In honor of Women’s History Month and Neurodiversity Week, we recognize Judy Singer, an Australian Sociologist who coined the term “neurodiversity” to represent both the idea of neurological diversity and to think about the existence of a social movement of neurological minorities.
Neurodiversity refers to how our brains are wired, how we think, move, process information, and communicate in different ways. Many people use neurodiversity as an umbrella term used to describe alternative thinking styles such as Autism/Asperger Syndrome, Dyslexia, ADHD, and other unique ways of learning.
Judy Singer was born on April 12, 1951, and grew up in Australia. Singer was the daughter of a Jewish mother who survived World War II and was on the Autism spectrum.
When Singer became a mother, she noticed traits in her daughter that resembled the social challenges of her mother. Later, Singer's daughter was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Singer has also identified as being in the middle of 3 generations of women “somewhere on the Autistic Spectrum".
Singer studied Sociology at the University of Technology in Sydney and explored British and American disability studies. Simultaneously, Singer followed the virtual activism of autistic and other neurologically different people in the mid-1990s. During this time, the Autistic self-advocacy was gathering strength and becoming a movement. In 1998, in her Honours Thesis, Singer proposed the term “Neurodiversity” as a way of promoting and legitimizing the new movement.
In addition, Singer argued that Autism Spectrum/ Asperger Syndrome was not a new medical condition, but a "socially-constructed" category of disability, which emerged due to social changes in the postmodern era.
Singer has made many accomplishments in her life. Singer was the founder, via the internet, of the world's first support group for people raised by autistic parents. She was Secretary of Sydney's Inner West Autism and Asperger's Support Group for several years and co-founded ASteen, Sydney’s largest independent social club for teenagers on the spectrum. Singer also created ASpar, a group to support families of autistic people. In 2016, she published the book Neurodiversity: The Birth of an Idea.
“I think the concept of Neurodiversity has been world-changing, by giving us a new perspective on humanity, but it needs to mature to the point where we see that human nature is complex, and nature is beautiful but not benign.” – Judy Singer