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Series unspecified; rated PG.
Summary: Sometimes children were born, on a primitive, ignorant, prejudiced planet, who differed from the others…
This story originally was posted as part of a longer article on the Whose Planet Is It Anyway? blog.
Once upon a time, on a primitive, ignorant, prejudiced planet, it sometimes happened that children were born who differed from the others of their species. Their thought processes tended to be more visual, and they often had difficulty with speech. They took longer to learn certain skills. Sometimes they needed help with their activities as adults.
Their differences did not matter in the small farming villages of the planet’s past, where every pair of hands that could make use of a plow or a hoe was needed. But this all changed when an industrial society developed. Those who could not work efficiently in the factories were denounced as having no place in that society.
Defective genes, the doctors proclaimed ominously. There are institutions for children like that, the parents were told. Send them away, forget they were ever born, and try again for a more socially acceptable child.
Some doctors went into the institutions and conducted studies on the isolated, deprived, abused, and uneducated children who had been abandoned there. As a result of these studies, the medical profession declared authoritatively that very few of the unfortunates stricken with this tragic affliction would ever be able to talk, read, work, or do anything productive at all. Dead weight on society, the medical journals and the popular press described them. A prenatal test was soon developed to rid society of that burden.
The institutions were shut down for lack of funding, and the small number of parents who opted against abortion raised their children at home. The parents discovered that most of these children, when raised in a loving home and properly educated, could in fact learn to talk, read, and work. Some families even sought to adopt other such children.
But it made no difference to the prenatal testing regime, now firmly entrenched in public opinion and in standard medical practice. The few remaining individuals of this despised minority began to feel as if they were the last specimens of an endangered species. Some of them became civil rights activists and protested at genetics conferences and other such events. Others wrote passionate essays calling for justice and tolerance. Their efforts went almost unnoticed by the media and the doctors, and they continued to be described as hopeless sufferers whose very existence was a tragedy.
Eventually, like ripples spreading across the surface of a long-stagnant pond, a new meme began to make its way into the public consciousness. The supporters of neurodiversity, as it was called, held the belief that differences in brain structure deserved as much respect and acceptance as other types of diversity. They began to persuade their fellow citizens that differences of thought and perception should be celebrated, not destroyed.
And the last few survivors, as they mourned the millions lost over so many years, could only wonder why it had taken so long…