Tuesday, May 10, 2016


As I tell my students, there’s been a shift in the world of philosophy over the last few decades toward context and the particular. Philosophers and ethicists used to search for “the one answer;” now they tend to embrace a range of possibility in ethically/philosophically "appropriate" responses. Similarly, in the larger world, the presence and testimony of neurodiverse individuals and families have made room for a range of what is “normal,” as well as a diverse array of approaches to difference. Since SPD (sensory processing differences) and autism are a huge part of my family’s life, I’m curious about these shifts.

I’ve been seeing a lot in the press lately around the immunology and neurology of difference (my favorite article, which happens to be about schizophrenia - by the brilliant Siddhartha Mukherjee -  is here); I’ve also been seeing a nuanced view of “fixing” people that acknowledges the subtle, sometimes tragic losses our “fixing” can cause, along with potential positives (this slayed me [for the record: I was surprised that John Elder Robison chose this treatment, but that’s another post]).

I’ve been asking myself: if context and situation vary so enormously, how could there possibly be one answer to the sorts of questions we navigate when we and/or our loved one(s) are neurodiverse? Respectful disagreement, while not being super-well modeled by U.S. Politicians, IS possible! 

I’ll use the word “change” to represent a range of possibility, from “cure” to “heal” to “progress,” but want to be clear that I stand pretty firmly in the acceptance-as-is camp. However, I respect the rights of others to want and advocate for something different than what I want and advocate for...!

With all the current research into our immune and neurological systems, both of which are related to neurodiversity (as well as other differences), we are faced almost inevitably with the following questions:

Do you want to change?
Do you want your child to change?
Does your child want to change? (And, for non-verbal children and adults, how do we determine this?)
Or do you want society, community, family, institutions, and/or context to change?

We have limited time and energy (sometimes extremely limited!): where will you choose to put your energy? 
Into yourself? Your child(ren)? Community advocacy? General advocacy? Change? Acceptance? BOTH?

There are limited institutional, state, federal, international, and non-governmental/not-for-profit resources: Where do you think these resources should go? 
To funding a search for a cure? A cure for what (autism, SPD, ADHD, difference...?)? Therapies (Physical? Physiological? Psychological? Neurological? Immunological?)? Resources to support families? Resources for schools and other institutions? Advocacy for change in the direction of inclusion?

(And...Finally...Do you even have time to think about all this stuff?)

Figure I – Spectrum of “Appropriate” Possible Answers to Each Question

As I also say in my classes, complex questions may naturally elicit answers that are complex, even seemingly contradictory or inconsistent. Our immune systems and our neurologies are intricately intertwined with our ways of being ourselves. We have many, many layers in our approaches to and feelings about who we are – and who we want to be.

We all want to be healthy, function at our best, be accepted; yet these things can manifest very differently, and mean widely different things to different people. 

Acceptance and change can conflict, coexist, contradict, and/or complement each other...

The respect we offer individuals, presuming competence and sharing autonomy, demands that we honor the multifaceted array of possible answers in a multitude of contexts.

Full Spectrum Mama

Welcome to the Sensory Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from sensory bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about what it’s like to have Sensory Processing Disorder and to raise a sensory kiddo!