The distributed model can be a boon to folks who have difficulty working in an office, but ultimately it’s up to the people who create and design work environments — distributed or co-located — to recognize that there isn’t a normal employee or a normal mode of work. There are no abnormal employees with abnormal needs. Companies should reject this false dichotomy and acknowledge that every employee is different, and that some might also experience several forms of difference and marginalization at once. Everyone, however, is likely to be happier and more productive when they have choices, agency, and a way to express their individual needs.
Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment?
For me, the key significance of the “Autistic Spectrum” lies in its call for and anticipation of a politics of Neurological Diversity, or “Neurodiversity”. The “Neurologically Different” represent a new addition to the familiar political categories of class / gender / race and will augment the insights of the social model of disability.
I updated “Neurodiversity in the Classroom” with a selection on sensory overwhelm in school environments from “Inclusive Education for Autistic Children: Helping Children and Young People to Learn and Flourish in the Classroom”.
One of the more encouraging developments in the autism field over the last decade or so has been a growing awareness of the significance of sensory issues. Sensory sensitivities are included in the DSM-5 as part part of the diagnostic criteria for autism, and in teacher training materials, such as those provided by the AET. They are also highlighted in campaigns by the National Autistic Society (NAS), for example. But despite these signs of increased understanding, I’m not convinced that in our schools there is a sufficiently nuanced appreciation of this multi-faceted phenomenon, which potentially influences a whole range of physical and perceptual processes (Bogdashina 2016). Indeed, the school environment can present autistic children with a multi-sensory onslaught in terms of sounds, smells, textures and visual impacts that constitutes both a distraction and a source of discomfort (Ashburner, Ziviani and Rodger 2008; Caldwell 2008). There was also clear evidence from my own study that sensory issues, and noise in particular, can be highly exclusionary factors for autistic children in schools.
I updated “Neurodiversity in the Classroom” with a selection from “Inclusive Education for Autistic Children: Helping Children and Young People to Learn and Flourish in the Classroom”.
understanding the perspectives and experiences of autistic children and adults in particular was essential. Time and again I found that issues aired say, by teachers, would be completely reframed when the autistic adults discussed the same points.
I also added headings to break up the length and removed some dead links and embeds.
Our movement, however, needs nothing of respectability politics. Accepting — conceding, surrendering, submitting to — that will only erode our movement until it crumbles entirely. Respectability politics is what’s gotten us into reliance on foundations and nonprofits, and elected officials and bureaucrats, and policies and programs that only benefit the most privileged and resourced members of our communities at the direct expense of the most marginalized. Radical, militant anger — and radical, militant hope, and radical, wild dreams, and radical, active love — that’s what’ll get us past the death machines of ableism and capitalism and white supremacy and laws and institutions working overtime to kill us.
“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.