Neurodiversity 101 – An Explanation

Leaves by Pua Zhe Xuan, part of the The Art of Autism collaborative. Oil painting with green, red, and pink abstract leaves blowing across an open field with a cloudy sky above representing Neurodiversity.
Leaves by Pua Zhe Xuan, part of the The Art of Autism collaborative

What is Neurodiversity?

Lydia X.Z. Brown defines Neurodiversity as “the belief that differing neurologies are a natural part and form of human diversity; the belief that atypical or divergent neurologies are not indicative of disease, defect, disorder, or illness; and the philosophy that neurological difference should be celebrated and accepted as natural and normal.”

Neurodiversity arose out of the Autism Rights Movement, but has since broadened to include other neurotypes that are often pathologized, such as ADHD/ADD, bipolarity, and Down’s Syndrome.

Someone who has a diagnosis of Autism may identify as neurodiverse or neurodivergent. Someone who has a typical neurology and is considered “normal” by the standards of their society is often referred to as neurotypical.

The Neurodiversity Movement fights for a number of goals, including acceptance of differences, self-determination, ending discrimination, inclusion, and equal opportunity. A common slogan, used by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, is “Nothing about us without us.” Activists push for neurodiverse people to have active roles deciding polices that impact them, such as government initiatives, education, and research.

How can allies support the Neurodiversity Movement?

Lee, a Disabled, Autistic, Chronically Ill, Queer, & Trans artist and activist, writes at Access Culture about how to by an ally to disabled and neurodiverse people.  Zes list includes:

Make events accessible

This goes beyond the typical accommodations associated with the ADA, like wheelchair ramps or interpreters, and includes sent-free spaces, sensory-friendly events, quiet spaces, and childcare options.

Embrace different forms of communication

Always ask before touching someone. Do not force someone to engage in communication, be it eye contact or verbal conversation.

Avoid using stereotypes

Lee writes “Never ever assume that it’s our role to educate you about our Disabilities.” This means to not expect someone with a disability to answer your questions regarding their life. Don’t rely on the information you see in pop culture, as it is often incorrect or missing big parts of the story. Expand your understanding by reading works written by neurodiverse authors (check out the list below!)

Check your ableist language

“Ableism” is defined as oppression, prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination against disabled people on the basis of actual or presumed disability or the belief that people are superior or inferior, have better quality of life, or have lives more valuable or worth living on the basis of actual or perceived disability.Lydia X.Z. Brown

Far too many words in the English language have origins in outdated ideas about people with disabilities and neurodivergent people. While some are obviously offensive, there are also more insidious words that don’t seem ableist at first. “Lame,” “Moronic,” and “Crazy” are all examples of ableist words. Additionally, avoid using a diagnosis as casual descriptors or insult. Saying things like “I’m so OCD” or “She’s being schizophrenic” is very harmful to individuals with these diagnoses. These phrases should be banished from our vocabulary in order to be truly inclusive and supportive.

Learn More

I am a neurotypical ally, and therefore I cannot speak for neurodivergent people. It is important to listen to neurodivergent people’s expertise, experience, and stories. There is not one consensus on how to be neurodivergent, just as there is not a consensus on how to be human. There are a diversity of voices and intersectional viewpoints that incorporate race, gender rights, and social inequality. Below is a list of amazing blogs and resources that will get you started down the path of awareness and knowledge!

Students Rights Initiative: Helping Students Learn About Their IEP Rights

Once again this year members of A2Z participated as instructors in the Student Rights Initiative (SRI) at the 19th Annual COPAA Conference in Dallas, Texas.  The students that participated in SRI learned about their rights under the law, how to participate and advocate for their needs at an IEP and how to lead a student-directed IEP meeting.

Students heard from attorneys that have disabilities themselves and learned how they navigated the world of education as students and how their disabilities shaped their career choices.

Students also heard from Selene Almazan, COPAA’s Legal Director, regarding important key court cases that led to the IDEA and how these cases shaped the rights available to them today.

Some of the students also had the opportunity to attend the COPAA breakout session “Maximizing the Youth Voice” with presenters Shiloh Carter and Olivia Hudson from  Disability Rights Texas with fellow conference attendees and participated in a lively discussion about having students attend and advocate on their own behalf at IEP meetings.

The students also discussed how a younger student might participate in their own IEP meeting.  The group determined that a younger student could introduce themselves to the IEP team so that all members were familiar with the student.  Another strategy discussed was the possibility of creating a prepared statement to read to the team about the student’s own strengths and where he or she thought she might need more help or support.

At the end of the last day the students all worked together to create a sample presentation that they could use to help them create a presentation for their own IEP meeting once they returned home.  SRI students also shared that they wanted to go home and share with their friends how they could advocate on their own behalf.

The SRI program was started to give students the tools they need to be self advocates early on in their educational career thereby establishing a groundwork for them to advocate on their own behalf at other stages of life, including at institutions of higher education and in the work place.  This year students again left the program ready to go home and get more involved in their own educational planning.







Jane DuBovy – Ahead of the Curve

Jane DuBovy – Ahead of the Curve

Ahead of the Curve

A2Z Educational Advocates represents disabled children under-served by their school districts.

By Renee Flannery
Daily Journal Staff Writer


PACIFIC PALISADES — Jane DuBovy spent 25 years practicing bankruptcy law before making a switch to educational advocacy.

“Always one step ahead of the curve,” DuBovy said, characterizing her irregular career moves. She received her master’s degree in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University before earning her law degree from the school in 1981.

She began her law career by typing out a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing for a family member. She said it was an awkward beginning but after that first filing, she went on to specialize in Chapter 7, 11 and 13 bankruptcy. At the start, “I still had to hire law clerks from Pepperdine because I didn’t know what … I was doing,” she said.

She successfully ran her practice for 20 years when in 1997, DuBovy learned her son was diagnosed with autism.

“When I got the diagnosis of my son … it was so scary to me,” DuBovy said. Read more

Autism – An Interview by Hayley McAvoy

Preconceptions of Autism

Hayley McAvoy
Hayley McAvoy is a student at UCLA

I was nervous before my interview. Up until this point, my interactions with people with autism have been among either children in a treatment setting or the speakers in an academic setting. When Casey Reilly first walks up, one of the first things he says is “I’m sarcastic and I have a weird cynical-esque view of Autism.” Then the interview began. Instead of an interview, it felt like I was just talking to a person, who happened to have Autism, about his life. I often times forgot about the questions I had meticulously prepared a day previously. Instead I just listened to what he had to say and became extremely interested in his life as whole – the aspects of his life directly affected by Autism, indirectly affected or not all. In the middle of the conversation I asked him how he identified (as an Autistic person, a person with Autism,  on the spectrum, etc.), because we had discussed it in class and I was curious. His answer surprised me because it’s not a perspective that we’ve been exposed to in class or seen in the literature; he said he identified himself as simply a person. Most of what’s written about Autism is by people who are self-advocates or are very expressive and passionate about their diagnosis. In other words, they consider Autism a salient part of their identity. However, there isn’t much writing about those who have Autism, it’s a part of their lives, but the Autism doesn’t necessarily define who they are. Casey was able to give me insight into this perspective. He admits that Autism has influenced who he is and his interests, but it doesn’t define him. Read more

Autism and Love

Recently, I’ve come across or have been sent, autism movies and stories about romance for the person diagnosed with autism.  It’s become a much larger discussion because of the number of young adults who were diagnosed early, received many wonderful interventions that helped them access neurotypicals (non-autistic diagnosed) and now want the ultimate in relationships, a person to love and to love them.  This is a giant leap from not only society’s expectations for someone with this diagnosis, but also an enormous area of concern and hope for us parents of young adults on the spectrum. The following link is just one such movie that looks into the world of love through autism eyes.

Mental Health Services

School Districts are required to pay attention to all students and that includes those with possible mental health needs. Instead of compassion often these students are ignored or they lash out w/ behaviors that causes them to be suspended or expelled.  Guess what, under the law, these students are entitled to assessments to determine if they need mental health services so they can access their education.  press on the link below to see the latest information on this issue.


Jack of the Red Hearts – movie

My client, Janet Grillo, has made another wonderful movie that addresses living with a child on the autism spectrum disorder. As a fellow Mom w/ a son diagnosed w/ ASD, i can relate to many of the experiences portrayed in this film.  You’ll have a chance to see it on Saturday, April 23rd on the Lifetime Channel.  Tune in or record it to watch later. Just don’t miss it.

Governor Brown

Immigration is a big issue in California.  We have a compassionate governor who recognizes that these people have rights. Once the children are registered for and attend California’s public school they often need the support of the IDEA to provide them assessments and educational support. Many of these families are afraid of asking for assessments for their children as they want to not stand out.  If they do ask for assessments the parents are reluctant to question what the school IEP teams are saying to them.  A2Z Educational Advocates has their information in both Spanish and English.  We want to make sure these children get served.

Sibling singing to Twin w/ autism

I have the pleasure of representing family in their fight to get services for Paul.  Mom sent me this link.  Paul’s sister speaks on her feelings for her twin brother and then plays and sings a beautiful song. Her message is to focus on the abilities of each person and be loving and supportive. click on link to hear Dana.

The Dark Horse

I saw this movie last night.  It was so great and inspiring, and based on true facts. THE DARK HORSE is based on the true story of Genesis ‘Gen’ Potini (Cliff Curtis), a Maori speed-chess champion seeking redemption and a new purpose in life despite his struggles with bipolar disorder.

It’s raw and real and worth the price of a ticket. Here in Los Angeles it’s playing at the Laemle’s Royal Theater in West Los Angeles.  Unfortunately, you won’t have to fight the lines.  It’s not as crowded as it should be.  There are no special effects just real human interest.