Liberating Ourselves from the Autistic Pathology Paradigm

Must we pathologize everything in order to wish to understand it?
Must we pathologize everything in order to wish to understand it?

I just came across this essay, which is so very important, and so very on point. Read the whole article here:


When it comes to human neurodiversity, the dominant paradigm in the world today is what I refer to as the pathology paradigm. The long-term well-being and empowerment of Autistics and members of other neurological minority groups hinges upon our ability to create a paradigm shift – a shift from the pathology paradigm to the neurodiversity paradigm. Such a shift must happen internally, within the consciousness of individuals, and must also be propagated in the cultures in which we live.

So what does all that fancy talk mean? What are these paradigms of which I speak, and what does it mean to make a “shift” from one paradigm to another? This piece is an attempt to explain that, in plain language that I hope will make these concepts easily accessible.

What’s a Paradigm, and What’s a Paradigm Shift?

Even if you haven’t encountered it in an academic context, you’ve probably heard the term paradigm before, because it’s annoyingly overused by corporate marketers to describe any new development they’re trying to get people excited about: A new paradigm in wireless technology! A new paradigm in sales hyperbole!

As a great Spanish diplomat once put it, I do not think it means what they think it means.

A paradigm is not just an idea or a method. A paradigm is a set of fundamental assumptions or principles, a mindset or frame of reference that shapes how one thinks about and talks about a given subject. A paradigm shapes the ways in which one interprets information, and determines what sort of questions one asks and how one asks them. A paradigm is a lens through which one views reality.

Perhaps the most simple and well-known example of a paradigm shift comes from the history of astronomy: the shift from the geocentric paradigm (which assumes that the Sun and planets revolve around Earth) to the heliocentric paradigm (Earth and several other planets revolve around the Sun). At the time this shift began, many generations of astronomers had already recorded extensive observations of the movements of planets. But now all their measurements meant something different. All the information had to be reinterpreted from an entirely new perspective. It wasn’t just that questions had new answers – the questions themselves were different. Questions like “What is the path of Mercury’s orbit around Earth?” went from seeming important to being outright nonsense, while other questions, that had never been asked because they would have seemed like nonsense under the old paradigm, suddenly became meaningful.

That’s a true paradigm shift: a shift in our fundamental assumptions; a radical shift in perspective that requires us to redefine our terms, recalibrate our language, rephrase our questions, reinterpret our data, and completely rethink our basic concepts and approaches.

Read the whole article here:


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