SLTs must consider age, sex, ethnicity, gender, race, language and so on in order to stay culturally competent. Neurodivergence should also be recognised as an equally valid culture / group of people. According to HCPC Standards of conduct, performance and ethics and Standards of proficiency for speech and language therapists, we must:

  • "Adapt our practice to meet the needs of different groups and individuals"

  • "Not discriminate against service users, carers and colleagues"

  • "Challenge discrimination"

  • "Be aware of the impact of culture, equality and diversity on practice"

  • "Be able to practise in a non-discriminatory manner"

  • "You must challenge colleagues if you think they are discriminating against service users"

  • "You must listen to service users and carers and take into account their needs and wishes"

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health and care professions council in blue font against white background
A hand holding up a cardboard sign saying "equality in diversity"

So why do we try and make autistic children fit into the neurotypical social world and dictate how they should act? It would be discriminatory to say that a person from another culture is communicating 'wrong', or dressing 'weirdly'. We wouldn't expect a Scottish person to talk like a person from London. We wouldn't expect a Jewish person to adopt different beliefs to align with another religion.


So why do we expect autistic people to act like neurotypical people? It aims to suppress and normalise autistic kids because they don't fit with typical ways of conforming. This is discrimination.

Common responses when neurodivergent people challenge society's ableist narratives

  • "These children have to learn how fit into society"

  • "The rest of us have to do it and conform, why are they any different"

  • "But they are so vulnerable"

  • "If they [insert behaviour] in public then they'll get stared at and bullied"

  • "They'll end up with no friends"

  • "How are they going to cope getting a job?"

  • "They need to learn what's appropriate"

  • "We need to teach them the skills to function"

  • "If we don't teach these skills then they won't cope with life's demands"

  • "How are they going to survive in the real world?"

  • "In the community other people won't be as accepting of their behaviour"

  • "Doing this will enable them to have a fulfilling life"

  • "We're helping them live independently"

The "bandwagon" logical fallacy

Assumes something is true (or right, or good) because other people agree with it.

The "slippery slope" logical fallacy

Moving from a seemingly benign premise or starting point and working through a number of steps to an improbable, ridiculous outcome

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SLTs still play an important role. 

It's not that we don't teach skills to help autistic / neurodivergent children develop autonomy. We want them to communicate their needs. We want them to know how to manage when situations go wrong, where to go for support, how to cope with change, how to stay safe, how to access employment if they want to. If autistic children are having difficulties with certain areas of communication which are causing them frustration then of course we support them. BUT it's about HOW and WHY we do this. It's about our approach. Its about doing this whilst respecting autistic experiences and not dictating how they should act.