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Changing perspectives on autism: Overlapping contributions of evolutionary psychiatry and the neurodiversity movement


Hunt, Adam D; Procyshyn, Tanya L (2024). Changing perspectives on autism: Overlapping contributions of evolutionary psychiatry and the neurodiversity movement. Autism Research, 17(3):459-466.

Abstract

Perspectives on autism and psychiatric conditions are affected by a mix of scientific and social influences. Evolutionary psychiatry (EP) and the neurodiversity movement are emerging paradigms that reflect these distinct influences, with the former grounded in scientific theory and the latter driven by political and social principles. Despite their separate foundations, there is a significant overlap between EP and neurodiversity that has not been explored. Specifically, both paradigms reframe disorders as natural cognitive differences rather than disease; expand the concept of "normal" beyond that implied in modern psychiatry; focus on relative strengths; recognize that modern environments disadvantage certain individuals to cause functional impairment; emphasize cognitive variation being socially accommodated and integrated rather than treated or cured; and can help reduce stigmatization. However, in other ways, they are distinct and sometimes in conflict. EP emphasizes scientific explanation, defines "dysfunction" in objective terms, and differentiates heterogenous cases based on underlying causes (e.g. autism due to de novo genetic mutations). The neurodiversity movement emphasizes social action, removes barriers to inclusion, promotes inclusive language, and allows unrestricted identification as neurodivergent. By comparing and contrasting these two approaches, we find that EP can, to some extent, support the goals of neurodiversity. In particular, EP perspectives could be convincing to groups more responsive to scientific evidence and help achieve a middle ground between neurodiversity advocates and critics of the movement.

Abstract

Perspectives on autism and psychiatric conditions are affected by a mix of scientific and social influences. Evolutionary psychiatry (EP) and the neurodiversity movement are emerging paradigms that reflect these distinct influences, with the former grounded in scientific theory and the latter driven by political and social principles. Despite their separate foundations, there is a significant overlap between EP and neurodiversity that has not been explored. Specifically, both paradigms reframe disorders as natural cognitive differences rather than disease; expand the concept of "normal" beyond that implied in modern psychiatry; focus on relative strengths; recognize that modern environments disadvantage certain individuals to cause functional impairment; emphasize cognitive variation being socially accommodated and integrated rather than treated or cured; and can help reduce stigmatization. However, in other ways, they are distinct and sometimes in conflict. EP emphasizes scientific explanation, defines "dysfunction" in objective terms, and differentiates heterogenous cases based on underlying causes (e.g. autism due to de novo genetic mutations). The neurodiversity movement emphasizes social action, removes barriers to inclusion, promotes inclusive language, and allows unrestricted identification as neurodivergent. By comparing and contrasting these two approaches, we find that EP can, to some extent, support the goals of neurodiversity. In particular, EP perspectives could be convincing to groups more responsive to scientific evidence and help achieve a middle ground between neurodiversity advocates and critics of the movement.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > General Neuroscience
Health Sciences > Neurology (clinical)
Health Sciences > Genetics (clinical)
Language:English
Date:1 March 2024
Deposited On:21 Feb 2024 11:15
Last Modified:30 Jun 2024 03:32
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:1939-3806
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/aur.3078
PubMed ID:38233966
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)