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Can intervention align with the neurodiversity movement?

The disagreement between the proponents of the neurodiversity movement and those who see the better approach to neuro-differences as being the medical model can be confusing and divisive.

According to an article in The Scientific American written by Aiyana Bailin, an autism care professional and disability rights advocate, neurodiversity is often conflated with social model of disability – an idea that the neurodiversity movement “views autism as a difference but not a disability.”

Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Center at the University of Cambridge, UK, and president of the International Society for Autism Research writes that: “Neurodiversity is related to the more familiar concept of biodiversity, and both are respectful ways of thinking about our planet and our communities… And while the neurodiversity movement acknowledges that parents or autistic people may choose to try different interventions for specific symptoms that may be causing suffering, it challenges the default assumption that autism itself is a disease or disorder that needs to be eradicated, prevented, treated or cured.”

The disagreement between the proponents of the neurodiversity movement and those who see the better approach to neuro-differences as being the medical model can be confusing and divisive.

Advocates see autism or other brain differences as being part of “neurotypical” diversity. That these differences are only differences because of the environment individuals find themselves in.

“Through the lens of neurodiversity rights advocates, the symptoms and behaviours of the people who would ordinarily be classified as atypical are simply normal expressions of human function rather than disorders to be diagnosed and treated,” according to The article quotes a person as saying: “We are freshwater fish in saltwater. Put us in freshwater, and we function just fine. Put us in salt water, and we struggle to survive.”

Yet others see the neurodiversity movement as acceptable for autistic individuals with good verbal skills and less severe challenges. For others, autism can be debilitating, requiring the medical model to approach prevention and treatment toward a cure.

Baron-Cohen says that this language can strike fear into the heart of proponents of Neurodiversity who see this language as no different from eugenics.

Is there a place for an intervention?

In a recent study that looked at “the prevalence of various medical and behavioural co-occurring conditions/symptoms between four- and eight-year-olds with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), ”more than “95 percent of individuals with autism had at least one co-occurring condition/symptom.”

The study indicates that pure autism is rare and that these symptoms or conditions can include epilepsy, gastrointestinal problems, ADHD, anxiety and others. These require treatment both to improve an individual’s quality of life and remove or reduce the possibility of injury.

Rather than focussing on one approach (Neurodiversity) over the other (medical model), there is room for intervention within a non-judgemental environment of acceptance and celebration.

Interventions like ours (Full disclosure, we firmly believe that our digital cognitive therapy platform is superior!) can help individuals better succeed not only academically but throughout their lives. The intervention does not seek to “cure” autism or other neurological differences but to help improve skills that lead to personal accomplishments that, in turn, can improve behavioural outcomes, reduce anxiety, improve self-esteem and improve relationships, among other things.

Should Neurodiversity be entirely accepted? Of course! We are all part of the beautiful fabric of humanity in all our variations.

Can individuals receive interventions that help them face fewer barriers or challenges without detracting from their human rights and sense of belonging?


There are few of us on earth who do not seek help for various challenges to improve our lives, conditions, illnesses, etc. We support the ability of neurodiverse persons to seek support to help them live lives fully realized – in whatever way they define that for themselves.


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