Autism and the Neurodiversity Paradigm

Online Course Materials:    ArticlesArticles    AudiosVideos   ArticlesArticles    VideosVideos   

All materials are available as audios with transcripts.

Developed by Nick Walker, Ph.D.

Course not approved by New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental Health Practitioners for LMHCs.

General Course Description

This unique course offers an alternative view of autism based on the neurodiversity paradigm. It defines and explains the neurodiversity approach to autism and offers a critique of the mainstream professional and academic discourse on autism, which views autism as a set of deficits, framing many aspects of autism as pathological.

In contrast to the prevalent pathology paradigm of autism, the neurodiversity paradigm frames neurological diversity as a form of human diversity that is subject to the same sorts of social dynamics that occur in diversity of race, culture, gender, or sexual orientation. Seen through the lens of the neurodiversity paradigm, the pathologizing of autistic people is viewed as a manifestation of the similar patterns of social power and prejudice that once led to the pathologizing of gay and lesbian people.

This intermediate-level course, including audios, videos and articles, was developed by a leading autistic scholar and educator. It begins with an explanation of autism, which is different than the pathologizing or DSM approach to Autism. The second section of the course introduces the neurodiversity paradigm with two articles, a video and an audio interview (transcripts available).This section includes definitions of terms, such as neurodivergence and neurominority. The third section is composed of three articles that critique the framework behind autistic stereotypes and present a new view of autism. The fourth section, containing a video (transcript available) and two articles, discusses important issues that therapists and other professionals need to be aware of when working with neurodivergent clients. Additional resources and references are provided for further study, but they are not part of the course.

Educational Objectives

    This course will teach the participant to

  • Define the key terminology and premises of the neurodiversity paradigm.
  • Integrate the concepts and language of the neurodiversity paradigm into professional practice and discourse.
  • Contrast the dominant “pathology paradigm” with the neurodiversity paradigm.
  • Critique the biases and assumptions of the dominant paradigm which pathologies autistic people.
  • Identify the assumptions involved in the use of Behaviorist therapies on autistic children.
  • Question common cultural and professional stereotypes regarding autistic people.
  • Conduct professional practice in ways that do not harm autistic clients by pathologizing autism or seeking to suppress autistic traits.
  • Evaluate autistic clients and their needs without falling into the common biases and stereotypes promoted by the pathology paradigm.


  • Kupferstein, H., & Walsh, B. J. (2015). Non-verbal paradigm for assessing individuals for absolute pitch. World Futures, 1-16.
  • Silberman, S. (2015). NeuroTribes: The legacy of autism and the future of neurodiversity. New York, NY: Avery.
  • Yergeau, M. (2013). Clinically significant disturbance: On theorists who theorize theory of mind. Disability Studies Quarterly, 33 (4).

Course Syllabus:


  • What is autism?


  • The natural diversity of human brains
  • The pathology paradigm vs. neurodiversity paradigm
  • How functioning labels are harmful
  • Terms and definitions

Debunking Autism Stereotypes

  • Subjective norms
  • Empathy and sensitivity
  • Disability and privilege

Therapy with Autistic Clients

  • Effects of exploratory movement on discovery of the authentic self
  • Check your non-autistic privilege
  • Trauma caused by compliance-oriented behavioral “therapies”
  • Natural autistic styles of learning, movement, and relating
CE Badge Created with Sketch. 8 CE

Cost: $79.00

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