I promised to do this a while ago, and now I'm finally getting around to it. The petition will be on petition.parliament.uk. The character counts are extremely limited, so it was difficult to provide the needed information in the available space. Please let me know what you think of the text below, because this is for all of us and not just me. Note that the information I have provided (see the links) is also from a government website, so they can't really refute that.
The title of the petition is:
Make neurodiversity a separate protected characteristic.
The background I have written is:
Neurodivergent individuals, e.g. those with autism or Tourette's, often suffer discrimination due to their condition, whether or not their condition amounts to a disabilty. Making neurodiversity a protected characteristic in itself, separate from disability, would be a step in the right direction.
Here are the additional details I have written:
Neurodivergent individuals are denied both fair treatment and mental health services at a higher rate than in the general population. As a result, the unemployment and suicide rates in the neurodivergent group are disproportionately higher as well. Presently, they are obliged to prove that their condition amounts to a disability in order to be legally protected from the discrimination and mistreatment to which they so often fall victim. Further info: tinyurl.com/y829k3oh & tinyurl.com/yavfxmod.
PS I need 5 emails addresses for supporters of the petition, so if anyone is a UK citizen and willing to "officially" support the petition, please PM me. I can likely get some from people I know, but maybe not all five that I need (I don't know many people).
(Edited based on comments received)
The problem is, that you have to have a method by which someone fits a characteristic, as such there will always be people either side of the border. In addition, this could be seen as discriminatory against NTs. Overall therefore I can not see the intrinsic value in it or what it is trying to achieve, as technically all people are neurodiverse, in the same way everybody is on the NT spectrum and everyone is on the Autism spectrum, just to greater or lesser extents.
It is not clear what you mean by "discriminatory against NTs". A neurodivergent person, by definition, is one with a specific condition, the list of which is available in the first link I provided. Neurotypical people are never discriminated against for being neurotypical, so it's not clear to me when the Equality Act would apply to them. Neurodivergent people, on the other hand, are frequently treated less favourably than NTs, and that defines the minority group the topic of this petition is meant to protect. This is not to achieve any kind of favourable treatment for neurodivergent people. It is only to protect us from discriminatory acts and harassment to which we are often subjected.
DragonCat16 said:neurodiverse person
I expect you meant 'neurodivergent' there, as in the rest of the paragraph.
'Neurodiversity' is something like 'ethnicity' or 'sexual orientation'. All humans are neurodiverse, and have an ethnicity and a sexual orientation (including asexuality and so on). If there were discrimination against heterosexuals on the basis of sexual orientation, I'm pretty sure that would be illegal under the Equality Act too. But you can still point to specific abuse directed at people who are in minorities according to one or other characteristic: disabled, gay, autistic. So the Equality Act doesn't embody discrimination against straight people, and with this amendment would not discriminate against typically developing people.
Another question for the FAQ maybe.
I very specifically meant that things could be seen as discriminatory against neurotypicals. Most seem to have picked up on what I was discussing, which is that everyone is on both the NT and autism spectrum. Hence if something protects people up to a border near what the majority of population class as neurotypical then people on the other side of the border could see the protection as discriminatory.
The present set up has a buffer between neurotypicals and those deemed to be on the Autism spectrum thus the larger NT population does not feel discriminated against in anyway. The losers are the cohort that are on the tail of the NT spectrum and the tail of the Autism spectrum. As there has to be a cutoff for all spectrum conditions then there will always s be some that feel that they ought to be classified as having a condition and are not. Equally though, it could be argued that they should be classified as being neurotypical, which is how the law actually works at the moment.
The basic problem is that there will always be people that think they should be on the other side of the assessment line.
As for discrimination, that will always exist as people inherently do not tend to like people that are different from themselves. That works both ways, as often autistics, including myself, do not like neurotypicals.
Handi-andis said:Most seem to have picked up on what I was discussing, which is that everyone is on both the NT and autism spectrum.
Sorry, but I can’t grasp the logic of that statement. How can I be autistic and NT at the same time? I can understand that there will be people who disagree with their assessment - rightly or wrongly. But this would a consequence of the diagnostic methodology, not a reason to abandon the concept of discrimination and any attempt to address it.
Handi-andis said:Hence if something protects people up to a border near what the majority of population class as neurotypical then people on the other side of the border could see the protection as discriminatory.
The Equality Act as it is now protects neurodivergent people only up to the border of where they cease to be considered disabled. Those who aren't disabled must live without any protection from mistreatment.
Adding neurodiversity as a protected characteristic would protect everyone from discrimination arising from where they are on the neurodiversity spectrum (i.e. on both sides of the border). That includes protection for neurotypicals (in the unlikely event that they would ever be mistreated for being neurotypical). Nobody would have any reason to complain about it as everyone would have the same protection, which is not how it is now.
This would not give any group more rights than any other group. Everyone should have an equal chance for happiness and fulfillment, but that is not how the world works. Some groups are discriminated against by others, and that is why the Equality Act is needed in the first place. The protection only comes into play when someone is discriminated against or harassed, in which case the protection would be against that type of treatment.
Therefore, there is no way that neurotypicals could claim that this is discriminatory against them, unless they were to complain that they would no longer have the freedom to harass their neurodivergent counterparts as they please, which would no doubt be a considerable blow for some of them.....
Everybody is both neurotypical and autistic at the same time, it’s the dominate characteristic that define which society sees them as. It’s difficult to describe in words why this is as one needs to understand statistics, distributions and Autism tests. Graphically this diagram explains it:
As it shows the test results for neurotypicals and aspies taking the AQ-50 test, as you can see there is an area of cross-over. It is the area just either side of the peak cross-over where you have people who do not meet the assessment criteria for being autistic and society may see them as autistic or neurotypical and they may see themselves as either. What the cross-over also tells us is that autistics are not a separate “race” as if completely separate there would be no cross-over. That makes perfect sense, as we know that Autism comes about because our brains develope in a different way to neurotypicals and the amount of difference determines where we are on the spectrum. It also makes sense as we have the same bodies, the same automic nervous systems that our brains use to control breathing, and if you lined up 50 neurotypicals and 50 autistics then asked each person to pick out the neurotypicals and autistics without speaking to them then they wouldn’t be able to. As inherently we are all human and everyone has both neurotypical and autistic at the sane time, we both have traits of each one.
Our base brain wiring is the same between autistics and neurotypicals, our bodies are in essence the same, it is only our upper brain wiring that is different and the degree to which that is different define who we are and where we appear on the spectrums. Therefore we are all, all humans, both neurotypical and autistic at the sane time and it could be argued that trying to separate the two is inherently dangerous in itself and leads to discrimination. Perhaps we should instead be talking about one human continuum and be celebrating everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, as every human has strengths and weaknesses. Particularly as it has to be remembered that in co structjng sorctrjns and deciding who is on it or off it, is down to individual psychologists or psychiatrists deciding whether a person in their view fits the typical view of an autistic or not. Hence someone who’s score on the AQ-50 at the exact cross over point of the two distributions could on one day by the sane psychiatrist be deemed neurotypical and another day autistic or neurotypical by one psychologist and autistic by another. Why does that occur? Because we all have neurotypical and autistic traits, Autism and neurotypical are not distinct things, they are all part of the sane spectrum or spectrums, everyone is on both or as I prefer to look at it the sane continuum. The present setup recognises that whilst at the same time recognising that as the Autism traits become more to the fore so life becomes more difficult and protection is required. The problem will always be that the boundary has to be at such a place that the majority of psychologists and psychiatrists would agree that a particular person is autistic and faces difficulties because of it. The cut off of the AQ-50 is 32, which means that those to the right of that line would be seen as autistic by the majority of the population. It means though that it doesn’t capture a significant number of autistics to the left of the line, the question therefore is whether the line should be moved to the left in order to capture more autistics. This problem occurs not only with the AQ-50 or RAAD-R but also in the manner in which professionals assess people. The obvious thing to do would be to move the line to the point at which the two distributions crossover. However, that would mean that there would be equal amounts of neurotypical and autistics being wrongly captured. Whilst that irmprives the situation for autistics, the problem is the neurotypical population is larger so disproportionately more neurotypicals would be wrongly diagnosed. That’s the problem, there is no simple solution. The concept of protecting neurodiversity suffers exactly the same issue, where does one draw the line that the concept applies? One already has the option of declaring that one believes oneself to be disabled and asking for protection. Yes one has to “prove” that it’s causing one issues, but one isn’t going to declare disability unless one thinks one is suffering. So the present system recognises the continuum between neurotypical and autistic and provides a route for asking for protection for those that aren’t deemed to have crossed an imaginary artificial boundary and so be deemed autistic but feel they are suffering from discrimination.
So yes, everyone is both neurotypical and autistic at the same time, as they are part of the sane continuum of differences in brain wiring. The changes in brain wiring as one moves along the continuum lead to different traits coming to the fore. OCD for instance is due to differences in brain wiring, but not every person with OCD is autistic or neurotypical, it’s nit a defining characteristic but it is caused by differences in brain wiring.
If a continuum was thought about more and promoted more there would in fact be less discrimination, as discrimination occurs when an individual or group of individuals is seen as different, either due to race, religion, brain wiring etc. If we talk about s continuum then everyone is part of the sane group, but in the sane way as some people are good musicians and some are not, so some of us have brain wiring differences that lead to certain challenges and some do not. It evens the playing field and reduces the need for boundaries to bewirtied about. It allows people to be at s certain point on the sane continuum, it evens things up, it reduces the then and us issues.
So yes, every human is both neurotypical and autistic at the sane time, especi given they are simply labels to describe ones brain wiring in relation to other peoples brain wiring.
I agree with the continuum concept, but I do not think that we would be discriminated against less if people were more aware of it. NT people have a phobia about those who are different. I think it's like an automatic reflex.
It's the same thing with race. There are no "pure" races. Someone can be picked on for having a certain ethnicity, because they show certain "typical" traits of that ethnicity, whereas someone with the same ethnicity might not show those same traits, and therefore they will be left alone. The reason for the discrimination is clear, but the dividing line is not.
It's the same thing with neurodiversity. Someone may be harassed for behaving differently than other people, but another person, who is better at masking, will not be harassed, even though both of them have a diagnosis. Additionally, with this proposed addition of a tenth protected characteristic, someone without a diagnosis would be protected from harassment and direct discrimination on the grounds of perceived neurodivergency. The Equality Act is written so that people are protected from perceived membership in protected groups.
Right now, to be protected from mistreatment based on our condition, not only do we need an official diagnosis (which is difficult to obtain in this country because of the lack of services available to us compared with others), but we then need to prove that our condition amounts to a disability. Then, if that weren't enough, we need to prove that the person who discriminated against us was aware of the disability!
As far as I am concerned, that forces us to go several steps too far to legally protect ourselves. Everyone is supposedly equal in this country, so everyone should have access to the same protection from discrimination and harassment. Since we are bullied, harassed, and discriminated against more than any other minority group, it is even more important that we be protected.
DragonCat16 said:I agree with the continuum concept, but I do not think that we would be discriminated against less if people were more aware of it.
I don't really agree with the continuum concept, but I also don't think it helps counter discrimination. I just think there are many different dimensions in which human neurodiversity is expressed, and in some of those dimensions (eg hyper- and hypo-sensitivity) 'neurotypical' is in the middle. I can kind of see the idea of saying there are autistic traits in everyone and that it should therefore be possible for NTs to understand how autistic people think, and vice versa. I don't think expressing those traits numerically clarifies anything.
The AQ represents something as a single scalar number as a lot of psychological measures do, and I don't think it is even a particularly good screening tool. Incidentally Handi-andi's diagram shows a bimodal distribution (there's an 'overlap', but not much). I think I've seen it before, but would be interested if it meant to represent the full population or two chosen samples.
DragonCat16 said:Someone can be picked on for having a certain ethnicity, because they show certain "typical" traits of that ethnicity, whereas someone with the same ethnicity might not show those same traits, and therefore they will be left alone. The reason for the discrimination is clear, but the dividing line is not.
I would say that is supported by history. In the US before the civil rights movement, there was discrimination between different skin tones, with lighter being seen as higher status. South African apartheid had four categories: black, white, coloured and Indian. Every year people were recategorised from one of those to the other. The recategorisation - black or white people 'becoming coloured' and so on - seems to have supported the system, not undermined it.
DragonCat16 said:Since we are bullied, harassed, and discriminated against more than any other minority group, it is even more important that we be protected.
I'm not sure putting it like that would win us allies in other minority groups. As I expect you know, the emphasis nowadays is on intersectionality, what marginalised groups all have in common.
Cassandro said:I'm not sure putting it like that would win us allies in other minority groups. As I expect you know, the emphasis nowadays is on intersectionality, what marginalised groups all have in common.
I wouldn't put it like that to other minority groups. But the numbers are the numbers. More kids are bullied at school for being autistic than for any other difference, including other neurodivergent traits. However, the other neurodivergent people are in second place, above anyone who is currently fortunate enough to be protected by the Equality Act. Personally, I don't want autistic and other neurodivergent people to be scapegoats anymore.
I know that people here may tend to think that it doesn't matter whether neurodiversity is a seperate protected characteristic or not, but the distinction is very important, because neurodivergent individuals are not automatically considered to be disabled. I have read about at least one Employment Tribunal case in which a dyslexic person was deemed not to be disabled.
Don't assume that you are automatically protected under the umbrella of disability just because you have a diagnosis. Some employers will fight tooth and nail to get out of an Employment Tribunal case by claiming that their autistic (former) employee is not disabled and was therefore never entitled to no protection from what they did to that person. They will say that they never believed the employee was disabled, even after they were given proof. Trust me, it happens.
Disability is decided on a case-by-case basis, AFTER the acts of discrimination or harassment, so we could be living our lives content in the belief that we can't legally be harassed or bullied at work, for example, but it actually happens all the time. Just read the forums here and see for yourself.
I also don't see much use in the continuum concept for the purposes of this argument. I don't think that pointing out someone's autistic traits will get them to understand us any better. NTs tend to have no theory of mind whatsoever, except with their own kind, and their capacity for living their whole lives with their minds tightly shut is truly amazing. They simply don't want to understand anyone else's point of view, unless it matches their own.
The only thing that will stop the mistreatment is to actually do something about it when it happens. The only way that others will come to respect neurodivergent people is to give us equal footing with other minority groups.
Handi-andis said:Everybody is both neurotypical and autistic at the same time, it’s the dominate characteristic that define which society sees them as. It’s difficult to describe in words why this is as one needs to understand statistics, distributions and Autism tests. Graphically this diagram explains it:
Hi Handi-andis, thanks for the very detailed and very scientific explanation. I absolutely agree with this, and couldn't have explained it better. You have definitely studied psychology and statistics well!
Autism is a continuum, and society often groups people according to how much traits they show. There is a whole field of research on the "broad autism phenotype" which supports autistic traits as a continuum. A lot of this research has found that family members of autistic people who are considered neurotypical often have higher autistic traits than the general population, and show sensory differences, or minor social incompetence, but not enough to meet a diagnosis. The same abilities / disabilities/ differences can be found in the whole population. Additionally, most traits / measures related to autism are a continuum themselves as well, like social skill, sensory sensitivity, EQ, etc. Denying a continuum would be unscientific.
I think if we could get people to understand the continuum, and that we are all part of the same big group, it would help decrease discrimination. Having groups results in ingroup/outgroup and this can potentially cause more of a problem. To counteract discrimination, using race as an example, instead of thinking someone is "showing more traits of XXX race", we can think of that person is part of the "people race" and I am also part of the "people race", therefore we are all people and all part of the same larger race. Though discrimination vs no-discrimination does depend a lot on perspective and the individual, and I agree that this will not completely solve the discrimination problem. In IQ, which we can all agree is seen as a continuum (?!?), some high IQ people may still discriminate those with low IQ. But if instead of seeing it as a continuum, suppose everyone was classified into one of three categories: 'retarded', 'mediocre', or 'intelligent', then people will form groups according to IQ. Things would be worse if people viewed IQ as groups rather than the current continuum.
Thank you for your detailed reply. My understanding of the current research into how autism is positioned in the general population is that there are two theories. The continuum theory (that you explain so well) and the categorical theory. For a paper suggesting the categorical theory see here. The research conclusion is as follows:-
‘Our results offer an unexpected contribution to the understanding of the neuroanatomical basis of autistic traits in the general population. Here we showed that in two large independent samples autistic traits were not associated with gray matter volume, cortical thickness, surface area, and structural coupling or white matter microstructural properties. This questions the assumption that autistic traits and their morphological associations do lie on a continuum in the general population.’
I don’t think that we should let the debate about whether we are placed on a continuum or in a category stop us from trying to gain legal protection. Awareness of the inconsistencies in diagnosis, while regrettable, is not a reason to abandon a quest to allow future generations recourse to legal protection. As someone in his sixties, I see it as my duty to help young people with autism overcome the difficulties and discrimination that I have suffered.
In my lifetime many minorities have gained legal protection by campaigning for an end to discrimination. Refusing to engage with the neuro-typical world will only result in ghettoisation and further isolation. We need to claim our full rights as accorded to other minorities.
Graham said:For a paper suggesting the categorical theory
From the abstract, it looks like that paper is opposing the continuum theory, but does it actually support the categorical hypothesis? Would that not mean that AS, PDD-NOS, PDA and so on were distinct categories? There are other options: I've mentioned the constellation theory as well, although I think that originated with autistic advocates and may only reluctantly be taken up by researchers.
(Or I could suggest a related n-annulus conception, where relevant personal characteristics vary in n dimensions, and some off-centre clusters within that, that function in a particular way in society, are deemed typical, with the remainder being neurodivergent. Or a completely different, slightly cynical, hypothesis that much autism is a side-effect of the realisation that the mental health system doesn't help a lot of people.)
I agree with everything else you say.
I did a quick web search for stats on bullying of autistic people, and found some horror stories and commentary, but no stats. Does DragonCat16 have some that could be used?
Amusingly your quote with regard to brain volumes etc reinforces part of what I was saying about the continuum that the whole human race shares certain physical aspects that places us on a continuum. I need to study the paper you’ve linked in more detail, however, what I would say is that models can be pitched at different levels. My take on the continuum model is at a very high level based on the fact we all have torsos, heads etc. Hence the differences in brain wiring between individuals only makes up a very small percentage of each individual in relation to the commoness with others.
If we look at sameness rather than differences then we have greater understanding. If on the other hand we try to create another group with yet another label, particularly where defining that group and not discriminating against others in the prices, then we create difference and so conflict and discrimination. Labels never help, they lead to discrimination. We should be trying to break walls down and create opportunities and get people to see our strengths rather than our weaknesses. I actually have “integrity through neurodiversity” as the tag line on my business cards and LinkedIn account.
One doesn’t have to be neurodiverse to be bullied or discriminated against. We have an opportunity here to break down barriers and help a larger number of people.