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. EquityA commitment to action: the process of redistributing access and opportunity to be fair and just.A way of being: the state of being free of bias, discrimination, and identity-predictable outcomes... More 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 are alarm systems to protect our brains.Without meltdowns, we autistics would have nothing to protect our neurology from the very real damage that it can accumulate.I don’t melt down... More 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 social, get equity literate, connect with communities, and build classroom user experiences compatible with neurodiversity and disability. The word “special” is used to sugar-coat segregation and societal exclusion – and its continued use in our language, education systems, media etc serves to maintain those increasingly antiquated “special”... More 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.
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 Autistic ways of being are human neurological variants that can not be understood without the social model of disability.If you are wondering whether you are Autistic, spend time amongst Autistic people, online and offline. If... More to ADHD or what I prefer to call Kinetic Cognitive Style (KCS) is another good example. (Nick Walker coined this alternative term.) The name ADHD implies that Kinetics like me have... More 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 is the diversity of human minds, the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species.NEURODIVERSITY: SOME BASIC TERMS & DEFINITIONS Neurodiversity is a biological fact. It’s not a perspective, an approach, a... More, 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
- Build a Community of Practice
- Presume Competence
- Foster Neurological Pluralism
- Teach Autonomy and Self-Determination
- Ditch “Special”
- Use Our Language
- Understand Monotropism and the Double Empathy Problem
- Understand Exposure Anxiety, Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, and Situational Mutism
- Appreciate our Spiky Profiles
- Reframe ADHD as Kinetic Cognitive Style
- Provide Opportunity but not Pressure
- Understand Equity and Needs-based Fairness
- Affirm Our Bodyminds
Learn About Neurodiversity at School
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, sometimes abbreviated as ND, means having a mind that functions in ways which diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of “normal.”NEURODIVERSITY: SOME BASIC TERMS & DEFINITIONS Neurodivergent is quite... More 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 Compassion Isn't CoddlingPeople often mistake compassion for “being nice,” but it’s not. At A List Apart, the editorial team still says no when a submission isn’t a good fit. At... More 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.
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 Compassion Isn't CoddlingPeople often mistake compassion for “being nice,” but it’s not. At A List Apart, the editorial team still says no when a submission isn’t a good fit. At... More.
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 The ‘double empathy problem’ refers to the mutual incomprehension that occurs between people of different dispositional outlooks and personal conceptual understandings when attempts are made to communicate meaning.From finding a... More (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
“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.” The label "disabled" means so much to me. It means I have community. It means I have rights. It means I can be proud. It means I can affirm myself... More 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
The logic of the connection between “The word “special” is used to sugar-coat segregation and societal exclusion – and its continued use in our language, education systems, media etc serves to maintain those increasingly antiquated “special”... More” and “special [segregated] places” is very strong – it doesn’t need reinforcement – it needs to be broken.
Further, the “The word “special” is used to sugar-coat segregation and societal exclusion – and its continued use in our language, education systems, media etc serves to maintain those increasingly antiquated “special”... More” 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.
Learn more about the problems with “special” on our glossary page.
Use Our Language
Understand Monotropism and the Double Empathy Problem
Monotropism is a theory of autism developed by autistic people, initially by Dinah Murray and Wenn Lawson.Monotropic minds tend to have their attention pulled more strongly towards a smaller number of interests at... More and the The ‘double empathy problem’ refers to the mutual incomprehension that occurs between people of different dispositional outlooks and personal conceptual understandings when attempts are made to communicate meaning.From finding a... More 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 (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.Exposure anxiety... More, 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... More, and 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... More 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.
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 recessI (,) Object – Nightengale of Samarkand — LiveJournal