Fix Injustice, Not Kids: Justice, not grit. Justice, not growth mindset. Justice, not behavior “management.” Justice, not rearrangement of injustice.

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It essentially boils down to whether one chooses to do damage to the system or to the student.

The way that a teacher teaches can be traced directly back to the way that the teacher has been taught. The time will always come when teachers must ask themselves if they will follow the mold or blaze a new trail. There are serious risks that come with this decision. It essentially boils down to whether one chooses to do damage to the system or to the student.

Beacon Press: For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too

The “Fix Injustice, Not Kids” Principle: Educational outcome disparities are not the result of deficiencies in marginalized communities’ cultures, mindsets, or grittiness, but rather of inequities. Equity initiatives focus, not on “fixing” students and families who are marginalized, but on transforming the conditions that marginalize students and families.

Basic Principles for Equity Literacy

Fix injustice, not kids. “It essentially boils down to whether one chooses to do damage to the system or to the student.”

So many of us in this system want to do better. Students and teachers find themselves in spaces guaranteed to result in feedback loops and meltdowns and the eventual burnout of everyone involved.  Responding to fires and stresses caused by overloaded sensory spaces and deficit ideology consumes more time, people, and passion than available and starves a better future of oxygen.

A better future requires time and will to get structural, get socialget equity literate, connect with communities, and build classroom user experiences compatible with neurodiversity and disability. SpEd and self-advocates should be working together,  designing for real life and fixing injustice, not kids.

There is no path toward educational justice that contains convenient detours around direct confrontations with injustice. The desperate search for these detours, often in the form of models or frameworks or concepts that were not developed as paths to justice, is the greatest evidence of the collective desire among those who count on injustice to give them an advantage to retain that advantage. If a direct confrontation of injustice is missing from our strategies or initiatives or movements, that means we are recreating the conditions we’re pretending to want to destroy.

Paul C. Gorski – Grit. Growth mindset. Emotional intelligence….

A better future requires a justice mindset.

A better future requires an acceptance mindset.

A better future is a future made togetherRespecting neurodiversity improves interactions between neurodivergent people and public services.

Two-way communication forms the bedrock of the provision of most public services and must be effective in order for all individuals to receive appropriate access to care, services, employment, and justice; services should be accessible and delivered in a way that respects the differing needs of the individual. However, society is shaped for neurotypical people and largely excludes those who think differently, despite the fact that neurologically diverse people – from those with autism to ADHD to dyslexia – constitute a significant proportion of the population. In this blog we present autism as a case study for how the critical points of interaction between individuals and public services could be better designed to respect neurodiversity, taking the criminal justice system, healthcare, and employment interviews as exemplar contexts.

Respecting neurodiversity: Interactions between autistic people and public services | IPR blog

To that end, here are some ways to respect neurodiveristy and disability in your school.

Learn About Neurodiversity at School

Neurodiversity means that we are all different in how we think, feel, and learn, because our brains process information differently. Neurodiversity includes everyone, because everyone has a brain! 

Learning About Neurodiversity at School (LEANS) | The University of Edinburgh

Delivering the LEANS resources is a way for primary school teachers of children 8-11 to introduce the concept of neurodiversity to their class, and explore how it affects people’s everyday experiences. Schools currently may teach about the diversity of people’s cultures or beliefs, but usually do not teach about neurodiversity. This resource aims to help change that. It was developed especially for primary schools by a neurodiverse team of researchers and educators, led by the University of Edinburgh. 

Learning About Neurodiversity at School (LEANS) | The University of Edinburgh

So, what is neurodiversity? In LEANS, the definition that pupils will hear is: 

Neurodiversity means that we are all different in how we think, feel, and learn, because our brains process information differently.

Your whole class is diverse, not just in the way you look or what you enjoy doing, but also in the way your brains work and how you think, feel, and learn.1 

Neurodiversity is an important idea. It has been developed by neurodivergent people–and lots of neurodivergent people are finding the idea an important way of understanding themselves and their place in the world. LEANS provides you with a way to share that transformational knowledge with young people, and to include everyone in your class in that learning. We think that understanding neurodiversity is an important step on the pathway to acceptance and understanding of each other. 

Teaching about neurodiversity is more akin to topics like citizenship or health than it is to teaching about photosynthesis or adjectives. It’s a topic that doesn’t neatly “finish”, because its implications are all around us in daily life. Our understandings of it will mature as we have new experiences and make further connections. LEANS is intended to be an introduction to this complex and sensitive topic, and the start of a longer conversation in your class. Even when the LEANS curriculum is over, pupils will still be making sense of things, and perhaps reconsidering others— or themselves. 

Neurodiversity: Neurodiversity is the fact that all human beings vary in the way our brains work. We take in information in different ways, we process it in different ways, and thus we behave in different ways. Like other types of diversity, neurodiversity is about the presence of variation (in this case, information processing) within a group or population of people; it’s not a property of individuals. 

Neurodiversity doesn’t just explain how each individual person is different from the next in terms of their information processing. We can also use neurodiversity to understand bigger differences between types of people, that may be labelled by a diagnosis. Such categorical differences in brain processes, and therefore in experience and behavior, underpin diagnostic labels such as autism, ADHD, developmental language disorder, dyslexia or dyspraxia. 

Let’s consider trees as a metaphor for brains (Figure 2). Every single tree in a woodland has its own pattern of growth and is different and unique from its neighbours. However, it’s also possible to categorise trees—pines, oaks, willows, apples—and these categories indicate consistent, larger differences. Sometimes differences are really obvious, like when we compare a palm tree and an oak tree. Sometimes they are subtle, and easy to miss. These differences are not only about their appearance, but the types of environmental conditions that they need to thrive. 

Learning About Neurodiversity at School (LEANS) | The University of Edinburgh

Build a Community of Practice

We know that there is a gulf between the autism research that gets done and the research that people in the autism community want.

So, how do we go about building the community of practice we need to deliver these participatory methods? Some basics are already well known – for example, the importance of using respectful language to talk about autism and the need to create an enabling environment in which autistic people can contribute. Our series went beyond these basics, and identified five topics which are essential parts of developing a more participatory and collaborative research model in which autistic academics and autistic people in the community lead and / or partner in research projects.

Shaping Autism Research in the UK

Do as these researchers are finally doing. They are in the space connecting with autistic people. They are using and spreading our language. They are building, with us,  a community of practice around participatory research that reflects our priorities. We see them and welcome others, particularly K-12.

Scientists are increasingly recognizing a moral imperative to collaborate with the communities they study, and the practical benefits that result. Autism researchers are joining this movement, partnering with people on the spectrum and their families to better address their priorities.

Autism research needs a dose of social science | Spectrum | Autism Research News

Image credit: Autism. 2019 May; 23(4): 943–953.  Published online 2018 Aug 10. doi: 10.1177/1362361318786721 This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).

Figure

This article reports on the outcomes from the series, identifying five topics relevant to building a community of practice in participatory research: Respect, Authenticity, Assumptions, Infrastructure and Empathy

By participatory research, we mean incorporating the views of autistic people and their allies about what research gets done, how it is done and how it is implemented (Cornwall and Jewkes, 1995). A key principle of participatory research is the recognition, and undermining, of the traditional power imbalance between researcher and participant (Nelson and Wright, 1995). 

Another key feature of participatory research is inclusiveness including adapting the research environment, methodology and dissemination routes to permit the widest and most accessible engagement, or engagement from specific groups (e.g. non-speaking autis- tic people and people with additional intellectual disabili- ties – see Long and Clarkson, 2017). Participatory research is ethically informed by the values of the community, for example, in the selection of research questions and study objectives. Moreover, input from this community can improve the quality of research methods, contextualise findings within real-world settings and thereby enhance the translation of findings into practice (Carrington et al., 2016; Grinker et al., 2012; Parr, 2016; Parsons and Cobb, 2013). 

The double empathy problem (Milton, 2012) highlights the issue of ‘mutual incomprehension’ that exists between some autistic and non-autistic people, in all walks of life. Indeed, there is a growing body of evidence which demon- strates empirically that non-autistic people may fail to com- prehend autistic people (Sheppard et al., 2016), or negatively judge them based on minimal evidence (Sasson et al., 2017). If not addressed, this lack of shared under- standing presents a significant barrier to effective research collaboration. 

Making the future together: Shaping autism research through meaningful participation – Sue Fletcher-Watson, Jon Adams, Kabie Brook, Tony Charman, Laura Crane, James Cusack, Susan Leekam, Damian Milton, Jeremy R Parr, Elizabeth Pellicano, 2019
  • Respect – how to respectfully represent lived experience
  • Authenticity – how autism communities can shape a research agenda
  • Assumptions – best practice in autistic leadership and community advocacy
  • Infrastructure – how to support and encourage autistic academics and activists
  • Empathy – how to build effective working partnerships

Source: Making the future together: Shaping autism research through meaningful participation – Sue Fletcher-Watson, Jon Adams, Kabie Brook, Tony Charman, Laura Crane, James Cusack, Susan Leekam, Damian Milton, Jeremy R Parr, Elizabeth Pellicano, 2019

Meaningful participation in autism research can help us make a better future for autis- tic people, together. 

Making the future together: Shaping autism research through meaningful participation – Sue Fletcher-Watson, Jon Adams, Kabie Brook, Tony Charman, Laura Crane, James Cusack, Susan Leekam, Damian Milton, Jeremy R Parr, Elizabeth Pellicano, 2019

Presume Competence

Presuming competence is nothing less than a Hippocratic oath for educators.

A Q&A about autism with Steve Silberman, author of NeuroTribes

“To not presume competence is to assume that some individuals cannot learn, develop, or participate in the world. Presuming competence is nothing less than a Hippocratic oath for educators.”

Never assume that the ability to speak equals intelligence. There are plenty of autistic people who have trouble speaking but who have glorious creative worlds inside them seeking avenues of expression. Never assume that an autistic person who can’t speak isn’t listening closely to every word you say, or isn’t feeling the emotional impact of your words. I’ve interviewed many autistic people who said they could hear and understand everything around them while people called them “idiots” or described them as “out of it” to their faces. Ultimately, presuming competence is the ability to imagine that the person in front of you is just as human as you are, even if they seem to be very impaired. If you understand that the autistic students in your class are just as complex and nuanced and intensely emotional and hopeful as you are, you’ll do everything in your power to help them lead happier and more engaged lives.

A Q&A about autism with Steve Silberman, author of NeuroTribes

Presuming competence is not an act of kindness.

Presuming competence is not something we do because we are a “good” person.

We do not get to pat ourselves on the back because we have presumed competence. If we believe we deserve a pat on the back and/or acknowledgement, then we are not presuming competence, we are more likely being condescending.

“Presume Competence” – What Does That Mean Exactly? | Emma’s Hope Book

Foster Neurological Pluralism

Teach Autonomy and Self-Determination

Noncompliance is a social skill“. “Prioritize teaching noncompliance and autonomy to your kids. Prioritize agency.” “Many behavior therapies are compliance-based. Compliance is not a survival skill. It makes us vulnerable.” “It’s of crucial importance that behavior based compliance training not be central to the way we parent, teach, or offer therapy to autistic children. Because of the way it leaves them vulnerable to harm, not only as children, but for the rest of their lives.Disabled kids “are driven to comply, and comply, and comply. It strips them of agency. It puts them at risk for abuse.” “The most important thing a developmentally disabled child needs to learn is how to say “no.” If they only learn one thing, let it be that.” “Our non-compliance is not intended to be rebellious. We simply do not comply with things that harm us. But since a great number of things that harm us are not harmful to most neurotypicals, we are viewed as untamed and in need of straightening up.”  ‘What I am against are therapies to make us stop flapping our hands or spinning in circles. I am against forbidding children to use sign language or AAC devices to communicate when speech is difficult. I am against any therapy designed to make us look “normal” or “indistinguishable from our peers.” My peers are Autistic and I am just fine with looking and sounding like them.‘ “When an autistic teen without a standard means of expressive communication suddenly sits down and refuses to do something he’s done day after day, this is self-advocacy … When an autistic person who has been told both overtly and otherwise that she has no future and no personhood reacts by attempting in any way possible to attack the place in which she’s been imprisoned and the people who keep her there, this is self-advocacy … When people generally said to be incapable of communication find ways of making clear what they do and don’t want through means other than words, this is self-advocacy.” “We don’t believe that conventional communication should be the prerequisite for your loved one having their communication honored.

We’re Autistic. Here’s what we’d like you to know.
My choice is my own
My body, my own
Opinion is my own
I own it, I own it
I don't want unsolicited advice
I might succeed, I might get in strife
But my choice is my own
My voice, my own
My life is my own
I own it, I own it

I can make my own choices
I ignore all the voices
Life has layers, it's lawless
Ah, stuff ya

--Choices by Amyl and the Sniffers

Ditch “Special”

The logic of the connection between “special needs” and “special [segregated] places” is very strong – it doesn’t need reinforcement – it needs to be broken.

Further, the “special needs” label sets up the medical “care” model to disability rather than the social inclusion model of disability. It narrows and medicalises society’s response to the person by suggesting that the focus should be on “treating” their “special needs”, rather than on the person’s environment responding to and accommodating the person – including them for the individual that they are.

There is another insidious but serious consequence of being labelled (as having or being) “special needs”. The label carries with it the implication that a person with “special needs” can only have their needs met by “special” help or “specially-trained” people – by “specialists”. That implication is particularly powerful and damaging in our mainstream schooling systems – it is a barrier to mainstream schools, administrators and teachers feeling responsible, empowered or skilled to embrace and practice inclusive education in regular classrooms, and accordingly perpetuates attitudinal resistance to realising the human right to inclusive education under Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In other words, the language of “special needs” leads to, and serves to excuse, a “can’t do” attitude as the default position of many general educators – it effectively deprives inclusive education of its necessary oxygen – a conducive “can do” classroom culture.

The label of “special needs” is inconsistent with recognition of disability as part of human diversity.  In that social framework, none of us are “special” as we are all equal siblings in the diverse family of humanity.

Source: “He ain’t special, he’s my brother” – Time to ditch the phrase “special needs” – Starting With Julius

Learn more about the problems with “special” on our glossary page.

Use Our Language

Understand Monotropism and the Double Empathy Problem

Monotropism and the Double Empathy Problem are two of the biggest and most important things to happen to autism research. These two videos, totaling 9 minutes, are well worth an educator’s time.

Learn more on our glossary pages.

Understand Exposure Anxiety, Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, and Situational Mutism

Exposure Anxiety, Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, and Situational Mutism marked the childhoods of many us here at Stimpunks. The intense sensory and social environment of schools feeds all of these.

Appreciate our Spiky Profiles

An education that is designed to the edges and takes into account the jagged learning profile of all students can help unlock the potential in every child.

Source: From Hostility to Community – Teachers Going Gradeless

Reframe ADHD as Kinetic Cognitive Style

Provide Opportunity but not Pressure

In 1995, an organization for parents of “high-functioning” children asked Sinclair to organize a series of presentations at an upcoming conference. He opened up the process to the members of ANI-L, who explored ways of making the event as a whole more accessible and comfortable for people on the spectrum. They requested that a special quiet room be set aside for people who needed to chill out or totally shut down for a while. They also devised an ingeniously low-tech solution to a complex problem. Even highly verbal autistic adults occasionally struggle with processing and producing speech, particularly in the chaotic and generally overwhelming atmosphere of a conference. By providing attendees with name-tag holders and pieces of paper that were red on one side and yellow on the other, they enabled Autistics to communicate their needs and desires without having to articulate them in the pressure of the moment. The red side facing out signified, “Nobody should try to interact with me,” while the yellow side meant, “Only people I already know should interact with me, not strangers.” (Green badges were added later to signify, “I want to interact but am having trouble initiating, so please initiate an interaction with me.”) These color-coded “interaction signal badges” turned out to be so useful that they have since been widely adopted at autistic-run events all over the world, and name-tag labels similar to Autreat (” autistic retreat”) green badges have recently been employed at conferences for Perl programmers to indicate that the wearer is open to spontaneous social approaches.

The conference began with an orientation session in the main lodge led by Sinclair, who explained the guidelines that had been established to maintain and preserve the environment as autistic space. Photographs and videos could only be taken after asking for permission, and only outdoors, so that the flash didn’t trigger seizures. Cigarette smoking and perfumes were banned. Respect for each person’s solitude and personal space was essential, and the interaction badges allowed everyone to know at a glance who was open to talking. All of the conference events were optional, including the orientation itself; the overriding principle was “opportunity but not pressure.”

Silberman, Steve. NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity (p. 448, 449). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Opportunity but not pressure” is a core principle for all Autreat activities: attendance at presentations, informal discussions that are held in the evenings, swimming and other recreational activities, socializing, meals (people who prefer to make their own meal arrangements are able to register for Autreat without paying for Autreat meals), on-site lodging (people who prefer to stay at an off-site hotel can register for Autreat at a commuter rate)—all participation is purely voluntary.

Freedom from pressures and expectations

For some autistic people attending Autreat, the sudden absence of pressures and expectations to behave in certain ways can be quite disorienting at first. NT people are often disoriented as well, and may experience culture shock. One NT attendee described feeling unsure of how to behave and how to relate to people, confused about how to interpret other people’s behavior, and anxious that he might offend people without realizing it (personal communication). In other words, he was able to experience at Autreat some of the same social confusion and discomfort that autistic people frequently experience in NT society. While this can be somewhat disturbing, a number of NT people have reported that it was a valuable experience that helped them to better understand what autistic people go through on a daily basis.

The absence of any expectation or pressure to socialize, and the knowledge that they’re free to withdraw at any time, seem to free many autistic people to want to socialize.”

History of ANI via Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking

Karla Fisher has a great visual she uses for IEP advocacy called “Our breaks are not like NT breaks.” She points out that, for an autistic person, lunch and recess can be the most stressful times of the day.

The autistic community has a solution for this, for autistic events. They are Color Communication Badges. With green displayed, the message is to approach. With yellow, only known people are welcomed. With red displayed, the wearer is to be left alone except in direst emergency. This makes it easy at autistic events, to know if a person sitting alone would relish or loathe company.

Why don’t we have something like that at schools? Color badges or seat markers or perhaps a choice chart the child can use in class before recess

I (,) Object – Nightengale of Samarkand — LiveJournal

Understand Equity and Needs-based Fairness

Affirm Our Bodyminds

The Accommodations for Natural Human Variation Should Be Mutual

Enable Dignity

Real inclusive organizing should at a minimum include: Incorporating disability into your values or action statements; having disabled people on the organizing committee or board; making accessibility a priority from day one; and listening to feedback from disabled people.

Education Access

We have turned classrooms into hell for neurodivergence. Students with conflicting sensory needs and accommodations are squished together with no access to cave, campfire, or watering hole zones. This sensory environment feeds the overwhelm -> meltdown -> burnout cycle. Feedback loops cascade.

Wheelchair in a maze

Healthcare Access

They don’t take disability studies classes.

They don’t socialize with us.

They don’t listen to us.

Wanted: hospitals and doctors’ offices that…

They don’t socialize with us.

They don’t listen to us.

Green, yellow, and red folders with the words GREEN, YELLOW, and RED on them. The green folder has a circle on it. The yellow folder has a triangle. The read folder has an octagon.

Interaction Access

Interaction badges are useful tools. Their red, yellow, green communication indicators map to our cave, campfire, and watering hole moods. The cave, campfire, watering hole and red, yellow, green reductions are a useful starting place when designing for neurological pluralism.

Close-up of a keyboard with the Russian alphabet for the blind. Braille.

Communication Access

Written communication is the great social equalizer.” It allows us to participate and be a part of things bigger than ourselves.

Young Asian Cute girl studying with laptop at home during pandemic stock photo

Technology Access

Our multi-age learning community sets up and runs our organization. We don’t use learning management software. Instead, our learners use the professional tools of a modern, neurodiverse organization, without all the ed-tech surveillance baked in. We use technology to co-create paths to  equity and access with our learners.

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