Autism Advocacy Terms
Neurotypical Definition, Disability Models and More
“Autistic Person” vs. “Person with Autism”
Many neurotypical special education teachers or other professionals working with disabled people have been trained to use person-first language, meaning they’ve been led to believe that it is more socially appropriate and sensitive to emphasize a person’s humanity before her disability. For example, they might explain that it is more appropriate to describe someone as “a person with autism,” rather than “an autistic person.” While these semantics may be appropriate for some disabled communities, many within the autistic community find this language offensive. This is because the separation of personhood with autism suggests that the autism is not a part of their identity, which many take issue with. Some people argue that the desire to separate their autism from their personhood suggests that it is an affliction they can (and should be) rid of and still maintain their true personalities. It leaves no room for pride in their differences or unique identity. However, these preferences are not universal, and it is best to respect the wishes of whomever you are speaking to or about.
The term “neurotypical” technically refers to anyone with a typical neurology. This means a neurotypical individual would not have dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or bipolar disorder, for example. The autistic community has adopted the neurotypical definition to refer to a person who is not autistic.
Neurodiversity is the concept that encourages the acceptance of a variety of different neurological conditions. It asks people to embrace neurological differences, treating everyone with dignity and respect. In general, this term can be applied to neurological differences such as ADHD, bipolar disorder, dyslexia, Tourette Syndrome, and autism spectrum disorder, among others. Among the autistic community, “neurodiversity” refers to the autism advocacy concept that treats autism as a neurological variation that should be embraced and supported, rather than a disease that society should eradicate.
Abelism is the discrimination of another person based on a disability. It is the set of beliefs that identify people as socially or morally inferior based on their physical, emotional, developmental, or psychological disability. Society’s inferior treatment of autistic individuals, particularly the campaign to hide autism or eliminate all traces of it is a form of ableism.
Medical Model Vs. Social Model of Disability
The medical model of disability suggests that a person’s disability is a problem that lies within the individual. The social model of disability suggests that disability occurs when a person’s environment is not suited to him or her. For example, the medical model of disability would assume that a person in a wheelchair who can’t access certain buildings is disabled because she needs a wheelchair to move around and can’t get up the steps. The social model of disability would suggest that the stairs are the problem and that inserting a ramp would eliminate the disability in this situation.
Neurotypical privilege refers to the ease with which neurotypicals navigate life because their society has developed accommodations that cater to most of their needs. It is difficult for many neurotypical individuals to truly understand the privileges they enjoy. Neurotypical privilege impacts the ease of daily living and long-term opportunities. Square 8 is a blog devoted to disability that has a detailed post about neurotypical privilege with several specific examples.