Man sitting in the mouth of a cave with open sky and mountain showing beyond the cave

This Is My Space: Collaborative Niche Construction in Psychologically Safe Space

This is my space. It allows me to have control over one small part of a traumatic and offensive world.

AuDHD and me: My nesting habits – Emergent Divergence

I love that quote from David Gray-Hammond at Emergent Divergence. It nicely distills our Cavendish Space and collaborative niche construction advocacy. I added the quote to these pieces:

Our community of neurodivergent and disabled people thrives on collaborative niche construction in Cavendish Space.

What is Cavendish Space?

Cavendish Space: psychologically & sensory safe spaces suited to zone work, intermittent collaboration, and collaborative niche construction.

What is niche construction?

Niche Construction

In Nature: Helping to ensure the thriving of an organism by directly modifying the environment in such a way that it enhances that organism’s chances for survival.

In Culture: Helping to ensure the thriving of a child by directly modifying the environment in such a way that it enhances that child’s chances for success.

Positive Niche Construction–practice of differentiating instruction for the neurodiverse brain

Neurodiversity in the Classroom

Since reading NeuroTribes, we think of psychologically & sensory safe spaces suited to monotropism and zone work as “Cavendish bubbles” and “Cavendish space”, after Henry Cavendish, the wizard of Clapham Common and discoverer of hydrogen. The privileges of nobility afforded room for his differences, allowing him the space and opportunity to become “one of the first true scientists in the modern sense.”

Let’s build psychologically safe homes of opportunity without the requirement of nobility or privilege. Replace the trappings of the compliance classroom with student-created context, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and BYOC (Bring/Build Your Own Comfort). Let’s hit thrift stores, buy lumber, apply some hacker ethos, and turn the compliance classroom into something psychologically safe and comfortable to a team of young minds engaged in passion-based learning. Inform spaces with neurodiversity and the social model of disability so that they welcome and include all minds and bodies. Provide quiet spaces for high memory statezone work where students can escape sensory overwhelmslip into flow states, and enjoy a maker’s schedule. Provide social spaces for collaboration and camaraderie. Create cave, campfire, and watering hole zones. Develop neurological curb cuts. Fill our classrooms with choice and comfort, instructional tolerance, continuous connectivity, and assistive technology. In other words, make space for Cavendish. Make spaces for both collaboration and deep work.

I am very much of the opinion that Autistic people need these spaces, and that every single one will look different.

David Gray-Hammond

Learn more about Cavendish Space and niche construction in our piece “⛺️🔥 Cavendish Space: Caves, Campfires, and Watering Holes for Dandelions, Tulips, and Orchids”.

When we operate within a space over which we feel ownership—a space that feels like it’s ours—a host of psychological and even physiological changes ensues. These effects were first observed in studies of a phenomenon known as the “home advantage”: the consistent finding that athletes tend to win more and bigger victories when they are playing in their own fields, courts, and stadiums. On their home turf, teams play more aggressively, and their members (both male and female) exhibit higher levels of testosterone, a hormone associated with the expression of social dominance.

But the home advantage is not limited to sports. Researchers have identified a more general effect as well: when people occupy spaces that they consider their own, they experience themselves as more confident and capable. They are more efficient and productive. They are more focused and less distractible. And they advance their own interests more forcefully and effectively. A study by psychologists Graham Brown and Markus Baer, for example, found that people who engage in negotiation within the bounds of their own space claim between 60 and 160 percent more value than the “visiting” party.

Benjamin Meagher, an assistant professor of psychology at Kenyon College in Ohio, has advanced an intriguing theory that may explain these outcomes. The way we act, the way we think, and even the way we perceive the world around us differ when we’re in a space that’s familiar to us—one that we have shaped through our own choices and imbued with our own memories of learning and working there in the past. When we’re on our home turf, Meagher has found, our mental and perceptual processes operate more efficiently, with less need for effortful self-control. The mind works better because it doesn’t do all the work on its own; it gets an assist from the structure embedded in its environment, structure that marshals useful information, supports effective habits and routines, and restrains unproductive impulses. In a familiar space over which we feel ownership, he suggests, “our cognition is distributed across the entire setting.” The place itself helps us think.

The Extended Mind – Annie Murphy Paul


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