A piece by Pete Etchells in The Guardian, entitled, “Putin has Asperger’s” (1) story highlights the danger of psychological diagnosis from a distance is startlingly correct in its assertion. Not only is diagnosis from a distance is incredibly problematic in terms of identifying diagnostic standards established by professionals, but it is a poignant representation of the growing difficulty that people living with neurodiverse conditions face in a society that is increasingly afraid of diversity.
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Having experienced, at least in some small way, the nature of higher education, I've come to understand how the significance of politics in research has come to dominate fields once dedicated to improving our grasp of both natural and social sciences. Unfortunately, this is no longer merely a plight on the social sciences, the softer side of academic pursuit, but even the natural sciences are prey to the political gymnastics involved in acquiring research grants and other monies earmarked for specific research proposals.
A recent discussion with a nurse practitioner prompted me to think about the nature of labels. She argued that regardless of the label, the underlying condition of behavior consistent with that description remains unaffected by the label assigned. Naturally, I disagreed.
I have written about appreciating cognitive difference and there is a great deal of literature that expounds on seeing the value of neurodiverse conditions. Appreciating the lifestyle of those with differences is part of understanding the value of diversity. I have also asked, as have many who study these problems: where do we draw the line between appreciating diversity and diagnosing illness? A recent publication draws on this distinction very well, mentioning a very specific, potentially neurological, disassociation between a person and their body. Carl E. Fisher and Michael B.
There are many models which have been developed over time to explain illness. Some of these models describe illness as biologically-identified (as pathological). I have recently completed a lengthy dissertation on a description of mental illness known as “neurodiversity”. On several, previous occasions I have written about this subject: an emerging conception of mental illness, characterized not from a purely socially-constructed perspective, but from the perspective of valuing difference.
I'd like to discuss, briefly, to what extent neurodiverse conditions affect conceptions of identity. For those of you familiar with the “Neurodiversity” movement, you'll be aware of the debate that self-advocacy has stirred in the world of mental well-being. The movement takes its origin from the development of an online community through which some autists began advocating on behalf of themselves for recognition of their conditions as natural variations or ways of being, rather than deficits or impairments.
I recently read a blog post from the Huffington Post by a Ms. Natasha Tracy (1). Her post centered around a claim that portrayals of people with neurodiverse conditions in the media tends to focus on overly polarized characteristics which, she claims, have the effect of attributing a sort of “superpower” to the characters with these conditions. She makes note of several characters from popular television in series which I am not familiar with: “Black Box” and “Perception”.