On the politics of Devon Price's Unmasking Autism
my comment continued (lol sorry I have lots of thoughts about this):
So what I see happening is the proliferation of arguments (coming from ND people themselves!) that reduce neurodivergence to mere differences in biology, which feeds into bioessentialism and affirms our society's tendencies to pathologize biological difference and natural variation. Furthermore, it makes no sense to urge medical professionals and researchers to change the definitions, etiological models, and systems of care currently in use (all of which should absolutely be overhauled), and then go back and draw from the authority of this same medical/academic industrial complex to uphold the validity of our life experiences. Besides, I have a tough time believing that people who are hostile to my experiences are going to be won over by hearing that people with the same diagnoses as me tend to have less gray matter or less functional connectivity in their brains. Anyway, all of this aside, this reliance on the ND vs. NT binary makes me unsure if I even want to join the ND "community" on social media platforms (as if Insta pages were true communities, but that is a topic for another day). Something tells me that simply having a diagnosis or a shared experience of neurodivergence is not enough to merit inclusion or validation in those comment sections--you have to align with their collective unexamined assumptions as well.
Thank you for writing this. I frequently lose my mind whenever I dare to read the comment sections of the various ND-friendly or ND activist pages on instagram. I like to interact with these pages because I relate to the content and it is comforting to learn that there is a shared language for experiences of neurodivergence, but these pages are also where I tend to witness armies of angry people swearing on their life that their brains are ~different~ and that neurotypicals will never understand. While I agree that most people misunderstand neurodivergence and many more cause outright harm to people who experience the world differently, I don't see how this is a product of their brains being "normal," or even typical. I have some ideas why potential employers may not be very understanding of my inability to play along with their office's unwritten social rules, but none of them involve assumptions about the normality of their brain (or the abnormality of my brain, for that matter). Current neuroimaging technology is not well-suited to answer questions like "Is my brain an autistic brain or a neurotypical brain?", and I know this because I am a neuroscientist. We have no established threshold for what a neurotypical brain looks like. The data from between-group analyses indicating differences in connectivity or neuroanatomy in brains of people with different psychiatric diagnoses versus brains of ppl without diagnoses are correlational, and even those researchers who are most devoted to the crusade for finding psychiatric "biomarkers" are cautious (or should be) about the prospect of using neuroimaging techniques as diagnostic instruments. I understand why people would want to cite neuroscientific evidence that their brains are "different"--this kind of evidence shuts down annoying conversations about the validity of our life experiences. It is exhausting to have to prove to people over and over again that your exhaustion and distress are real, and the Results section of an empirical study contains types of data that are held in very high esteem here in the West, though most people wouldn't know what to do with it or how to interpret it. As a consequence of this general scientific illiteracy, people don't know (or forget, or disregard) that the data in these Results sections need to be interpreted cautiously, and within the constraints of a well-defined hypothesis, none of which the people of Instagram are interested in doing.