I updated “Neurodiversity in the Classroom” with selections from “Ann’s Autism Blog: Autism, School, Exclusion. What’s fair?”.

The picture shows a school classroom as I see it, as an autistic person.  A kaleidoscope of shape and blinding lighting, with vague outlines which are probably other students.  Deafening noise.  The stench of different smells.  The confusion of many voices, including some heard through walls from neighbouring halls and classes.  School uniform that feels like barbed wire on my skin.

In the chaos, a different voice which I have to try to listen to.  It’s so hard.  My brain doesn’t want to tune the rest of the noise out.  Apparently I’ve been asked something, but I miss it.  The voice gets more strident, the class turns to look at me.  The intense stares overwhelm me.  The person next to me jostles me and it feels like an electric shock on my skin.  Only six more hours of hell to go…. only six….

Some of our autistic pupils simply cannot do this alone, without ‘time out’ to recover from the pain and exhaustion during the school day.  Not for hour after hour of puzzling painful chaos.

We’ve turned classrooms into a hell for autism. Fluorescent lighting. Endless noise. Everywhere, bright patterns and overloading information. Groupwork and social time. Crowded hallways and relentless academic pressure. Autistic children mostly could cope in the quieter schools of decades ago. Not a hope now.

We cannot simply exclude autistic pupils for entering meltdowns. Meltdowns are part of autism for a good number of autistic young people.

Whilst mindful that of course everyone needs to be safe, the way to achieve safety is to stop hurting the autistic children. Punishing them for responding to pain is not something any of us need to do.

What schools need to do is to understand autism. In understanding it, we can help to stop putting the children in pain and exhaustion. It’s actually quite easy. And quite cheap.

Source: Ann’s Autism Blog: Autism, School, Exclusion. What’s fair?

I updated “Eye Contact and Neurodiversity” with selections from “THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO AUTISM: Eye Contact: For The Recipient’s Validation Only”.

“Look at me!” The mouth beneath the eyes commands. “I don’t want to, it hurts…” you think.

“This is all part of the problem you see?” The voice says to your parents who nod sadly, “Lack of eye contact, this we must stamp out. It’s a sign of non-compliance, a sign of disregard. The child’s lost, you see…?”

“What?” You think, baffled, “I’m right here!”

> Your parents sign a form giving permission for intense Applied Behavior Analysis to begin.

Forty hours per week.

Forty hours of look at me/quiet hands? No more fluttering your hands in a language only you know, no more flapping your hands watching golden drops of happiness fly from your fingertips as you hum … no more angry bolts of lightening flying from your nails as you shake your hands so hard your wrists pound.

No more you.

Forty hours per week.

Forty hours of look at me/quiet hands? No more fluttering your hands in a language only you know, no more flapping your hands watching golden drops of happiness fly from your fingertips as you hum … no more angry bolts of lightening flying from your nails as you shake your hands so hard your wrists pound.

No more you.

Eye contact, who’s it for? It’s not for the autistic child. It’s for the recipient. It’s for their own validation to reassure them that you know they exist. That you are aware they are speaking that you comply. That you acknowledge them.

It’s not about the child; it’s no benefit to the child to do something that in many cases is painful.

Intrusive.

It’s for them.

They don’t understand the avoidance of eye contact, the rapidly moving hands, the hum and the bounce of the feet.

The rhythmic rock you employ to comfort, a rock that’s universal if they would only look back to a parent rocking a babe: safety.

Predictability.

Source: THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO AUTISM: Eye Contact: For The Recipient’s Validation Only

I also moved this embedded tweet toward the beginning of the post.

I updated the “Blogging, Domain of One’s Own, and WordPress” section of “Communication is oxygen. Collaborative indie ed-tech.” with selections from “Word Press for Weans 2018 #pressedconf18” on Scotland’s Glow Blogs service that provides WordPress blogs to all students and teachers.

Glow is a service for to all schools & education establishments across Scotland.

Glow gives access to a number of different web services.

One of these services is Glow Blogs which runs on WordPress.

All teachers and pupils in Scotland can have access to #GlowBlogs via a Single signon via RMUNIFY (shibboleth)

Glow Blogs are currently used for School Websites, Class Blogs, Project Blogs, Trips, Libraries, eportfolios. Blogs By Learners, Blogs for Learners (Resources, revision ect), collaborations, aggregations.

Source: Word Press for Weans 2018 #pressedconf18

Throughout my school years, I was taught to camouflage my symptoms in order to blend in and function in the mainstream environment. This was reinforced through behavioral therapy and the school system

What the people who helped me didn’t realize at the time were the future implications of my mental health as an autistic person. This was because their focus was on making me as self-sufficient and socially adjusted as possible, and by the time I reached adulthood nobody ever considered that what they were doing could unintentionally affect my self-identity and self esteem. But all my energy spent camouflaging myself in order to appear “normal” became mentally exhausting. I started second-guessing myself, and internally beating myself up, over minor social infractions. This is a big part of my anxiety in living as an autistic person.

My experience with special education and ABA demonstrates how the dichotomy of interventions that are designed to optimize the quality of life for individuals on the spectrum can also adversely impact their mental health, and also their self-acceptance of an autistic identity. This is why so many autistic self-advocates are concerned about behavioral modification programs: because of the long-term effects they can have on autistic people’s mental health. This is why we need to preach autism acceptance, and center self advocates in developing appropriate supports for autistic people. That means we need to take autistic people’s insights, feelings, and desires into account, instead of dismissing them.

Acceptance means training mental health service providers to look at autism and other disabilities as a part of a person’s identity, rather than a problem that needs to be fixed. Acceptance means helping to create a world where autistic people don’t have to camouflage themselves as neurotypical. Acceptance also means giving supports and accommodations to autistic people of all abilities and support levels when it’s asked for and needed. If the world becomes more embracing of the autistic lifestyle, I believe the severity of the mental health problems autistic people have can, in many cases, be lessened.

Source: THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO AUTISM: Mental Health and Autism: Why Acceptance Matters

I updated “I’m Autistic. Here’s what I’d like you to know.” with a selection from “Psychiatric Retraumatization: A Conversation About Trauma and Madness in Mental Health Services – Mad In America” to expand the bullet point on stress and stress cases and bring in a critical psychiatry voice. A longer quote from this piece is included in “Design is Tested at the Edges: Intersectionality, The Social Model of Disability, and Design for Real Life”.

People who enter services are frequently society’s most vulnerable–people who have experienced extensive trauma, adversity, abuse, and oppression throughout their lives. At the same time, I struggle with the word “trauma” because it signifies some huge, overt event that needs to pass some arbitrary line of “bad enough” to count. I prefer the terms “stress” and “adversity.” … Our brains and bodies don’t know the difference between “trauma” and “adversity”–a stressed fight/flight state is the same regardless of what words you use to describe the external environment. I’m tired of people saying “nothing bad ever happened to me” because they did not experience “trauma.” People suffer, and when they do, it’s for a reason.

Source: Psychiatric Retraumatization: A Conversation About Trauma and Madness in Mental Health Services – Mad In America

This doesn’t fit the flow of the bullet point as well as I’d like. Connective editing TBD.

I might work this quote/theme into Autistic Burnout: The Cost of Masking and Passing.

One of the things we found when we converted all our summer schools into maker camps—realizing summer school accomplishes almost nothing for anybody when its done traditionally because doubling down on what didn’t work all year rarely has a successful end to it— … a whole group of kids who never found success before found it and ran with it.

 With cardboard and the little blades they make for saber saws…, kids can build anything.

Source: S2: E20: Timeless Learning w/ Ira Socol · Things Fall Apart

Toolbelt theory says the most important thing students can learn is how to make the world work for them.

Every single one of the laptops me gave to every child from third through twelfth grade had every single tool we could put on it, on it.

We will never create a digital environment that doesn’t have at least three different ways available to do anything.

We made sure every student was the administrator of their own computer so if they found something better online, they could add it.

We’re not gonna screen your choices. We’re just gonna help you make those choices.

Source: DisruptED TV Podcast: I Wish I Knew Episode 8 with Ira Socol by DisruptED TV Podcast I Wish I Knew

Further reading,

SpeEdChange: Toolbelt Theory for Everyone

I updated “Bring the backchannel forward. Written communication is the great social equalizer.” with selections from “Valuing differences: Neurodiversity in the classroom  – kappanonline.org” and “What CAN be misunderstood WILL be misunderstood | Autistic Collaboration”.

Sometimes it takes another person with your specific disability label, not another neurotypical teacher or peer, to help the world understand your experience. One of the first books I read about autism was Donna Williams’s memoir Nobody Nowhere: The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1998). One of her observations has always struck me as particularly apt: “Communication via objects was safe,” Williams says. For me, computers are objects that can be a bridge to interpersonal connection and growth. Those are things we all want, regardless of our differences.

Source: Valuing differences: Neurodiversity in the classroom  – kappanonline.org

I have developed a strong preference for written communication, which is a very effective strategy for avoiding the need for linguistic autistic masking.

Source: What CAN be misunderstood WILL be misunderstood | Autistic Collaboration