The neurodiversity movement got its start in the early 1990s, when a few autistic people got together on mailing lists and dared to imagine a day when they would be seen as equals in society. Their conversations were, at that time, largely unknown to the world. The prevailing stereotypes about autism were so extreme that the very existence of autistic people who were capable of having such conversations was generally thought impossible.
It took another decade, and the advent of blogging, before pro-neurodiversity sites burst onto the Internet in large numbers. Some of these sites had modest aims, looking to dispel the worst of the prejudices by simply showing the public that autistics could indeed write coherent articles and have intelligent conversations. Others had more ambitious goals, posting specific, in-depth criticisms of society’s attitudes toward autistics and setting forth a detailed civil rights agenda. Most fell somewhere in the middle.
How much progress has our society made, since then, toward acceptance of its autistic citizens? While many are still without jobs, we’re seeing more efforts to enforce antidiscrimination laws and to include autistic applicants in diversity hiring programs. Although the schools still have a long way to go, they’re slowly learning how to educate our children in respectful and inclusive ways. There’s not nearly as much of the ugly rhetoric that was commonplace just a few years ago. As with other minority groups that have become integrated into mainstream society, just seeing autistic people on a regular basis — both in online venues and in schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods — has brought about more understanding, while showing up ignorant prejudices for what they really are.
Because so many beneficial changes have taken place in recent years, some neurodiversity sites already are outdated. Aspergian Pride, which was created in 2004 to highlight stories about the accomplishments and positive qualities of autistic people, has become an antiquated reminder of a time when many otherwise reasonable folks thought there weren’t any to be found. Accordingly, the blog is now being closed, although the site will stay up for historical purposes. Many thanks to all who have contributed their time, energy, and wisdom to bring us this far.