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Neurodiversity: A Brief History

The term "neurodiversity" arose in the 1990s, and is generally attributed to the social scientist Judy Singer. Singer’s original intention was to shift the discussion of neurodivergent people around deficits and pathology, to one that openly considered different ways of thinking and experiencing the world. While certain discussions of neurodiversity emphasize the potential exceptional achievement and ability of neurodivergent individuals (e.g. the depictions of autistic savants, or schizophrenic artists), we think that these discussions should not supersede the belief in the inherent worth of neurodivergent life: our right to self determination, emotional and physical wellbeing, and freedom from stigma and judgment. The neurodiversity movement is relatively young, and no movement is completely homogenous. The discussions of neurodiversity presented here are not a complete representation of the views of everyone in the community, but serve as a primer to identify the main principles of the movement.