Many thanks to all who have contributed to the working document on neurotypical privilege. Because I want this to be accessible to as many people as possible, I would like to make it available through autistics.org, ASAN's website, and any other site that would like to use it. While a few people have already weighed in to advocate for keeping the entire list (at this time 261 points long!), others have remarked that it becomes hard to read at a certain point. I believe that 50 items is about the maximum for ease of reading and comprehension. I have made an attempt at a first edit by choosing those items I believe best illustrate the core concept of NT privilege.
The document will be open here for review for a period of one week. Everyone who has contributed, or would like to contribute will have the opportunity to critique the list, and to make arguments for including other points. Those items which receive multiple votes or especially well reasoned arguments will be given extra consideration. The longer list will remain here, and will be linked from the sidebar for easy access.
Suggested questions for discussion:
Which points from the unedited list (not included in this one) are most important to you, and why?
Are there points on this list you would choose to remove in favor of others?
Would the list be equally effective with 60 points? More than that?
Does the document need a different title? Someone has suggested that "neurotypical" be replaced with "neuroconvergent." Personally, I am not fond of the term "neurotypical," as I think it lacks accuracy. However, it is a term many people have become familiar with, and I hesitate to introduce a less familiar term. I don't see "non-autistic" as a good choice in this case, either. Suggestions, anyone?
Note: While civil dissenting opinions are generally welcome at Asperger Square 8, I will not be allowing comments on this post that deny the validity of the overall concept of neurotypical privilege, or in any way attempt to derail the discussion. Thank you for understanding.
The Checklist of Neurotypical Privilege
Since its publication in 1988, Peggy McIntosh’s essay, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, has come to be seen as a standard tool for examining the often unacknowledged advantages conferred on the white majority. The article has since been adapted to reflect the advantages of many other majority groups, spawning lists of straight, thin, cisgender, class, (temporarily) able-bodied and other forms of privilege. As far as I know, the advantages of being neurotypical or neuroconvergent have not previously been listed in a systematic way, with the goal of encouraging a similar analysis.
This explains the genesis of this list, but not its reason for being. As autistic adults, we have often found ourselves excluded from organizations claiming to speak for us. We have been told that our thoughts and experiences are of no value in general discussions of autism. Autistic adults who dare to speak openly on topics related to autism are often treated with condescension, ridicule and disdain. Autistic children are restrained in isolation rooms, bullied not only by peers but by teachers, while some of us have been told this is not our concern. Autistic adults are tasered by police for their communication and movement differences. Every year, autistic children and adults are murdered for no reason other than their neurology. A life in which a person can be fairly sure these things will not happen to her/him is a privileged life. Having one’s views taken seriously on these subjects is another example of privilege.
In compiling this list, I have been acutely aware that the topic of privilege is one many people find hard to digest. For anyone who has not come across the concept before, or who feels that he or she does not fully understand what it means in this context, I highly recommend reading the original McIntosh article in its entirety before beginning the list of neurotypical privilege presented here. For those who find themselves feeling defensive upon reading, you are not alone. For most of us, this is a necessary part of the process of acknowledging and understanding privilege. Here are a few basic things to remember about privilege:
Privilege is not your fault. It is an artifact of systems that favor some people over others, systems that have evolved naturally to meet the needs of the majority, but have failed to provide adequate accommodations for those outside it.
Privilege is not, in itself, a terrible thing. Having any form of privilege does not make you a bad person. Just about everyone has some form of privilege. (No, that doesn’t mean it all somehow “balances out.”)
The statement that privilege exists is not an accusation or attempt to blame. It is an invitation to see your experiences and the experiences of others in a new light. It is not an admonition to change the world, but a simple tool with which to begin considering if, possibly, some changes might be worth working toward.
Checklist of Neurotypical Privilege
1. My family, friends, and significant others are not told that I am incapable of relating to other human beings.
2. I have never been told, because of my neurology, that I am incapable of feeling pain.
3. For a child of my neurotype, everyday teaching of the skills they will need to live in this society is called education or parenting—not therapy or treatment.
4. People do not constantly tell me that I need to work on the things which I am very bad at, at the expense of things which I am good at and enjoy doing.
5. I can reveal to my boss and coworkers that I am neurotypical (NT), without fear of losing my job.
6. If I am an adult, I can be a sexual being without the assumption that any partner attracted to me must be a predator or pedophile.
7. I am never told that I should not have children, lest I pass on the genes that cause them to be like me.
8. No one speculates about whether I am competent to raise children based solely on my neurology.
9. People do not assume that living in the same household as me is inherently “tragic” or “devastating,” or that my family, friends and partner will need a support group to deal with living with me.
10. If I have relationship problems or get divorced, people do not automatically assume that my neurology was the sole or main cause for these problems.
11. People of my neurology are not generally considered burdensome to our families.
12. People of my neurology are not generally considered burdensome to tax-payers.
13. Nobody will murder me because of my neurology.
14. If I am murdered, my murderer will not be let off because my murder was deemed “an act of mercy,” or given a light sentence because of the stress caused by interacting with me.
15. People do not automatically assume that the best place for me to live is an institution.
16. If I am bullied or abused, people will not assume that my neurology means I am at least partially to blame, or that the abuse would stop if I tried harder to behave like someone else.
17. If I have a medical problem, I do not worry that my doctor will dismiss it as part of my neurotypicality.
18. When attempting to purchase health insurance, I know that I will not be rejected because I am NT.
19. The majority of people who make the laws of my nation share my neurology.
20. I can assume that police officers will not become alarmed at my natural body language, and find it necessary to subdue me in advance of any wrongdoing.
21. I do not have to carry a special card or bracelet with me that explains my natural body movements or the sounds I naturally make.
22. The services that I need to survive not only already exist, but even if I use those services on a 24-hour basis, I will always be considered independent.
23. When I need help performing a particular task, I can ask for help without having to produce documentation to prove I actually need help with it. The help will most often be provided in a manner I can understand, and will not be considered an inconvenience or an act of pity.
24. If I fail to understand autistic people, this is attributed to a deficit inherent in autistic people, rather than in me.
25. If I have a particular talent or ability, I can demonstrate that talent without being called an “idiot savant” or my talent being called a “splinter skill” or some other demeaning word.
26. The definitions of rude and irritating conduct were developed by and for people with my neurology.
27. I am not praised for acting less neurotypical, or punished for acting more neurotypical.
28. I am not expected to alter or suppress my natural ways of moving, interacting or expressing emotion in most circumstances.
29. If I fail to alter or suppress my natural ways of moving, interacting or expressing emotion, I do not fear public ridicule or exclusion because of this.
30. I will not be asked to leave a space, or to change where I live, because people are uncomfortable with my neurotypical behaviors.
31. When prospective parents and others speak of wanting a “healthy child,” I know that they mean a child like me.
32. No one sees my neurology as being in need of prevention, treatment, or cure.
33. People don't accuse me of grandiosity or derisively dismiss it if I suggest that some admirable historical figure might have been neurotypical.
34. It is considered good for people who are not like me, to try to act more like me.
35. Even if I completely lack a conscience, I am automatically considered less dangerous than autistic people.
36. My natural movements and traits are not used by my peers to ridicule others of their neurological type, either jokingly or maliciously.
37. I can assume that most restaurants, theaters, stores and other places I would like to go will not be so loud or brightly lit or crowded that I will become unable to function at a basic level.
38. My behaviors, abilities, and skill levels at age 2 or 3 are considered indicative of an immature phase of life that will pass naturally, not as representative of my prognosis for the rest of life.
39. I am never told that the fact I have a certain cognitive skill means that I am lying when I say I lack another cognitive skill. Nor am I dismissed as incapable of things I truly can do, because I lack certain cognitive skills.
40. I can discuss my interests at length without being seen as strange or obsessive.
41. If I am visibly upset, people generally assume something must have upset me, and will generally try to help me.
42. If someone of my neurology commits a crime, people do not automatically assume I am more likely to commit a similar crime.
43. If someone of my neurology can do something well, I will not be punished for being unable to do the same thing well or at all.
44. If I am unhappy, people do not automatically assume my unhappiness is directly caused by my neurology.
45. People do not suggest that groups that are made for the benefit of people of my neurological type be lead and ruled by people of a different neurological type, because mine is inherently incapable.
46. I expect people to presume intellect and competence with me.
47. If I fail, most will encourage me by telling me that I will ultimately succeed.
48. I do not have to fear that important decisions about my life will be made by autistic or other non-neurotypical people, just because I am neurotypical.
49. I have never had to take a single test that determines, for my entire lifetime, whether I get to communicate.
50. When I communicate, people do not gather in crowds around me and gawk.
Definition of terms
Majority: The dominant group.
Minority: (1) A racial, religious, political, national, or other group thought to be different from the larger group of which it is part; (2) A group having little power or representation relative to other groups within a society; (3) a member of one of these groups.
Neurotypical: (1) Having a type of neurology that is expected and/or favored by the society in which one lives. (i.e., having a “normal” or “typical” brain, and the typical sensory processing/body movements/facial expressions associated with a typical neurological system.)
We: (1) The people who helped to create this document—most of us autistic or with other less typical neurology; (2) those who support the recognition of human rights for autistic people and others with less typical neurology.
This document was created by readers of Asperger Square 8. A more extensive list of neurotypical privilege can be found here.