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Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Limitations of the word "Neurotypical"

The word Neurotypical, or NT, is used quite a bit in the Autistic community to refer to non-Autistic individuals.  Lately, I've noticed some discussion on whether it is an accurate term, or whether there is a better term to use without being discriminating to the non-Autistic population. 

As I understand it, the term Neurotypical was created by Autistic persons in response to the use of the word "normal" when being compared to the rest of the human population.  Many times, it's been used mockingly, through parody sites such as the Institute for the Study of the Neurologically Typical

I've also seen it used as a shorthand, or as an alternative for non-Autistic people. 
From what I can see, there has also been some debate on whether Neurotypical includes or excludes other variants of neurological diversity, and how exactly the term should be used, if at all. 

However, if one considers the Neurodiversity philosophy, then the term Neurotypical is at worse a flawed term, and at best a term that will become, in time, irrelevant and fall out of use.  Or else will come to encompass Autistic individuals as well as other forms of diverse neurology.

This is because Neurodiversity philosophy considers Autism as a natural part of human diversity, thus making it a part of human typicality, or normal.  As this becomes a fully embraced concept applied to all forms of neurological diversity, there will be no need to make and use the term Neurotypical as a division between neuro-types. 

In a sense, we will all be Neurotypical, so there will be no need to use the term anymore, except for an explanation of previous articles and texts. 

In this context, I don't really see a point in creating an alternative term, since if there are improvements in the world, the term will be discontinued.  It is a term with a very limited period of use.  To create an alternative, then, is to halt the progress that we have been making, and even to discriminating to other members of diverse neurology.

After all, the ultimate goal of creating the term Neurotypical is to eventually not use it.


  1. I've always seen 'neurotypical' as a term to refer to people whose brain structures are generally accepted to be 'typical' in society. That is, those whose neurology is seen as matching up with the commonly used examples of how human brains are 'supposed' to work. You do raise a good point, though, that advancing neurodiversity will eventually make the term obsolete. When we come to realise that brains can come in all sorts of configurations, and that those configurations are *okay*, there won't be any point in saying that people have 'typical' brains. :)

  2. I don't understand the objection. It's a pretty useful term- obviously there are common ways for the brain to process and then there are less common ways. I like how it empowers those who are in a neurological minority- those who have more common/typical brain processing are not "normal," there are just more of them.

  3. To be honest Secret Sunshine, I don't really get the objections to the term as well. I know I find the term useful.

    But apparently some thing that it's actually discrimination against people with the most common neurology. My guess is that these people are forgetting that it's how the word is used, not actually the term itself. But there's been some people trying to come up with alternatives, which I just think is confusing.

  4. Weirdosophy(a sample):
    The parameters of human thought according to which people define and describe themselves and others, to which they live by and find their spouses, has no meaning to me.
    And meaning is just another self-reassuring parameter.


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