The world is changing... pass it on

Neurodiversity Chain Letter | Links


Neurodiversity is a civil rights campaign that involves challenging the assumptions and negative attitudes that unnecessarily limit the participation of neurological minorities in society.

There's a chain letter circulating on the Internet that I find particularly annoying.  It tells a story of a boy with an unspecified mental disability who happens to be passing by a ballpark when a local youth baseball championship game is in progress.  The boy begs his parents to stop the car and let him play.  Taking pity on their tragically afflicted child, the parents ask one of the coaches if their son can sit in the dugout with the players.  The coach magnanimously allows the boy to substitute for one of his players when the score is tied in the final inning.  The opposing pitcher tosses him a very easy ball, which he manages to put in play despite his impairments, and the infielders deliberately let him run all the way around the bases, allowing him to score the winning run and be proud of his once-in-a-lifetime experience.  The story ends by exhorting the reader to pass on this wonderful heartwarming tale.

Evidently there must be some people who really do think that including a special-needs child in typical peer activities once in his lifetime is a noble accomplishment, but many of us who actually have developmentally different kids get a strong urge to throw something at the screen when we read stuff like that.  I decided to deal with it more constructively by rewriting the story to illustrate the sort of world that I want my kids to grow up in:

A boy happens to be passing by a ballpark when a local youth baseball championship game is in progress.  He has brown hair, and is tall, and wears glasses, and has a developmental difference that does not define his identity any more than his other characteristics.  He glances out the window for a moment before the car passes the ballpark on the way to his regular weekly recreational league game down the street.  Although he is not the best athlete on his team, the other boys are all friendly toward him, and sometimes he goes over to their houses to play after school.

This story, as rewritten, isn't especially memorable or heartwarming.  In fact, it's quite commonplace and boring, which is the whole point.  The inclusion of neurological minorities in social activities shouldn't be an extraordinary event that happens only when someone takes pity on them.

Want to do something to help accomplish this goal?  Put a link to this page on your website, send the link by e-mail to at least 10 people who may be interested in learning more about neurodiversity, and ask them to pass it on.  You won't suddenly get good fortune or avoid a cosmic curse, nor will you feel warm and fuzzy about sharing a story of amazing kindness toward the afflicted, but you will contribute to the development of a more tolerant and inclusive society.