“A big ‘a ha!’ that’s come out of the research that we’re doing is that it’s quite common that when people make accommodations for people who are in neurodiversity employment programs, a good chunk of the accommodations they make are helpful to other employees as well,” he said.
I updated “I’m Autistic. Here’s what I’d like you to know.” with selections from “Respectfully Connected | 10 ‘Autism Interventions’ for Families Embracing the Neurodiversity Paradigm”.
- Learn from autistic people
- Tell your child they are autistic
- Say NO to all things stressful & harmful
- Slow down your life
- Support & accommodate sensory needs
- Value your child’s interests
- Respect stimming
- Honour & support all communication
- Minimise therapy, increase accommodations & supports
- Explore your own neurocognitive differences
A great example of how to check that you are accommodating diverse learners was shared in the Panel at the end of the conference: Walk through your learning environment as different personas (think different ethnicities, students in wheelchairs, someone with ASD etc.) and see how inclusive it is. Do the spaces allow for you to move easily through, have a sense of belonging, provoke great thinking?
Even better than designing for is designing with. Neurodivergent & disabled students are great flow testers. They’ll thoroughly dogfood your school UX. There are great opportunities for project & passion-based learning in giving students agency to audit their context and design something better.
Parallel to the topic of who designs for children lies a bigger question: Do children need design at all? Or, rather, how might they be enabled to design the toys they need and experiences they desire for themselves? The act of making that designers find so satisfying is built into early childhood education, but as they grow, many children lose opportunities to create their own environment, bounded by a text-centric view of education and concerns for safety. Despite adults’ desire to create a safer, softer child-centric world, something got lost in translation. Jane Jacobs said, of the child in the designed-for-childhood environment: “Their homes and playgrounds, so orderly looking, so buffered from the muddled, messy intrusions of the great world, may accidentally be ideally planned for children to concentrate on television, but for too little else their hungry brains require.” Our built environment is making kids less healthy, less independent, and less imaginative. What those hungry brains require is freedom. Treating children as citizens, rather than as consumers, can break that pattern, creating a shared spatial economy centered on public education, recreation, and transportation safe and open for all. Tracing the design of childhood back to its nineteenth-century origins shows how we came to this place, but it also reveals the building blocks of resistance to fenced-in fun.
We cannot build an effective, an empathetic, a working User Experience unless we build a User Interface that kids won’t turn away from. And our schools are User Interfaces. Our schools are the “how” our children interact with education. Every door, wall, room, teacher, rule, chair, desk, window, digital device, book, hall pass are part of the User Interface, and that User Interface defines the User Experience.
And we cannot begin to understand the User Experience we need until we get fully into the heads of our users. That’s true in web and programming design, its true in retail and restaurant design, and its absolutely true as we design our schools. This understanding can have complex analytical paths – and those are important, and it has a committed caring component – but it also has an essential empathetic underpinning, and maybe you can begin working on that underpinning in a serious way before this next school year begins.
Source: SpeEdChange: Writing for Empathy
Rising autism diagnoses lead to the growth of an autism industry that caters more for the cultural expectations of parents than the needs and well-being of autistic people on the margins of society.
I am watching the US education system not very subtly invite punishment back into the mainstream classroom. This appears to be driven by the field of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA).
Autism therapy is attracting significant attention from private equity firms, a trend that could fund rapid expansion of clinics, but is also raising concerns about quality of care.
Like EdSurge, Disability Scoop uncritically promotes marketing. A great many autistic people reject ABA as abuse. Private equity doesn’t care. We are commodities.
Plenty of policies and programs limit our ability to do right by children. But perhaps the most restrictive virtual straitjacket that educators face is behaviorism – a psychological theory that would have us focus exclusively on what can be seen and measured, that ignores or dismisses inner experience and reduces wholes to parts. It also suggests that everything people do can be explained as a quest for reinforcement – and, by implication, that we can control others by rewarding them selectively.
Allow me, then, to propose this rule of thumb: The value of any book, article, or presentation intended for teachers (or parents) is inversely related to the number of times the word “behavior” appears in it. The more our attention is fixed on the surface, the more we slight students’ underlying motives, values, and needs.
It’s been decades since academic psychology took seriously the orthodox behaviorism of John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner, which by now has shrunk to a cult-like clan of “behavior analysts.” But, alas, its reductionist influence lives on – in classroom (and schoolwide) management programs like PBIS and Class Dojo, in scripted curricula and the reduction of children’s learning to “data,” in grades and rubrics, in “competency”- and “proficiency”-based approaches to instruction, in standardized assessments, in reading incentives and merit pay for teachers.
It’s time we outgrew this limited and limiting psychological theory. That means attending less to students’ behaviors and more to the students themselves.
Accessibility isn’t optional. “The right to learn differently should be a universal human right that’s not mediated by a diagnosis.”
Interpretive phenomenological analysis of the data revealed four core themes in participants’ theory of mind experiences and strategies, all of which highlighted how a more accurate representation of autistic theory of mind is one of difference rather than deficit. For instance, data showed that autistic heightened perceptual abilities may contribute to mentalizing strengths and that honesty in autism may be less dependent on systemizing rather than personal experience and choice. Such findings suggest that future research should reexamine autistic characteristics in light of their ability to enhance theory of mind processing. Understanding how an autistic theory of mind is uniquely functional is an imperative step toward both destigmatizing the condition and advocating for neurodiversity.
Recognizing being autistic as who we are (identity) and how we exist in the world (experience, including negative, painful, and unwanted experiences) are not mutually exclusive or contradictory. Neurodiversity and Disability Justice, taken together, are indeed celebrations of who we are and how we exist in the world. They are also movements rooted in lived experience, which ask us to understand and engage with the many ways we relate to our bodies and brains, inside our own minds, and in social context.
We have protests to stage, driven by the fuel of our righteous anger. We have speeches to make, written from the soaring pleas of our individual and collective trauma, and our wildest dreams of joy and freedom and love. We have cultural narratives to rewrite because they really do hate us and they really will kill us, and if we’re going to rewrite the narratives, then there’s no reason to hold ourselves back from our most radical and defiant rewritings. We have autistic children who need us to support them as architects of their own liberation against the schools and clinicians and institutions and police and prosecutors who would crush and destroy them.
We’re going to need our anger and our public celebrations of stimming and our complicated, imperfect, messy selves for this long and hard road, because we need all of us, and all of our tactics and strategies, to keep a movement going and ultimately, to win.
We have autistic children who need us to support them as architects of their own liberation against the schools and clinicians and institutions and police and prosecutors who would crush and destroy them.
Mood: Education is pervasively and outrageously “mind blind” to neurodivergent people.
The idea of neurodiversity suggests a much more complex system, a more deeply heterogeneous social system, than most people realize. This neurodiversity is what makes human society so dynamic and creative. The lack of it in other social species it what keeps them relatively stagnant in comparison.
My diagnosis, then, has had a significant impact on the way I think of myself and on the way I think about social issues. When you begin to realize that so many important people in the past and present were on the autism spectrum, and that autism is over-represented among creative people, you start thinking about creativity and social evolution quite differently. You also think about the importance of autism in society differently.