2] developmental speech disorders, Parkinson's disease, as well as dyslexic, dyspraxic, hyperactive people.[2]" (from Wiki)

I don't know of autistics who consider "Neurodiversity" to be exclusively about ASD (though there may well be some). I'm not a fan of the word "neurotypical" to describe people who are non-autistic either. "Non-autistic" is much more accurate.

Unknown said...


What do you mean by "non-autistic"? Are you referring to anyone without an Autistic Disorder, DSM-IV, 299.0, diagnosis?

jypsy said...

No, I mean anyone without an Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis:
299.00 Autistic Disorder
299.80 Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified
299.80 Asperger's Disorder
299.80 Rett's Disorder
299.10 Childhood Disintegrative Disorder