The emergence of the term “neurodiversity” and the corresponding movement in the late 1990s should be analyzed within a broad perspective. On the one hand, it belongs in the history of disability movements (Charlton 2000; Corker and French 1999; Corker and Shakespeare 2004; Davis 1995, 2002; Shapiro 1993). On the other hand, it instantiates the broad societal impact of neuroscientific knowledge and practices and the multiple pathways it takes. The neurodiversity movement is historically connected to a turn away from psychoanalysis and toward a neurobiological and genetic understanding of autism.
Meet Judy Singer, a NeuroDiversity Pioneer
An Interview with the Australian Sociologist who coined the term ‘Neurodiversity’
Many of us would concur that the term Neurodiversity is representative of the fact that differences in neurology should be recognized and respected as a social category, similar to ethnicity, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, gender, or disability. But most don’t know that Judy Singer, an Australian sociologist, first used the term Neurodiversity in her sociology honors thesis in 1996-1998 (and formally presented the paper in 1998). US writer Harvey Blume, with whom Singer corresponded with about their mutual interest in Autism, further popularized the word in a 1998 issue of The Atlantic, stating, “Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment? Cybernetics and computer culture, for example, may favor a somewhat autistic cast of mind.”