Neurodiversity is the understanding that all brains are different and that those differences are neutral. Neurodiversity as a concept can be considered particularly well-suited to many types of developmental disability. Judy Singer originated the term “neurodiversity” in the 1990s (Armstrong, 2010, p. 7). Autistic sociologist Damian Milton (2014) defines neurodiversity as follows:
For me, the concept of neurodiversity suggests that variations in neurological development are part of natural diversity, rather than something to be pathologised using a purely medical model of disability, defined by one’s deviation from statistical or idealised norms of observed behaviour. This is not to say that those who identify as autistic people or other forms of neuro-identity do not find life challenging. (p. 11)
Autistic self-advocacy overlapped with and followed in the footsteps of the pioneering self-advocates with intellectual disability and developmental disability. The neurodiversity movement has been around for decades (Kras, 2010; Milton, 2014). According to Joseph Kras, a big moment was when autistic self-advocates responded to the NYU Child Study Center’s 20__ billboard campaign. NYU Child Study Center formatted their disability service advertisements as “ransom notes” written from autism and other disabilities to parents. Here’s what Joseph F. Kras had to say about the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network’s (ASAN) and self-advocates’ response to NYU Child Study Center’s advertising campaign:
Ari Ne’eman and ASAN used the speed and penetration of the Internet to forge alliances with other disability rights organizations to quickly shut down the Ransom Notes campaign. As important, they foregrounded the neurodiversity movement’s evolution away from a paternalistic model of advocacy to one of self-advocacy. (Kras, 2010).
This campaign is one of many successful ventures that used the Internet to connect disability communities for advocacy. Advocacy and self-advocacy among people with developmental disability continues to evolve. Advocates work to make the world better for all people with disabilities.