A diagnosis of “disability” or “disorder” can be extremely helpful to understand the nature of a student’s learning needs that are different from their peers – in order to provide the right kind of support – but the negativity of our society’s general outlook on these differences in people is what is not helpful. The language of “disorders” and “disabilities” still have a place in context of the challenges that a student is facing, but the shift toward putting emphasis on unique strengths is of fundamental importance as well.
From the book Neurodiversity by Thomas Armstrong PhD:
“The term, which was coined by Australian autism-activist Judy Singer and American journalist Harvey Blume in the late 1990s, suggests that what we’ve called in the past “disabilities” ought to be described instead as “differences” or “diversities.” Proponents of neurodiversity encourage us to apply the same attitudes that we have about biodiversity and cultural diversity to an understanding of how different brains are wired.
It would be absurd to say that a calla lily has “petal-deficit disorder,” or that a person from Holland suffers from “altitude-deprivation syndrome.” The fact is, we appreciate the flower for its intrinsic beauty and value citizens of the Netherlands for their unique landscape. So, too, we should celebrate the differences in students who have been labeled “learning disabled,” “autistic,” “ADD/ADHD,” “intellectually disabled,” “emotionally and behaviorally disordered,” or who have been given other neurologically based diagnoses. We ought to appreciate these kids for who they really are and not dwell upon who they have failed to become.”