It’s Different Not Less.
Within a whisker of time spent with any autistic advocacy people or groups and you are sure to hear or see that statement. Different Not Less. It’s a rallying cry, a hashtag, a belief statement and a fact. It is potent with truth and a declaration of advocacy and defiance.
But what is a neuro-social difference anyway?
It does seem a somewhat odd way to describe something. I am not sure of an actual technical definition of this term. In fact, it is not a thing that has overly concerned me. I guess I inferred meaning to it as I considered the ten principles of the Âû charter.
I interpret it to mean essentially that as autistics we are different not less! That is, we are wired differently, our neurology is inherently different to the so-called typical neurology. That difference, of course, is not a sickness, not an illness, not an ailment, not a disease and certainly not a deficit. It’s different, absolutely, but it sure as anything is not anything less than any other human person.
In a very real way, this particular item on the charter is one that perhaps encapsulates the very fundamentals of autistic activism and advocacy. I believe it is a bold declaration that I am not less than you, I am not other than you. I am human, completely human, just as you are.
Fundamentally, all human persons are created equal, worthy of the same respect, dignity, rights and access. Equal regardless of race, sex, religion, gender, culture, disability, number of limbs, intelligence and so the list could go on. Being autistic and therefore neurodivergent does, of course, have some different outworkings in the way we hang life together.
Commonly we have differences in communication, sensory, and social aspects of life. Unfortunately, a majority narrative has described these differences not merely as a difference but as a deficit. This is just wrong and is to be rejected.
We process information differently and so our communication is a little different, in the realm of both verbal and non-verbal. Our process sensory input differently and so our emotional, physical and intellectual responses to that input are also different. Our social interactions are different also, which, I believe to be due to the combination of the way we experience the world due to the different neurological makeup we have.
In so many ways…
In so many ways autistics make their way in life proving the point that we are different and not less. Whether it’s the likes of a Bill Gates building a successful technology empire, a Darryl Hannah making successful movies, or that person that could be sitting at the desk beside you just doing their best to make their way through life just as you are.
We may not be that social but we’re just different not less.
We may make social faux pax but we’re just different not less.
We might just speak uncomfortable truths and embarrass you or others but we are different and not less.
We might flap our hands but we’re different not less.
We just might cover our ears at loud noises but we’re different not less.
That pulsing flashing light may be difficult for us to deal with but we’re different not less.
We might walk with an unusual gait but we’re different not less.
Our intonation may be less varied than others but we’re different not less.
We might uncomfortably, for you, remember every minute detail but we’re different not less.
We may become agitated at sudden changes to the agenda but we’re different not less.
We may not use our mouth parts to talk but we’re different not less.
We might not congregate around the water cooler to discuss the goings on but we’re different not less.
Just like every other human person inhabiting this planet we are different not less.
Yes, I embrace a definition of autism that says I am different not less.
Yes, I embrace a definition of autism that rejects the notion of autism as a disease a disorder and a less than complete existence.
Autism is not, and never has been disorder and disease, it is an expression of human difference and diversity.
Autistics, we’re here, and guess what we always have been and we always will be.