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Day 3 – Fix Injustice, Not Kids: We’ve Turned Classrooms Into a Hell for Neurodivergence

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Themes: Behaviorism is bad. Neurodiversity instead.

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!



Today hits hard. We confront the harm done to neurodivergent and disabled students and propose alternatives.

Neurodiversity is an equity imperative and is critical in shifting the culture of teaching and learning.

 “Neurodiversity is Human Diversity: An Equity Imperative for Education” in the International Journal for Talent Development and Creativity (Volume 10, Number 2, December, 2022) IJTDC Journal – IJTDC 10(1&2) 2022


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.

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


Enable Dignity: Accessible Systems, Spaces, & Events

Main Takeaways
  •  We’re  tired of repeatedly asking places to foreground accessibility, rather than treating it as an afterthought, or expecting us to come in and clean up their inaccessible mess.
  • Society needs to re-enable dignity.
  • Understanding the sensing and perceptual world of autistic people is central to understanding autism.
  • As many autistic people process one thing at a time, sensory stimulation can stack up. 
  • Imagine having no choice but to zoom in on life.
  • Autistic brains take in vast amounts of information from the world.
  • If we are serious about enabling thriving in autistic lives, we must be serious about the sensory needs of autistic people, in every setting.
  • The inability to filter foreground and background information can account for both strengths and weaknesses of autistic perception.
  • Autistic individuals perceive, feel and remember too much.
  • Our brains take in too much detail. We try very hard to avoid an overload of sensory or social situations. It’s not us being awkward; it’s a physical brain difference.
  •  Quick Low Cost Things to Make a Difference for Autistic People
  •  How to Make Your Events Accessible to the Disability Community
  • Include disabled people in your leadership, organization, scheduled speakers and panelists, imagery, and documentation.
  • Include disability in your anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and diversity policies, recognizing disability as a social and political category.
  • Assume disabled people are in the room, even if they aren’t evident, and that they are stakeholders in your event.
  • Accessible event planning includes four steps. These four steps are universal design, physical accessibility, sensory accessibility, and cognitive accessibility.
  • Universal design means everyone can go and take part at an event.
  • Improvements to indoor air quality can help limit transmission of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases. 
  • The U.S. Access Board website is a useful resource for practical inclusive design that meets standards and law.
  • The logistics of disability and difference are overwhelming. Reduce that overwhelm with information. Provide an access page on the website for your venue that provides what disabled people need to know.
  • Visit “Five Ways to Welcome All Bodyminds to Your Learning Event” for our top five list of ways to enable dignity.

Neuroception and Sensory Load: Our Complex Sensory Experiences

Main Takeaways
  •  Neurodivergent people are hypersensitive to mindset and environment due to a greater number of neuronal connections. They have both a higher risk for trauma and a large capacity for sensing safety.
  • Hyper-plasticity predisposes us to have strong associative reactions to trauma. Our threat-response learning system is turned to high alert. The flip side of this hyper-plasticity is that we also adapt quickly to environments that are truly safe for our nervous system.
  • Part of our neuroception is genetic. Neurodivergent people have heightened neuroception from birth or before birth.
  • Danger cues that are very painful to a neurodivergent person may be neutral or pleasant to someone else.
  • Because of our different bio-social responses to stimulus, autistic people have significant barriers to accessing safety.
  • Psychological safety is increasingly recognised as central to mental health & wellbeing.
  • The polyvagal theory offers a ‘Science of Safety’ which can help inform clinical practice to promote wellbeing, resilience & post-traumatic growth, whilst mitigating trauma.
  • 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.
  • We’ve turned classrooms into a hell for autism. Autistic children mostly could cope in the quieter schools of decades ago.  Not a hope now.
  • Make sure your school is getting really good autism training, from autistic experts and our allies.
  • Stimming is a necessary part of sensory regulation.
  • 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.
  • Sensory issues, and noise in particular, can be highly exclusionary factors for autistic children in schools.
  • Sensory hyperreactivity can greatly impact quality of life and has been found to correlate with clinically elevated levels of anxiety in both autistic children and adults.
  • Aversive sensory environments have been suggested to be a barrier for autistic adults engaging in spaces, both public and occupational.
  • Understanding the complexities of sensory experiences has important implications for autistic people’s physical and mental wellness, social inclusion, and future prospects
  • Autistic people are uniquely qualified to review environments for ourselves or for other autistic people as we live in an ‘alternate sensory reality’.
  • We encourage the involvement of autistic people in reviewing sensory environments.
  • We recommend considering all senses in every space – including entrances. Slow down, walk through, pause in each space, what do you notice?
  • Visual stimulation can be a source of comfort and joy and can also lead to sensory overwhelm.
  • Many autistic people process one thing at a time and can’t ‘tune out’ inputs. Every noise will continue to be heard, will be a distraction and will take ‘bandwidth’.
  • For some autistic people the sense of smell can be so strong that it feels like you are being force fed.
  • Soft furnishings and furniture can have a positive impact on the soundscape and on the comfort in the room.
  • Phones are very stressful. ‘Call if you have a problem’ is an inaccessible gauntlet for many.
  • If you work with neurodivergent kids, keep in mind that their parents are likely neurodivergent too.
  • Lots of autistic people can only sometimes use phones.  It’s a major barrier to healthcare, to job success, to getting basic services and basic human rights.
  • There is a clear message that mode of communication can be either enabling or disabling for autistic people. A reliance on phone calls can create barriers to access, yet the option to adopt written forms of communication can improve accessibility.
  • Services should move away from a reliance on phone calls for communication. They should make sure that access to support is not dependent on the phone, and instead offer written options such as email and live messaging which are more accessible.
  • Ensure there is quiet space and outdoor space that people can access at any time.
  • Just listen. It’s not rocket science, just listen.

Education Access: We’ve Turned Classrooms Into a Hell for Neurodivergence

Main Takeaways
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Neurodiversity is an equity imperative and is critical in shifting the culture of teaching and learning.
  • The number of autistic young people who stop attending mainstream schools appears to be rising.
  • Pupils are not rejecting learning but rejecting a setting that makes it impossible for them to learn.
  • The term ‘school refusal’ is linguistically weaponised; it implies intent and choice.
  • ‘School-induced anxiety’ shifts the cause of the anxiety to the setting and removes the notion of fault from the young person.
  • Many of these young people keep quiet at school. They only show their anger and frustration when they feel safe, at home.
  • The problem is the inflexibility of our system, which prizes attendance and test results over emotional wellbeing and flexibility.
  • We need to put flourishing at the centre of children’s lives. We need to stop asking ‘how do we make this child go to school’ and start asking ‘how do we help this child learn?’.
  • It is not the child’s responsibility to sort out the utter mess that the adults have made of their school life by not understanding autism. It is not up to the child to just be ‘more resilient’.
  • We need to understand autism and change the circumstances.
  • What  schools need to do is to understand autism. Stop putting the children in pain and exhaustion.
  • Make sure your school is getting really good autism training, from autistic experts and our allies.
  • It’s important to know about, and respect, autistic culture and communication style also.
  • The concept of inclusive education, if it is to be meaningful, is necessarily founded on the social model.
  • We are not expecting autistic children to change their very being or nature, but are aiming instead to ensure that the buildings, curriculum, classroom layout and teaching styles will be able to accommodate them.
  • Autistic ways of being are human neurological variants that can not be understood without 
  • The medical model as played out in educational environments results in ‘perspectives emphasising individual limitations’ rather than the ways in which the organisation and design of schools might create those very difficulties in the first instance.
  • The idea that brains can be different, but okay, is powerful! Assuming everyone thinks much the same never worked very well. People are listening to neurodivergent experiences, and learning.
  • It’s not that kids *refuse* school so much as that schools refuse to understand.
  • Children whose behaviour at school was uncontrollable who start to behave differently ethey are allowed to follow their interests and are treated with respect.
  • Something happens when children are in an environment in which they are valued and accepted for who they are. They see themselves as capable and as contributors to their community, and they develop and learn.
  • Viewed through the lens of disorder, disruptive behaviour is a symptom. Viewed from a different perspective, it’s a sign that something isn’t right in the world around the child.
  • You cannot understand the history of education technology in the United States during the twentieth century – and on into the twenty-first – unless you realize that Seymour Papert lost and B. F. Skinner won.
  • Skinner won, and generations of autistic people lost.
  • Behaviorism is one of the biggest obstacles to understanding autism and changing the circumstances.
  • Behaviorism encourages lack of care and absence of justice.
  • There are monsters because there is a lack of care and an absence of justice in the work we do in education and education technology.
  • We are marginalized canaries in a social coalmine and Rawlsian barometers of society’s morality.
  • 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.
  • Trainers are rejecting behaviorism because it harms animals emotionally and psychologically.
  • Eugenics is an erasure of identity through force, whereas radical behaviorism is an erasure of identity through “correction.” This all assumes a dominant culture that one strives to unquestionably maintain.
  • Behaviorism is dead.
  • No Child Left Behind was perhaps the most damaging form of public policy as it pertained to public education and learning diversity that has happened in our history of education policy.
  • Behaviorist education is ableist education.
  • The message to parents of the neurodiverse kid is that their child is deficient, and that their job is to fix their child. We are in a sort of remediation industrial complex.
  • Behaviorism provides a simplistic lens that can’t see beyond itself.
  • ABA ignores everything we know about autism.
  • Behaviorism only looks at observable behavior which can be measured
  • The most restrictive virtual straitjacket that educators face is behaviorism.
  • 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.
  • Adults who received ABA as children are at an increased risk of suicide and PTSD.
  • Pretty much everything an autistic child does, says, doesn’t do or doesn’t say is pathologised and made into a way to invent a ‘therapy’ for it.
  • We have essentially error focused expertise-professionals implementing deficit models.
  • The ‘manufactured ignorance’ prevalent around deficit pathology models is doubling down on the harm to us neurodivergent people. It’s a form of intentional intergenerational trauma.
  • ABA violates autonomy insofar as it coercively closes off certain paths of identity formation.
  • ABA violates autonomy by coercively modifying children’s patterns of behavior to be misaligned with their preferences, passions, and pursuits.
  • Such superficial change is a pervasive form of interference that compromises children’s present and future autonomy.
  • Employing ABA violates the principles of justice & nonmaleficence and, most critically, infringes on the autonomy of children and of parents as well.
  • Behaviorists ignore, or actively dismiss, subjective experience – the perceptions, needs, values, and complex motives of the human beings who engage in behaviors.
  • It is nothing short of stunning to learn just how widely and intensely ABA is loathed by autistic adults who are able to describe their experience with it. 
  • The use of outdated, compliance based, animal based behaviorism (which has no record of long term benefits) continues to fail our country’s students.
  • the use of outdated, compliance based, animal based behaviorism (which has no record of long term benefits) continues to fail our country’s students.
  • We’ve turned classrooms into a hell for autism.
  • We cannot simply exclude autistic pupils for entering meltdowns.
  • Meltdowns are part of autism for a good number of autistic young people.
  • The most important thing to understand about autism in shared space is sensory overwhelm.
  • Prolonged sensory overwhelm can lead to meltdown. A meltdown is not a tantrum. It is not attention-seeking. It is a response to overwhelm, anxiety, and stress.
  • Meltdowns are not a “symptom of autism.” Meltdowns aren’t an inevitable part of being autistic. Meltdowns are what happen when autistic people are forced to endure extremely stressful situations.
  • The school environment can present autistic children with a multi-sensory onslaught.
  • Sensory issues, and noise in particular, can be highly exclusionary factors for autistic children in schools.
  • Autistic Burnout is an integral part of the life of an Autistic person that affects us pretty much from the moment we’re born to the day we die, yet nobody, apart from Autistic people really seem to know about it.
  • Burnout can happen to anyone at any age, because of the expectation to look neurotypical, to not stim, to be as non-autistic as possible.
  • Being something that neurologically you are not is exhausting.
  • Autistic kids need access to autistic communities. They need access to autistic mentors.
  • Being an autistic parent of an autistic child means navigating a world that doesn’t see us as whole while advocating for two people at the same time.
  • There is no greater resource for neurotypical parents of Autistic children than the members of their own community.

We Don’t Need Your Mindset Marketing: Education Technology and the New Behaviorism

Main Takeaways
  • The marketing of mindsets is everywhere.
  • “Mindset” joins “grit” as a concept that’s quickly jumped from the psychology department to (TED Talk to) product. 
  • The irony of turning schools into therapeutic institutions when they generate so much stress and anxiety seems lost on policy-makers who express concern about children’s mental health.
  • The science of personality testing is slowly entering into education as a form of behavioural governance.
  • Behaviorism is a core feature of almost all ed-tech.
  • There is a long history of educational interventions grounded in some interesting research that escape the lab and wreak havoc on students and classrooms.
  • The practice and implementation of these mindsets are always suborned by deficit ideology, bootstrap ideology, meritocracy myths, and greed.
  • Mindset marketing without equity literacy, structural ideology, and restorative practices is more harmful than helpful.
  • This marketing shifts responsibility for change from our systems to children.
  • We define kids’ identities through the deficit and medical models, gloss over the structural problems they face, and then tell them to get some grit and growth mindset.
  • The misbehavior of behaviorism is an ongoing harm.
  • The behaviorism of PBS is of the mindset of abusers and manipulators.
  • PBIS is coercion.
  • No one can identify and rebel against an unfair system as efficiently as a kid or adult with ID, except perhaps an autistic person. They know the system is unfair!
  • The word ‘resilience’ is often used as gaslighting, victim blaming, and derailing.
  • It is not the child’s responsibility to sort out the utter mess that the adults have made of their school life by not understanding autism. It is not up to the child to just be ‘more resilient’.
  • The difference between ‘resilience’ and ‘don’t let the bastards get you down’? The latter places the problem with the bastards, the former places the problem with you.
  • We must not allow pressure for resilience to permit broken systems to persist
  • Resilience does not reduce risk or vulnerability.
  • To judge someone with high resilience as lower risk is to betray them.
  • It’s already a feat of endurance for autistic learners just being present in environments that repeatedly fail to meet their needs.
  • An autistic child who is in school is already being hugely resilient, each and every day, overcoming exhaustion and bewilderment.
  • Operant-conditioning teaches us the not newsy proposition that if an animal is deprived of its natural environment and society, sensorily deprived, made mildly anxious, and restricted to the narrowest possible spontaneous motion, it will emotionally identify with its oppressor and respond in the only way allowed to is.
  • Get rid of extrinsics, and adopt instead the intrinsic motivation of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
  • Provide fresh air, sunlight, and plenty of time for major muscle movement instead of mindset bandages.
  • Self-esteem that’s based on external sources has mental health consequences.
  • We favor product over process which begets one bad policy after another.
  • Learning should be by design, not product.
  • Deficit ideology is about fixing marginalized people. Equity is about fixing the conditions that are marginalizing people. Do we see the difference? Are we practicing deficit ideology in the name of equity?
  • The Fundamental Attribution Error is that we overestimate the power of the person and underestimate the power of the situation.
  • US culture and education are vast engines of Fundamental Attribution Error. Special Education is a gauntlet of FAE attitudes.
  • Compulsory, top-down mindfulness (and mindset marketing more generally) is too often used to situate structural problems within individuals while “disguising the ways they kill us.
  • Mindfulness matters, but make no mistake: Corporations are co-opting the idea to disguise the ways they kill us.
  • Practicing pluralism means triage and harm reduction.
  • Harm reduction theater wastes resources and bikesheds deficit ideology instead of embracing equity and structural ideology.
  • We’re awash in behaviorism and mindset marketing that directs thinking away from systems and toward individuals, individuals who are structurally stressed.
  • Design is tested at the edges, and you need structural ideology to do something about it.
  • When you aren’t equity literate, you risk engaging in harm reduction theater. When you aren’t equity literate, you fail at triage and harm reduction.
  • Investment in universal mindfulness training in the schools is unlikely to yield measurable, socially significant results, but will serve to divert resources from schoolchildren more urgently in need of effective intervention and support.
  • Shiny Thing Racial Equity Arithmetic: Racism + diversity programming + an anti-bullying program + Kindness Matters + SEL, PBIS, and restorative practices + grit and growth mindset = Racism
  • The kind of control that these devices promise should raise all sorts of questions about students’ civil rights and “cognitive liberties.
  • Behavior management apps like ClassDojo’s are the latest manifestation of behaviorism, a psychological theory that has underpinned much of the development of education technology.
  • Growth mindset and grit speak to and reinforce powerful cultural ideologies and myths about meritocracies and individual character.
  • K-12 applications of growth mindset and grit have disproportionately targeted racial minorities and impoverished students.
  • Students are better served by equity practices couched in efforts to alleviate the systemic forces that shape how they live and learn regardless of their character.
  • Equity literate educators … reject deficit views that focus on fixing marginalized students rather than fixing the conditions that marginalize students.
  • No kid needs “a growth mindset” (or the more odious and racist “grit”), being a child is to be a growth mindset.
  • The more we focus on people’s persistence (or self-discipline more generally), the less likely we’ll be to question larger policies and institutions.
  • We have to stop making everything about the individual.
  • The entire traditional approach to formal education in the U.S. is a deficit ideology.
  • We are currently misdiagnosing growth mindset and “grit” (as deficit ideologies) as causal characteristics instead of recognizing them as outcomes of slack (privilege).
  • Deficit ideology is a worldview that explains and justifies outcome inequalities— standardized test scores or levels of educational attainment, for example—by pointing to supposed deficiencies within disenfranchised individuals and communities.
  • Deficit ideology discounts sociopolitical context, such as the systemic conditions.
  • At the core of deficit ideology is the belief that inequalities result, not from unjust social conditions such as systemic racism or economic injustice, but from intellectual, moral, cultural, and behavioral deficiencies assumed to be inherent in disenfranchised individuals and communities.
  • The function of deficit ideology is to justify existing social conditions by identifying the problem of inequality as located within, rather than as pressing upon, disenfranchised communities.
  • And this is the surest sign of deficit ideology: the suggestion that we fix inequalities by fixing disenfranchised communities rather than that which disenfranchises them.
  • The function of deficit ideology: to manipulate popular consciousness in order to deflect attention from the systemic conditions and sociopolitical context that underlie or exacerbate inequities and to focus it, instead, on recycling its own misperceptions, all of which justify inequalities.
  • Deficit ideology defines every social problem in relation to those toward the bottom of the power hierarchy, trains our gaze in that direction and, as a result, manipulates the popular discourse in ways that protect and reify existing sociopolitical conditions.
  • Deficit thinking makes systemic forms of racism and oppression invisible.
  • The preparation of teachers must be first and foremost an ideological endeavour, focused on adjusting fundamental understandings not only about educational outcome disparities but also about poverty itself.
  • It is only through the cultivation of what I call a structural ideology of poverty and economic justice that teachers become equity literate.
  • Like deficit ideology, grit ideology is no threat to the existence of educational outcome disparities.
  • No set of curricular or pedagogical strategies can turn a classroom led by a teacher with a deficit view of families experiencing poverty into an equitable learning space for those families.
  • The most obvious trouble with grit ideology is that, of all the combinations of barriers that most impact the educational outcomes of students experiencing poverty, which might include housing instability, food insecurity, inequitable access to high-quality schools, unjust school policies, and others, not a single one is related in any way to students’ grittiness.
  • The “grit” movement is racist, classist, and counter to the very effort we seem to be making to support the value of effort and engagement in a meritocracy (which isn’t even close to existing).
  • The “platform society” offers merely an entrenchment of surveillance capitalism, and education technologies, along with the ideology of “personalization”, work to normalize and rationalize that.
  • “Mindfulness,” “grit,” “growth mindset:” Every good thing becomes dysfunctional/toxic in a compulsory context.
  • “We applaud our children for surviving a ruthless system as if it is an initiation into being a functional human being.” —Malaika Mahlatsi

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

Main Takeaways
  • It essentially boils down to whether one chooses to do damage to the system or to the student.
  • 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.
  • A better future requires time and will to get structural, get social, get equity literate, connect with communities, and build classroom user experiences compatible with neurodiversity and disability.
  • There is no path toward educational justice that contains convenient detours around direct confrontations with injustice.
  • 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.
  • A better future requires a justice mindset.
  • JUSTICE mindset: We stop critiquing mindsets of kids and focus on efforts of schools to be equitable and just.
  • Justice, not grit. Justice, not growth mindset. Justice, not behavior “management.” Justice, not rearrangement of injustice.
  • A better future requires an acceptance mindset.
  • Differences should be accommodated, accepted and celebrated.
  • Respecting neurodiversity improves interactions between neurodivergent people and public services.
  • Society is shaped for neurotypical people and largely excludes those who think differently.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • Neurodiversity is an important idea.
  • Neurodiversity is the fact that all human beings vary in the way our brains work.
  • There is a gulf between the autism research that gets done and the research that people in the autism community want.
  • Scientists are increasingly recognizing a moral imperative to collaborate with the communities they study.
  • A key principle of participatory research is the recognition, and undermining, of the traditional power imbalance between researcher and participant.
  • Participatory research is ethically informed by the values of the community.
  • The double empathy problem (Milton, 2012) highlights the issue of ‘mutual incomprehension’ that exists between some autistic and non-autistic people.
  • There is a growing body of evidence which demonstrates empirically that non-autistic people may fail to comprehend autistic people.
  • Meaningful participation in autism research can help us make a better future for autistic people, together. 
  • Presuming competence is nothing less than a Hippocratic oath for educators.
  • To not presume competence is to assume that some individuals cannot learn, develop, or participate in the world.
  • Never assume that the ability to speak equals intelligence.
  • 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.
  • Presuming competence is not an act of kindness.
  • 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.
  • We don’t believe that conventional communication should be the prerequisite for your loved one having their communication honored.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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”.
  • 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.
  • Monotropism is one of the key ideas required for making sense of autism, along with the double empathy problem and neurodiversity.
  • Monotropism makes sense of many autistic experiences at the individual level.
  • The double empathy problem explains the misunderstandings that occur between people who process the world differently, often mistaken for a lack of empathy on the autistic side.
  • Neurodiversity describes the place of autistic people and other ‘neurominorities’ in society.
  • Monotropic minds tend to have their attention pulled more strongly towards a smaller number of interests at any given time, leaving fewer resources for other processes.
  • The ‘double empathy problem’ refers to a breakdown in mutual understanding (that can happen between any two people) and hence a problem for both parties to contend with, yet more likely to occur when people of very differing dispositions attempt to interact.
  • Monotropism and the Double Empathy Problem are two of the biggest and most important things to happen to autism research.
  • If an autistic person is pulled out of monotropic flow too quickly, it causes our sensory systems to disregulate.
  • If an autistic person is pulled out of monotropic flow too quickly, it causes our sensory systems to disregulate.
  • All schools are neurodiverse: all have kids with wildly different experiences of the world, different needs. Teachers need to grasp that.
  • Exposure anxiety (EA) is a condition identified by Donna Williams in which the child or adult feels acutely self-conscious; it leads to a persistent and overwhelming fear of interaction.
  • Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) is extreme emotional sensitivity and pain triggered by the perception that a person has been rejected or criticized by important people in their life. It may also be triggered by a sense of falling short—failing to meet their own high standards or others’ expectations.
  • I am situationally mute. For anyone that isn’t aware of what that is, it simply means that in certain situations, places or around certain people I don’t want to and often literally cannot speak.
  • Autistic people tend to have ‘spiky skills profiles:’ we are good at some things, bad at other things, and the difference between the two tends to be much greater than it is for most other people.
  • There is consensus regarding some neurodevelopmental conditions being classed as neurominorities, with a ‘spiky profile’ of executive functions difficulties juxtaposed against neurocognitive strengths as a defining characteristic.
  • Provide Opportunity but not Pressure.
  • 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.
  • For an autistic person, lunch and recess can be the most stressful times of the day.

Neurodivergent people are psychological safety barometers. When we have Cavendish space where we can construct niches, we can make cool stuff. #DIYEdge #Stimpunks #RollinOnOurOwn

Reflection Activity

Take some time to move and listen to our collaborative playlist. We’ll be hanging out in our track’s General Discussion channel on Discord. We’d love to hear what you think about the course so far.

Take It further

We must design for sensory and social regulation. Learn why and how! #DIYEdge #Stimpunks #RollinOnOurOwn https://stimpunks.org/access/

Abuse and silencing is a constant, pervasive theme in the lives of autistic people, and for many people it is best expressed by that old, familiar phrase from special education: quiet hands!

Loud hands means resisting. Loud Hands means speaking, however we do, anyway and doing so in a way that can be very obviously Autistic. It means finding ways to talk and think about ourselves on our own terms.

There is room for all of us to play our part. And whatever we do, however we do it, we can do it with
“loud hands” and “loud voices” and loud whatever else we need, in whatever way that works for us individually or collectively. Let us be our real autistic selves, loud and proud, and show the world what we truly are.



Continue with Day 4 – Choosing the Margin: Our Philosophical and Pedagogical Foundation