♿️📚Anti-Ableist Space for Human-Centered Learning

The place where we belong does not exist. We will build it.

James Baldwin via Gayatri Sethi in Unbelonging

🫀 Announcement: We’re Presenting at the Conference to Restore Humanity

DIY at the Edges: Surviving the Bipartisanship of Behaviorism by Rolling Our Own

To be hosted by Ryan Boren, Inna Boren, Chelsea Adams, & Kristina Daniele of Stimpunks. Stimpunks combine “stimming” with “punks” to advocate for neurodiversity and push back against systems that restrict our humanity and harm our unique identities. 

Behaviorism is dead. Despite that, Behaviorism won. And neurodivergent and disabled students lost. Behaviorism is everywhere. The All Means All of public education is made meaningless by the bipartisanship of behaviorism. The neurodiversity and disability rights movements well-understand the ubiquity of behaviorism, and its tremendous costs. This course fights against behaviorist practices in the classroom.

Conference to Restore Humanity

July 25 – 28, 2022

Conference to Restore Humanity! is an international invitation for K-12 and college educators to engage in a human-centered system redesign: centering the needs of students and educators toward a praxis of social justice.

Conference to Restore Humanity

♿️📚Anti-Ableist Space for Human-Centered Learning

The need for anti-ableist learning space for neurodivergent and disabled people is now.

We create anti-ableist space for passion-based, human-centered learning compatible with neurodiversity and the social model of disability. We create space for those most ill-served by “empty pedagogy, behaviorism, and the rejection of equity“. We create paths to equity and access for our learners so they can collaborate on distributed, multi-age, cross-disciplinary teams with a neurodiverse array of creatives doing work that impacts community.

Creating paths to equity and access for all children remains the grand challenge of public education in America.

Equity provides resources so that educators can see all our children’s strengths. Access provides our children with the chance to show us who they are and what they can do. Empathy allows us to see children as children, even teens who may face all the challenges that poverty and other risk factors create. Inclusivity creates a welcoming culture of care so that no one feels outside the community.

Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools
multicolored umbrella

A human-centered classroom is needed now more than ever. In a time of growing uncertainty, global challenges, and increased threats to democracy, children need space to question, reflect, and actualize a meaning to their lives. These young people, along with their educators, will build a new future of love, care, and respect for all.

A Guide to Human Centric Education

The Need

Space without Behaviorism, Segregation, or Ableism

The Answer

Reframing and Respectful Connection

The Feeling

Electric Belonging and Soaring Inclusion

The Learning

Passion-Based, Human-Centered Learning Compatible With Neurodiversity and the Social Model of Disability

We have created a system that has you submit yourself, or your child, to patient hood to access the right to learn differently. The right to learn differently should be a universal human right that’s not mediated by a diagnosis.

The Gift: LD/ADHD Reframed

♿️ The Need: Space without Behaviorism, Segregation, or Ableism

Therefore, 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.

Empty Pedagogy, Behaviorism, and the Rejection of Equity

Neurodivergent and disabled learners need anti-ableist space, and we need it now.

➗ In anti-ableist space, there is no segregation of “special”.

Although human diversity, the social model of disability and inclusion as human rights framework concepts are developing traction, for much of society the “special story” still goes like this:

A child with “special needs” catches the “special bus” to receive “special assistance” in a “special school” from “special education teachers” to prepare them for a “special” future living in a “special home” and working in a “special workshop”.

Does that sound “special” to you?

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” concepts that line the path to a life of exclusion and low expectations.

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

The late Herb Lovett used to say that there are only two problems with “special education” in America: It’s not special and it sure as hell isn’t education. The field continues to be marinated in behaviorist assumptions and practices despite the fact that numerous resources for teachers, therapists, and parents offer alternatives to behavior control.

Autism and Behaviorism – Alfie Kohn

🥢🥕 In anti-ableist space, there is no behaviorism.

But even more compelling is the testimony of young people who understand the reality of this approach better than anyone because they’ve been on the receiving end of it. 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. Frankly, I’m embarrassed that, until about a year ago, I was completely unaware of all the websitesarticlesscholarly essaysblog postsFacebook pages, and Twitter groups featuring the voices of autistic men and women, all overwhelmingly critical of ABA and eloquent in describing the trauma that is its primary legacy.

How is it possible that their voices have not transformed the entire discussion? Suppose you participated in implementing a widely used strategy for dealing with homelessness, only to learn that the most outspoken critics of that intervention were homeless people. Would that not stop you in your tracks? What would it say about you if it didn’t? And yet the consistent, emphatic objections of autistic people don’t seem to trouble ABA practitioners at all. Indeed, one critical analysis of ethics in this field notes that “autistics have been excluded from all committees, panels, boards, etc., charged with developing, directing, and assessing ABA research and treatment programs.

Autism and Behaviorism

Plenty of policies and programs limit our ability to do right by children. But perhaps the most restrictive virtual straitjacket that educators face is behaviorism — a psychological theory that would have us focus exclusively on what can be seen and measured, that ignores or dismisses inner experience and reduces wholes to parts. It also suggests that everything people do can be explained as a quest for reinforcement — and, by implication, that we can control others by rewarding them selectively.

Allow me, then, to propose this rule of thumb: The value of any book, article, or presentation intended for teachers (or parents) is inversely related to the number of times the word “behavior” appears in it. The more our attention is fixed on the surface, the more we slight students’ underlying motives, values, and needs.

It’s been decades since academic psychology took seriously the orthodox behaviorism of John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner, which by now has shrunk to a cult-like clan of “behavior analysts.” But, alas, its reductionist influence lives on — in classroom (and schoolwide) management programs like PBIS and Class Dojo, in scripted curricula and the reduction of children’s learning to “data,” in grades and rubrics, in “competency”- and “proficiency”-based approaches to instruction, in standardized assessments, in reading incentives and merit pay for teachers.

It’s Not About Behavior – Alfie Kohn

Trainers are rejecting behaviorism because it harms animals emotionally and psychologically. What does that say about classrooms that embrace it?

Empty Pedagogy, Behaviorism, and the Rejection of Equity

We cannot replace agency with response to stimuli.

MMCP: Critical Digital Pedagogy; or, the Magic of Gears | Hybrid Pedagogy
I make the right mistakes
And I say what I mean

Spare Me From The Mold

--Spare Me From The Mold by Gossip

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.

One of my favorite anecdotes from Asperger’s thesis is when he asks an autistic boy in his clinic if he believes in God. “I don’t like to say I’m not religious,” the boy replies, “I just don’t have any proof of God.” That anecdote shows an appreciation of autistic non-compliance, which Asperger and his colleagues felt was as much a part of their patients’ autism as the challenges they faced. Asperger even anticipated in the 1970s that autistic adults who “valued their freedom” would object to behaviorist training, and that has turned out to be true.

THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO AUTISM: On Hans Asperger, the Nazis, and Autism: A Conversation Across Neurologies

🪙 In anti-ableist space, there is no “earning your token”.

When I was a little girl, I was autistic. And when you’re autistic, it’s not abuse. It’s therapy.

Quiet Hands | Just Stimming…

I am watching the US education system not very subtly invite punishment back into the mainstream classroom. This appears to be driven by the field of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA).

Defining Reinforcement and Punishment for Educators – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?
Please complete this simple task
Push the buttons just like we ask
This step first and that step last
Over and over and do it fast
I’m watching everyone, feeling like a simpleton
Why can’t I get it done? I just want to scream and run

I don’t think like you
But I’m the one that’s called abnormal
This construct
Was built by petty tyrants
Am I on the level yet? (Level yet)
How did I do on your little test?
Get my brain to reset (Reset)
'Cause everything you say is static
Do I make a good pet? (Good pet)
Obey the commands or get the back of the hand
'Cause the world wasn’t built for a brain like mine
Change my mind, change my mind, change my mind
This construct
Was built and can be dismantled

We stand together
We think apart
We stand together
We think apart

-- Neurodivergent by Rabbit Junk

Most of the supposed evidence for these theories lacks what’s called ‘face validity’, in the eyes of many of the people being studied – that is, it doesn’t look like it’s measuring what it’s supposed to be measuring at all. Too much autism research has been done without autistic input, which could have prevented data being misinterpreted, flagged up when studies’ goals bore no relation to autistic wellbeing, and prevented major errors of omission.

The failures of autism science are not random: they reflect systematic power imbalances.

Autism and Scientism
The Effects of Behavior-Based Models on Neurodevelopment and Learning

Behaviorism is a repudiation, an almost willful dismissal, of subjective experience.
— Alfie Kohn

This is a child’s heart in fight or flight mode, constantly, that is being bombarded with all these instructions and prompting.
— Professor Elizabeth Torres

Behaviorism is a repudiation, an almost willful dismissal, of subjective experience.

Alfie Kohn

This is a child’s heart in fight or flight mode, constantly, that is being bombarded with all these instructions and prompting.

Professor Elizabeth Torres

While some may perceive ABA as misinterpreted (Morris, 2009), argument stems from experiences of intervention and the impact of forced behavioural intervention has upon the processes and development of self-perception. Adapting autistic behaviour and identity to meet those of typically developing (TD) peers is at the core of ABA opposition. Indeed, current research has suggested ABA as causing a severe level of trauma from childhood participation (Kupferstein, 2018). Autistic individuals continue to highlight the suffering felt through ABA’s inability to acknowledge the negativity inflicted through forceful coercion (see, for example, Kedar, 2011; “My experiences with ABA”, 2017). Such a conclusion raises further doubt as to both the efficacy of early intervention as well as the long-term implications and impact on participants. While arguments put to those who oppose ABA claim methods and approaches have changed (“The Controversy Around ABA”, 2019), opposition to ‘current’ ABA mirrors autistic attitudes to intervention (Klein, 2002) and ‘cures’ (Harmon, 2004) from nearly two decades ago. So many coming forward and indicating the harms for autistic children, which they themselves have experienced, to improve for the next generation is indicative of a disparity. Yet, with many being ignored or dismissed as ‘radicals’, ‘too autistic’ or ‘not autistic enough’ to speak for their own community, the bridge between academia and community is further fractured. To begin re-building these bridges, we seek to work alongside autistic reflections of ABA in order to bring voice into empirical constructs. Translating voice into academic comprehension of ABA in terms reflected by the autistic community addresses a vitally unaddressed gap in current research knowledge.

“Recalling hidden harms”: autistic experiences of childhood applied behavioural analysis (ABA)

Despite decades of usage as the primary method for this population worldwide, ABA has never been shown to be even slightly efficacious for the nonverbal Autism population.

The research utilized in the response does not pertain to the population discussed, does not present any neuroscientific research, and does not address intrinsic motivation, elevated levels of anxiety, or various other pertinent issues associated with the nonverbal autism population.

Research in ABA continues to neglect the structure of the autistic brain, the overstimulation of the autistic brain, the trajectory of child development, or the complex nature of human psychology, as all of these factors were ignored in the response and are ignored in ABA practice itself. Providing a treatment that causes pain in exchange for no benefit, even if unknowingly, is tantamount to torture and violates the most basic requirement of any therapy: to do no harm. Lastly, there is also no discussion in the response on internal motivation and how the conditions created by ABA foster psychological ill-being. If paraprofessionals and professionals refuse to engage in critical thinking, refuse to become experts at the thing they treat, continue to practice outside of scope, and continue to ignore pertinent research, the future of Autism and other conditions ABA professes to treat is very bleak.

Long-term ABA Therapy Is Abusive: A Response to Gorycki, Ruppel, and Zane | SpringerLink

Meanwhile, the autistic adults I saw who were ABA recipients–as well as several families I encountered in community advocacy whose autistic adult children had been in ABA programs–fared only marginally better in functioning, and presented with one or more of anxiety, depression, OCD, insomnia, and Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

However, with so many independent personal accounts from autistic individuals and families, as well as a new scientific movement, any reasonable observer cannot confidently deny that ABA is negatively affecting the autistic population.

In 2019, a neuropsychologist released a co-authored article with a parent and service provider citing research that shows the unsuitability of ABA for autistic individuals, the current lack of scientific testing regarding ABA’s effect on “lower-functioning” and nonverbal autistic people, and highlighting the drivers of expanded use, including the potential current market size of $17 billion annually.

So, many families don’t realize they’re putting their loved ones through a costly and traumatic program because they feel this is the best care they can get and the outcomes they hope for are the closest to an idealized normal.

The autistic community is having a reckoning with ABA therapy. We should listen | Fortune

ABA’s monopoly is maintained by the scientific community’s lack of research into and investment in alternative techniques that address autism as both a cognitive and existential experience rather than just a behavioral one–an approach adult autistics who have undergone ABA have described as violating the fundamental tenets of bioethics, as well as the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The autistic community is having a reckoning with ABA therapy. We should listen | Fortune

Until ABA updates its scientific methods, its functions of behavior, and incorporates modern day psychology – including neurology, child development, educational psychology, and other vital research – it cannot be considered to be a safe, effective, or ethical field.

Behaviorism is Dead. How Do We Tell The (Autism) Parents? » NeuroClastic
But I don't need a cure for me
I don't need it
No, I don't need a cure for me
I don't need it
No, I don't need a cure for me
I don't need it
I don't need it

Please, no cure for me
Please, no cure for me

--Cure for Me by AURORA

“Cure for Me” is very much inspired by conversion therapy.

I just wanted to make an anthem for people to sing along with that they know they don’t need a cure.

It doesn’t take much before the world tells you that you’re different, and that you should change yourself to be the same as everybody else, which is very sad.

AURORA “Cure For Me” Official Lyrics & Meaning | Verified

Autistic and queer folks share some dark history-and some bad actors. Chapter 7 of NeuroTribes, Fighting the Monster, shares the legacy of Ole Ivar Lovaas, the twisted father of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and conversion therapy. He applied his abusive, torturous techniques to autistic kids and “sissy boys” to make them “indistinguishable from their peers“. He had little regard for their humanity-they were engineering projects.

Neurodiversity and Gender Non-conformity, Dysphoria and Fluidity

It’s a double rainbow all the way.


Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general.

🫀🧠 In anti-ableist space, we are active agents in our own embodied experience.

The locus of pathology exists not in the autistic person, but in the interaction between a hostile environment and the subjugated autistic. It is essential for parents, practitioners, educators, and autistic people themselves to ask the crucial question— Is the autistic a machine, or an organism? Are we active agents in our own embodied experience, or are we a locus of behavior? It is not with defiance, but autonomy, that I declare as an autistic person— I am not a manifestation of stimuli and response. I am agential. I am Autonomously Autistic.

Despite the field of Disability Studies’ rhetorical progress toward new models of disability, Autistic subjectivity is still locked within medical pathologies and assumptions of deficit. Self-Determination Theory provides an intriguing contrast to other psychological frameworks, making it possible to reconceptualize and re-localize deficit. We can then disrupt our assumptions and form new principles that empower autistic people to develop in autonomous, competent, connected, and self-directed ways.

Self-Determination Theory positions itself as directly and unapologetically antithetical to behaviorism, a fact that manifests in the literature repeatedly in behaviorist commentary…

Autonomously Autistic | Canadian Journal of Disability Studies
Outcast stomp
Outcasts, do the outcast stomp

The freaks are coming
The freaks are coming

--Outcast Stomp by G.L.O.S.S

❤️ The Answer: Reframing, Respectful Connection, and the Presumption of Competence

crop field under rainbow and cloudy skies at dayime

The notion of Neurodiversity can allow you to embrace your child for who they are, and it can empower you to look for respectful solutions to everyday problems. It can also help you to raise your child to feel empowered and content in their own skin.

Respectfully Connected | Neurodiversity Paradigm Parenting FAQs

Ableism is ingrained in our thought processes due to the very nature of the field of speech-language pathology.

Ableism in Speech-Language Pathology—It is Not Just Autism: Part 1 — Rachel Dorsey: Autistic SLP, LLC

When your kid is DXed as autistic, almost all of the professional advice you get from education and healthcare is steeped in deficit ideology.

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, where there’s all sorts of services and treatments and interventions to make the square peg fit the round hole. Parents are relentlessly told that that’s their job.

Normal Sucks: Author Jonathan Mooney on How Schools Fail Kids with Learning Differences

The unhealthiness, unhelpfulness, and disconnectedness of this worldview leads some to consult autistic adults. Then, you discover neurodiversity and the social model of disability. And then, maybe, intersectionality, design for real life, and equity literate education. And then you find yourself in the healthier framing of structural ideology that is better for your kid and better for the systems and institutions that you’re now trying to improve.

Fix Injustice, Not Kids

Basic Principles for Equity Literacy

No matter how hard you try square pegs don’t fit in round holes.

Why is that simple fact so hard for the wider world to grasp?

Yes with tools you could round the edges of a square peg. You could take away the edges that don’t suit the round hole, or you could try forcing the peg with a hammer, problem solved?


You are forcing that square peg to be something it’s not, you are causing damage.

Why not accept the square peg and make a square hole?

Square Peg, round hole…. – A Different Neurotribe
I need some air to breathe
I need some space, just leave

Someday they'll see, someday I'll be
Unwanting of somewhere to hide
But for now, I'll take shelter
Deep in the back of my mind

Can it wait? Can't you wait?
'Cause I ain't ready to lay it on the line
I still shake, I still shake, I still shake
From this chill in my spine

Find a way, I found a way
I found a way
To cope with the everyday now
Raise your hands if you understand

--Through and Through

I could disappear into myself and hide in almost still silence. The tugging of my hair betrayed my perpetual anxiety and my yearning to scratch my scalp. In the head beneath the scalp I wanted to scratch and the hair I wanted to pull, a young mind churned: Scratching is not conforming; I must not break the envelope and compromise table readiness; that will rouse them. Hide in compliance. Don’t talk; don’t move; align your body on the auditor at the front of the room. The safe places are your head, books, and libraries. The books are waiting on the other side of compliance.

I sometimes close my eyes to better parse the speech coming at me. I swim in sensory overwhelm. I must pick a firehose. Eyes front preserves the illusion of compliance, so I’ll stop listening. I’m not interested anyway. The books are so much more. The books are waiting. The written word is where my soul abides. This place in which I layover is just where my body resides – an eyes front, knees front, raise your hand to piss layover that I secretly indict. I tell no one.

Within the constant overwhelm is a pilot flame of anxiety, burning always. Anxiety and overwhelm, the torrid pas de deux that belies the silent, almost still compliance. Their dance is steam and froth, resonance foam on the sensory ocean I swim beneath the almost stillness – still but for the tugging of my hair. Don’t disallow me that, but some of them will. Fidgeting is a threat.

CHAMPS and the Compliance Classroom

We need some air to breathe. Reframe.

I used to tell my students that ideology never announces itself as ideology. It naturalizes itself like the air we breath. It doesn’t acknowledge that it is a way of looking at the word; it proceeds as if it is the only way of looking at the world. At its most effective, it renders itself unassailable: just the way things are. Not an opinion, not the result of centuries of implicit and explicit messaging, not a means of upholding a power structure. It just is.

the shame is ours

✊🕸Instead of behaviorism, segregation, and therapies ingrained with ableism, we practice respectful connection.

Instead of intensive speech therapy – we use a wonderful mash-up of communication including AAC, pictures scribbled on notepads, songs, scripts, and lots of patience and time.

Instead of sticker charts and time outs, or behavior therapy – we give hugs, we listen, solve problems together, and understand and respect that neurodivergent children need time to develop some skills

Instead of physical therapy – we climb rocks and trees, take risks with our bodies, are carried all day if we are tired, don’t wear shoes, paint and draw, play with lego and stickers, and eat with our fingers.

Instead of being told to shush, or be still- we stim, and mummies are joyful when they watch us move in beautiful ways.

Respectfully Connected | #HowWeDo Respectful Parenting and Support

The ways we relate are different. Push for the things your expectations tell you are normal, and you’ll find frustration, disappointment, resentment, maybe even rage and hatred. Approach respectfully, without preconceptions, and with openness to learning new things, and you’ll find a world you could never have imagined.

The Beauty of Collaboration at Human Scale: Timeless patterns of human limitations
Difference is a teacher.

🖼💪Instead of deficit ideology and the pathology paradigm, we reframe.

Reframe these states of being that have been labelled deficiencies or pathologies as human differences.

Normal Sucks: Author Jonathan Mooney on How Schools Fail Kids with Learning Differences

And if having these different viewpoints within my study was important, understanding the perspectives and experiences of autistic children and adults in particular was essential. Time and again I found that issues aired say, by teachers, would be completely reframed when the autistic adults discussed the same points.

Inclusive Education for Autistic Children

This small group of autistic pupils from a school in Chile reveal the important insights that can be gained from engaging with children and young people directly on how to facilitate their own educational inclusion (Humphrey & Lewis 2008).

Perspectives on Educational Inclusion from a Small Sample of Autistic Pupils in Santiago, Chile

In politics our frames shape our social policies and the institutions we form to carry out policies. To change our frames is to change all of this. Reframing is social change.

When we successfully reframe public discourse, we change the way the public sees the world. We change what counts as common sense. Because language activates frames, new language is required for new frames. Thinking differently requires speaking differently.

The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate
Difference is not our deficit; it’s our operating system.

Resisting normal requires reframing who and what we call the problem. It wasn’t the ADD or the dyslexia that disabled me. What disabled me were limitations not in myself, but within the environment.

I came to reframe these disorders as social constructs, and the problem wasn’t in me but in the environment. I had hoped that this would be the end of it: if my so-called disabilities were social constructs that weren’t real, then I was normal, wasn’t I? At that point in my life, I still wanted to be normal, because not normal has always been less than, and to claim normal is an attempt to reclaim oneself.

But it doesn’t work that way. This act of reclaiming is really an act of self-negation. Every society has struggled to integrate and accept difference. Social systems have either corrected difference to make it disappear or included, even tolerated, certain types of differences as normal—differences that don’t require changes to the world of the same. Just declaring a love of diversity and renaming certain differences as normal, while the world stays the same, is to tell kids like me that we are all different and then set us loose in a social environment that tells us, compels us to stop being different.

Normal Sucks (p. 159, 165)
You have habits that define your kind
But deny me mine most of the time
And a soul is a soul is a soul

You say that I need to be trained
When I’m only doing what nature demands
And a soul is a soul is a soul

--Dog by Charlie Parr
Human cognitive diversity exists for a reason.

…the ways we have constructed our ideals of human flourishing unduly exclude neurodivergent modes of flourishing.

…minority forms of human flourishing have been blocked from view. In light of this we suggest that a shift toward what’s been called the neurodiversity paradigm (Walker, 2012) will place the possibility of autistic—and perhaps other forms of—flourishing on the map, making them visible and moreover salient through acknowledging that we are a neurologically diverse species. Beyond challenging dominant conceptions of normal functioning as it is standardly taken to (Chapman, 2019a; Singer, 1999; Walker, 2012), our argument will serve the further purpose of showing that neurodiversity also challenges us to radically broaden our conceptions of the good human life.

…given the diversity of preferences that comes with a neurologically diverse species, we should expect there to be a plurality of ways of flourishing within the human species, many of which diverge from species-standard thriving, and some of which may be rendered invisible due to overly restricted conceptions of human flourishing.

We’ve suggested that autistic individuals encounter testimonial injustice, when they claim to be happy or living good lives, and hermeneutical injustice, seen in the exclusion of neurodivergent modes of flourishing. But it is also vital to consider how these forms of injustice combine and interlock in practice. In day-to-day life, prejudiced stereotypes regarding autistic flourishing and wellbeing culminate in autistic individuals encountering a “catch-22”-like framing, whereby the possibility of being both autistic and living a good life is, to varying extents, unthinkable for many.

Neurodiversity, epistemic injustice, and the good human life – Chapman – – Journal of Social Philosophy – Wiley Online Library

We found neurotypical– neurodivergent encounters manifest this double empathy problem, with practitioners displaying limited capacity for neurodivergent intersubjectivity leading to misempathy and lack of relational depth.

This study has demonstrated a need for less focus on remediation and greater focus on shifting practitioner capacity for humanistic relating.

Practitioner experience of the impact of humanistic methods on autism practice : a preliminary study

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 voice to being understood: exploring the double empathy problem
  • Cameron (2012) uses the term ‘dyspathy’ to highlight how empathy is often blocked or resisted by people.
  • Cameron (2012) cites a number of recent studies using fMRI scanning claim to demonstrate a bias towards in-group members in ‘automatic’ empathy.
  • Such findings support the earlier social psychological theories of Tajfel (1981), which found that people felt increasing emotional connection to those deemed within their social ‘in-group’, whilst stereotyping ‘outsiders’.

Source: From finding a voice to being understood: exploring the double empathy problem

To be defined as abnormal in society is often conflated with being perceived as ‘pathological’ in some way and to be socially stigmatised, shunned and sanctioned. Then, if there is a breakdown in interaction, or indeed a failed attempt to align toward expressions of meaning, a person who sees their interactions as ‘normal’ and ‘correct’ can denigrate those who act or are perceived as ‘different’ (Tajfeel & Turner, 1979). If one can apply a label on the ‘other’ locating the problem in them, it also resolves the applier of the label’s ‘natural attitude’ of responsibility in their own perceptions and the breach is healed perceptually, but not for the person who has been ‘othered’ (Said, 1978).

A Mismatch of Salience | Pavilion Publishing and Media

Let me put this in no uncertain terms: if you do not understand the Double Empathy problem you have no business writing anything at all about autism for general consumption. This is not because you are a bad person — it’s because you have missed the most important memo in Autism research in decades.

How To Talk About Autism Respectfully: A Field Guide for Journalists, Educators, Doctors and anyone else who wants to know how to better communicate about Autism

And this is where the neurotypical belief in theory of mind becomes a liability. Not just a liability – a disability.

Because not only are neurotypicals just as mind-blind to autistics as autistics are to neurotypicals, this self-centered belief in theory of mind makes it impossible to mutually negotiate an understanding of how perceptions might differ among individuals in order to arrive at a pragmatic representation that accounts for significant differences in the experiences of various individuals. It bars any discussion of opening up a space for autistics to participate in social communication by clarifying and mapping the ways in which their perceptions differ. Rather than recognize that the success rate of the neurotypical divining rod is based on mere statistical likelihood that the thoughts and feelings of neurotypicals will correlate, they declare it an ineffable gift, and use it to valorize their own abilities and pathologize those of autistics.

A belief in theory of mind makes it unnecessary for neurotypicals to engage in real perspective-taking, since they are able, instead, to fall back on projection. Differences that they discover in autistic thinking are dismissed as pathology, not as a failure in the neurotypical’s supposed skill in theory of mind or perspective-taking.

Ironically, constantly confronted with the differences in their own thinking and that of those around them, and needing to function in a world dominated by a different neurotype, autistics are engaged in learning genuine perspective-taking from the cradle on. The perceived failure in that perspective-taking is thus based on the fact that autistics do not rely on and cannot rely on neurological similarities to crib understanding by projecting their own thoughts and feelings onto others.

As such, autistics talk about themselves rather than others, a feature of autistic narrative that has been pathologized as “typically autistic” by researchers like Ute Frith. The fact that much of autistic writing is dedicated to deconstructing neurotypical fallacies about autistic thinking set in the world when they spoke about (or for) us, and to explaining differences in autistic thinking in order to broker mutual understanding remains unremarked upon, as it would have required adequate perspective-taking to have identified this.

Thus, if we were to summarize the effect of neurotypicals sitting in wells that are structured in much the same way, delimited in much the same way, oriented in the same general direction and located in the same geographic location, manifested as an unassailable belief in their natural gift of theory of mind, we would have to conclude that this belief in theory of mind severely impairs neurotypicals’ ability to perceive that there is sky or even the great sea outside the narrow limits of their purview. It also necessarily impacts their cognitive empathy vis-à-vis autistics and, sadly, their affective empathy as well.

This deficit in neurotypicals needs to be remediated if autistics are to have a chance to participate as equals, because the truth is, in this regard, autistics suffer and are excluded from social communication not because of our own disability, but because of neurotypical disability.

The belief in a theory of mind is a disability — Semiotic Spectrumite
I don't want to know
I don't want to know what they're saying about me
I don't want to know
I don't want to show that it devastates me

I'm living somewhere nobody goes to
I'm speaking in a language nobody talks
The window broken, a cold wind blows through
My soul a series of electrical shocks

--Trans Mantra by Ezra Furman

🧠Instead of presuming incompetence, we presume competence.

“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
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

🌊 Instead of behaviorist control, we pursue self-determination, intrinsic motivation, and flow.

…we have this really uninformative literature, where studies are not measuring harms, they’re not reporting harms, they’re not considering harms broadly enough, that means that we have an interventional literature that is uninformative.

So, examples of the kind of harms that we might see would be, for example, encouraging autistic children to respond to the kind of commands and instructions of others that can lay down behavioral patterns, which are going to impact on autonomy and independence later in life, in terms of autistic people being decision makers and in control of their own kind of destinies.

And of course that could make them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse as well. So if you’re working with someone very, very young and teaching them that their role in life is to listen to the instructions of others and comply with those, that’s gonna potentially have significant harmful effects.

Developing a Top Quality Evidence-Base For Supporting Autistic People and Their Families

…the fact that we have a body of literature that is utterly disregarding even the possibility of harm being caused to autistic children is part of a broader narrative that can feed into the dehumanization of autistic people and that can underlie abusive practices.

Developing a Top Quality Evidence-Base For Supporting Autistic People and Their Families

It is reasonable to ask, particularly given the range of terminology used to define the executive processes that impact outcomes of young people with disabilities, including autism: Why focus on self-determination? Why is innovation in theory related to self-determination important to guide assessment and intervention to promote positive outcomes across the life course, particularly during the transition from adolescence to adulthood? First, as noted previously, the terminology adopted in self-determination research and practice emerged largely from the voices and advocacy of people with disabilities. Advocates across disability popula- tions have consistently used the term self-determination to describe their right to self-direct their own lives. The impact of this advocacy has been significant, particularly in policy. 

Self-determination is a key value and outcome targeted in disability policies and human right treaties enacted over the past 30 years. The right to self-determination also continues to be a rallying cry in the self-advocate community.4 For example, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) states, ‘‘disability is a natural part of human diversity. Autism is something we are born with, and that shouldn’t be changed. Autistic children should get the support they need to grow up into happy, self-determined autistic adults.’’10 

Second, interventions to promote self-determination have been developed that can support people with disabilities to take steps toward self-directed lives. Such interventions can be personalized based on strengths, interests, and supports. There is the inherent diversity in the autistic community (e.g., ‘‘There is no one way to be autistic’’).11 Understanding each autistic person’s strengths and support needs, from their perspective, must be a focus of self-determination interventions particularly during the transition to adulthood when there are new and changing demands. 

Advancing the Personalization of Assessment and Intervention in Autistic Adolescents and Young Adults by Targeting Self-Determination and Executive Processes | Autism in Adulthood
Because we′re standing in the way of control
We will live our lives

-- Standing In the Way of Control

Everyone should have the right to make choices. Some people make choices differently than others. Some people get help from a few friends or family members to make choices. Some people show other people what they have chosen through gestures or actions rather than words. But all people, no matter what disability they have or what support needs they have, can make choices. 

Supported decision-making is an idea about the right to make choices. Everyone needs help to make decisions sometimes. Disabled people might need more help. We might need a lot more help. But, needing help isn’t a good reason to take away someone’s choices. Supported decision making means that even if someone needs a lot of help, they still have the right to make their own choices.

We also have the right to communicate and tell people about the choices we make. We have the right to communicate in whatever way works best for us. Everybody communicates – whether using language, behavior, gestures, facial expressions, sounds, or other means. We have the right to use augmented and alternative communication (AAC) methods, like sign language, communication boards, and iPads. Effective communication is a key part of self-determination!

Self-Determination – Autistic Self Advocacy Network

How do we build learning environments that embrace intrinsic motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose?

The Gift: LD/ADHD Reframed

People need to feel appreciated and safe, to give themselves to an activity; and they need to feel like they are making progress to keep giving themselves to it. To get into The Zone, you need to know you’re getting somewhere, that you’re in the process of mastering a skill – you need ongoing feedback, whether from another person or another source. There is also something uniquely satisfying about working with other people effectively, towards a shared goal; in my experience there is no substitute when it comes to building a community.

Flow states are the pinnacle of intrinsic motivation, where somebody wants to do something for themselves, for the sake of doing it and doing it well.

Flow allows us to recharge, to feel a sense of achievement and satisfaction, and a kind of respite from the often-baffling demands of the school social environment.

Craft, Flow and Cognitive Styles

The first part is in my “native language,” and then the second part provides a translation, or at least an explanation.

But my language is not about designing words or even visual symbols for people to interpret. It is about being in a constant conversation with every aspect of my environment. Reacting physically to all parts of my surroundings.

In My Language

Many people with autism are stressed individuals who find the world a confusing place (Vermeulen, 2013). So how does someone with autism achieve a sense of flow? McDonnell & Milton (2014) have argued that many repetitive activities may achieve a flow state. One obvious area where flow can be achieved is when engaging in special interests. Special interests allow people to become absorbed in an area that gives them specialist knowledge and a sense of achievement. In addition, certain repetitive tasks can help people achieve a flow like state of mind. These tasks can become absorbing and are an important part of people’s lives. The next time you see an individual with autism engaging in a repetitive task (like stacking Lego or playing a computer game), remember that these are not in themselves negative activities, they may well be reducing stress.

If you want to improve your supports to people with autism from a stress perspective, a useful tool is to identify flow states for that person and try to develop a flow plan. Remember, the next time you see a person repeating seemingly meaningless behaviours, do not assume that this is always unpleasant for them – it might be a flow state, and beneficial for reducing stress.

What is ‘flow’?

Flow state is a term coined by Csikszentmihalyi to describe “the experience of complete absorption in the present moment” (Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi, 2009). It is widely viewed as highly positive and many texts advise readers on how to attain it when performing tasks. Autistic people are sometimes puzzled that flow seems to be regarded as somewhat elusive and difficult to experience, since the common autistic experience of complete engagement with an interest fits the definition of flow well. Thus, it is not hard to find accounts of autistic detailed listening that seem to describe a flow state:

“When I work on my musical projects, I tend to hear the whole score in my head and piece every instrument loop detail where they fit. It relaxes me and makes me extremely aware of what I’m doing to the point that I lose track of time.”

Autistic listening

Embrace the obsession. Special interests are “intimately tied to the well-being of people on the spectrum“. “Special interests have a positive impact on autistic adults and are associated with higher subjective well-being and satisfaction across specific life domains including social contact and leisure.” “In my study, I found that when the autistic children were able to access their intense interests, this brought, on the whole, a range of inclusionary advantages. Research has also shown longer-term benefits too, such as developing expertise, positive career choices and opportunities for personal growth. This underscores how important it is that the education of autistic children is not driven by a sense of their deficits, but by an understanding of their interests and strengths. And that rather than dismissing their interests as ‘obsessive’, we ought to value their perseverance and concentration, qualities we usually admire.” “…the autistic children in my study were turning to their strong interests in times of stress or anxiety. And there has certainly been a lot of research which shows that autistic children and young people find school very stressful. So it might be the case that when this autistic trait is manifested negatively in school, it is a direct result of the stresses that school creates in the first instance.” “[E]nabling autistic children to engage with their strong interests has been found to be predominantly advantageous, rather than deleterious, in school environments.” “Furthermore, longer-term benefits have been associated with the pursuit of intense interests, with relatively few negative effects overall, which in themselves might only occur if autistic people are pressured to reduce or adapt their interests.” “Having intense or “special” interests and a tendency to focus in depth to the exclusion of other inputs, is associated with autistic cognition, sometimes framed as “monotropism”. Despite some drawbacks and negative associations with unwanted repetition, this disposition is linked to a range of educational and longer-term benefits for autistic children.” “Though they come with challenges, enthusiasms often represent the greatest potential for people with autism. What begins as a strong interest or passion can become a way to connect with others with similar interests, a lifelong hobby, or, in many cases, a career.

I’m Autistic. Here’s what I’d like you to know.

Time flows differently when children work together, the older becoming aspirational peers for younger children, no bells demanding that they stop what they are doing to move in short blocks of time from math to reading to science to history in a repetitive daily cycle. Instead, they work on projects that engage them in experiences across content areas and extend time as they see the need.

Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools

The biggest practical thing to take away from this is the importance of meeting the child, or adult, where they are. This is not an insight unique to the monotropism perspective, but nothing else I’ve seen demonstrates with such clarity why it’s so crucial. Treat interests as something to work with. Recognise what someone’s passionate about and learn how to become part of the attention tunnels which come with monotropic focus, rather than trying to just reach in and pull the person out of the flow states that are so important to us. Never pathologise ‘special interests’, and don’t assume that autistic interests are ‘restricted’  – there are plenty of ways to get us interested in new things, it’s just that they mostly involve taking existing interests and building on them.

Me and Monotropism: A unified theory of autism | The Psychologist

When focused like this an Autistic person can enter a ‘flow state‘ which can bring great joy and satisfaction to the person experiencing it.

However it can make switching between tasks and other transitions difficult.


Monotropism provides a far more comprehensive explanation for autistic cognition than any of its competitors, so it has been good to see it finally starting to get more recognition among psychologists (as in Sue Fletcher-Watson’s keynote talk at the 2018 Autistica conference). In a nutshell, monotropism is the tendency for our interests to pull us in more strongly than most people. It rests on a model of the mind as an ‘interest system’: we are all interested in many things, and our interests help direct our attention. Different interests are salient at different times. In a monotropic mind, fewer interests tend to be aroused at any time, and they attract more of our processing resources, making it harder to deal with things outside of our current attention tunnel.

Me and Monotropism: A unified theory of autism | The Psychologist

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 state zone work where students can escape sensory overwhelm, slip into flow states, and enjoy a maker’s schedule.

Classroom UX: Designing for Pluralism

⚡️🦅🌈 The Feeling: Electric Belonging and Soaring Inclusion

hot air balloons under blue sky

How can we cultivate spaces where everyone has that soaring sense of inclusion?

s.e. smith

🤲 We create crip space that evokes the electrifying feeling of belonging.

It is very rare, as a disabled person, that I have an intense sense of belonging, of being not just tolerated or included in a space but actively owning it; “This space,” I whisper to myself, “is for me.” Next to me, I sense my friend has the same electrified feeling. This space is for us.

Members of many marginalized groups have this shared experiential touchstone, this sense of unexpected and vivid belonging and an ardent desire to be able to pass this experience along. Some can remember the precise moment when they were in a space inhabited entirely by people like them for the first time.

Crip space is unique, a place where disability is celebrated and embraced-something radical and taboo in many parts of the world and sometimes even for people in those spaces. The idea that we need our own spaces, that we thrive in them, is particularly troubling for identities treated socially as a negative; why would you want to self-segregate with the other cripples? For those newly disabled, crip space may seem intimidating or frightening, with expectations that don’t match the reality of experience-someone who has just experienced a tremendous life change is not always ready for disability pride or defiance, needing a kinder, gentler introduction.

This is precisely why they are needed: as long as claiming our own ground is treated as an act of hostility, we need our ground. We need the sense of community for disabled people created in crip space.

How can we cultivate spaces where everyone has that soaring sense of inclusion, where we can have difficult and meaningful conversations?

Because everyone deserves the shelter and embrace of crip space, to find their people and set down roots in a place they can call home.

“The Beauty of Spaces Created for and by Disabled People” by s.e. smith in “Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the 21st Century
But no, take me home
Take me home where I belong
I got no other place to go
No, take me home
Take me home where I belong
I got no other place to go
No, take me home
Take me home where I belong
I can't take it anymore

But I kept runnin' for a soft place to fall
And I kept runnin' for a soft place to fall
And I kept runnin' for a soft place to fall
And I kept runnin' for a soft place to fall

--Runaway by AURORA

👩‍❤️‍👨 We foster the feeling of access intimacy.

Access intimacy is that elusive, hard to describe feeling when someone else “gets” your access needs. The kind of eerie comfort that your disabled self feels with someone on a purely access level. Sometimes it can happen with complete strangers, disabled or not, or sometimes it can be built over years. It could also be the way your body relaxes and opens up with someone when all your access needs are being met. It is not dependent on someone having a political understanding of disability, ableism or access. Some of the people I have experienced the deepest access intimacy with (especially able bodied people) have had no education or exposure to a political understanding of disability.

Access intimacy is also the intimacy I feel with many other disabled and sick people who have an automatic understanding of access needs out of our shared similar lived experience of the many different ways ableism manifests in our lives. Together, we share a kind of access intimacy that is ground-level, with no need for explanations. Instantly, we can hold the weight, emotion, logistics, isolation, trauma, fear, anxiety and pain of access. I don’t have to justify and we are able to start from a place of steel vulnerability. It doesn’t mean that our access looks the same, or that we even know what each other’s access needs are. It has taken the form of long talks into the night upon our first meeting; knowing glances shared across a room or in a group of able bodied people; or the feeling of instant familiarity to be able to ask for help or support.

Access Intimacy: The Missing Link | Leaving Evidence

And I’m doing
Better, every day
Because of those who stay aware
That we’re as great as we make
And not all differences need to be so

The Curse, Solillaquists of Sound

📚 The Learning: Passion-Based, Human-Centered Learning Compatible With Neurodiversity and the Social Model of Disability

a boy getting bullied by classmates inside the classroom

Dehumanizing practices do not belong in schools.

The Need

Learning is rooted in purpose finding and community relevance.

  1. Map a Path to Purpose
  2. Learn Experientially
  3. Connect to the Community
  4. Promote Literacy
  5. Create Cross-Disciplinary Classrooms

Social justice is the cornerstone to educational success.

  1. Support a Reflective Space
  2. Demand Inclusive Spaces
  3. Authenticate Student Voice
  4. Adopt Critical Pedagogy
  5. Utilize Restorative Justice

Dehumanizing practices do not belong in schools.

  1. Radically Reduce Homework
  2. Build Strong Relationships
  3. Eliminate Grading
  4. Redefine Assessment and End Testing
  5. Reform Food Systems

Learners are respectful toward each other’s innate human worth.

  1. Self-Direct Learning
  2. Support and Elevate Teachers
  3. Stay Buzzword Free
  4. Cooperate, Don’t Force Competition
  5. Support Multi-Age Classrooms

Source: The Need

Hey, you ever stop to think that maybe we're all different?
Or that you can't just throw every student into the same system
Just examine resources and where they're placin' em
I'm just saying there's different students out there facing some pain
It's completely unfair to expect that they would behave the same
But go ahead, make it harder for one and watch them play the game

-- Imaginary Numbers

⛺️🔥 Come As You Are to Cavendish Space

pattern branches tree design

niche construction may be every bit as important for survival as natural selection 

Reimagining Inclusion with Positive Niche Construction

We create Cavendish bubbles of peer respite and collaborative niche construction where we can find relief from an intense world designed against us.

Since reading NeuroTribes, I think of psychologically & sensory safe spaces suited to 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.

Classroom UX: Designing for Pluralism

We provide caves, campfires, and watering holes so that dandelions, tulips, and orchids alike can find respite. Everyone has individual space as well as community spaces so that they can progressively socialize according to their interaction capacity. Caves, campfires, and watering holes are necessary to designing for neurological pluralism and providing psychological safety. They’re necessary to positive niche construction.


The campfire is a space where people gather to learn from an expert. In the days of yore, wise elders passed down insights through storytelling, and in doing so replicated culture for the next generation.

Australia’s Campfires, Caves, and Watering Holes
photo of man sitting on a cave

The cave is a private space where an individual can think, reflect, and transform learning from external knowledge to internal belief. 

Australia’s Campfires, Caves, and Watering Holes

The cave is a private space, where students can find that much needed alone time useful for reflection on their learning or just to recharge. (a necessary space for those students with Aspergers).

Campfires, Caves and Watering holes | Libraries, Youth and the Digital Age
The watering hole is an informal space where peers can share information and discoveries, acting as both learner and teacher simultaneously. This shared space can serve as an incubator for ideas and can promote a sense of shared culture.It is an informal area, where students can share in collaborative learning experiences.

“Some autistic people’s needs will conflict with each other. For example, some autistic people may need the TV playing to calm down, as it can help to focus on specific sounds. But for others this may cause more stress depending on their mental state. Additionally, some autistic people may need to stim to feel relaxed and comfortable, or it may be involuntary when they are stressed, but noises they make (e.g. verbal stims), could really stress another autistic person out. I think the key here is space.”

“It’s Not Rocket Science” – NDTi

…positive niche construction is a strengths-based approach to educating students with disabilities. Armstrong describes positive niche construction in this way:

In the field of biology, the term niche construction is used to describe an emerging phenomenon in the understanding of human evolution. Since the days of Darwin, scientists have emphasized the importance of natural selection in evolution-the process whereby organisms better adapted to their environment tend to survive and produce more offspring. In natural selection, the environment represents a static entity to which a species must either adapt or fail to adapt. In niche construction, however, the species acts directly upon the environment to change it, thereby creating more favorable conditions for its survival and the passing on of its genes. Scientists now say that niche construction may be every bit as important for survival as natural selection (Lewontin, 2010; Odling-Smee, Laland, & Feldman, 2003).

We see many examples of niche construction in nature: a beaver building a dam, bees creating a hive, a spider spinning a web, a bird building a nest. All of these creatures are changing their immediate environment in order to ensure their survival. Essentially, they’re creating their own version of a “least restrictive environment.” 

Reimagining Inclusion with Positive Niche Construction
Come as you are, however broken
And we will see if we can make you whole again
Come as you are, with your heart wide open
Bridges that you've burned they are still there just floatin'

If I am meant for anything it's to show you you're not alone

--Come As You Are by Zach Bryan

Language frames people’s thoughts and emotional response. It is time to start consistently talking about concepts that can improve our lives:

Niche construction and symbiosis rather than competition – to create organisations and services that are fit for purpose and valued by the wider community

NeurodiVentures: Equipping autistic people for collaboration for life
The Beauty of Collaboration at Human Scale

Collaborative niche construction allows organisations and people to participate in the evolution of a living system and results in resilient social ecosystems.

The Beauty of Collaboration at Human Scale: Timeless Patterns of Human Limitations

♿️⚖️ We Create Anti-Ableist Space

It is time to celebrate our interdependence!

Collaboration allows us to create genuinely safe spaces.

The Beauty of Collaboration at Human Scale: Timeless patterns of human limitations

It is time to celebrate our interdependence! Collaboration allows us to create genuinely safe spaces for autistic and otherwise neurodivergent people. We should expect society to support us in establishing new forms of creative collaboration, and we should not be forced individually to be “included” in toxic exploitative environments.

The Beauty of Collaboration at Human Scale: Timeless patterns of human limitations

We create anti-ableist space for passion-based, human-centered learning compatible with neurodiversity and the social model of disability. We create space for those most ill-served by “empty pedagogy, behaviorism, and the rejection of equity“.

Create more anti-ableist spaces.

Let’s act to hold ALL spaces accountable for providing care and access to disabled folks with all types of bodies and minds.

Jen White-Johnson

We can start building more accessible, care-centered communities now. We can combat ableism now. We can lay the groundwork for a world that works better for all of us.

Dr. Sami Schalk on Twitter

From Our Philosophy

We need to have universally designed systems designed around the reality of human variance opposed to the myth of human sameness.

It’s not a problem in the person; it’s not a problem with the difference; it’s a problem in the interaction between a difference and a context built for the myth that we should all be the same.

Accommodation is fundamentally about not changing the person but changing the environment around the person.

Accessibility is a collective process!

When we build things – we must think of the things our life doesn’t necessitate. Because someone’s life does.

In the Parable books Lauren is a young, black, disabled woman who manages to not merely survive but to create a belief system and lead a community that brings together and helps thousands in the midst of chaos. As a result, this series is one example of how a better future can include those of us whose lives, bodyminds, and perspectives are often devalued and discounted.

Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction

Embrace diversity.
Or be divided,
By those who see you as prey.
Embrace diversity
Or be destroyed.

Parable of the Sower (p. 196)
standing on a corner, watching the parade go by
hear the people gossip but i don’t pay them no mind
like busy little bees buzzing around a hive
and no one notices the clouds in the sky

take my life but who would care
when you don’t fit in anywhere
now i’m not asking you to understand
why i don’t fit in anywhere

like a diamond a stone so rare i don’t fit in anywhere!

anywhere anywhere i don’t fit in anywhere
anywhere anywhere i don’t fit in anywhere

--I Don’t Fit in Anywhere by Jayne County

🔭🫀🧠 We Find Our People and Co-create Ecologies of Care

In Te Reo Māori the word for Autistic ways of being is Takiwātanga, which means “in their own space and time”. Most Autists are not born into healthy Autistic families. We have to co-create our Autistic families in our own space and time.

A communal definition of Autistic ways of being

Until one day… you find a whole world of people who understand.

The internet has allowed autistic people- who might be shut in their homes, unable to speak aloud, or unable to travel independently- to mingle with each other, share experiences, and talk about our lives to people who feel the same way.

We were no longer alone.

7 Cool Aspects of Autistic Culture » NeuroClastic
“Find Your People” by Swamburger of Mugs and Pockets

Autistic kids need access to autistic communities. They need access to autistic mentors. They need to know that the problems they go through are actually common for many of us! They need to know they are not alone. They need to know that they matter and people care about them. They need to see autistic adults out in the world being accommodated and understood and respected. They need to learn how to understand their own alexithymia and their own emotions. They need to be able to recognize themselves in others. They need to be able to breathe.


Opening doors has become my calling.

Welcome to this house.

Find your people.

All Hail Open Doors, Swamburger and Scarlet Monk of Mugs and Pockets

Generally punks can agree to the loose notion that “punk is an attitude/ individuality is the key.” It was a yearning to be different, to distance oneself from the mainstream mass of society. But punk was also a desire for community, a hunger for fellowship with like-minded souls…

Dissertation or Thesis | We accept you, one of us?: punk rock, community, and individualism in an uncertain era, 1974-1985
Are you awake or are you sleeping?
Are you afraid? We've been waiting for this meeting

We have come here for you, and we're coming in peace
Mothership will take you on higher, higher
This world you live in is not a place for someone like you
Come on, let us take you home

There is a flaw in man-made matters
But you are pure, and we have to get you out of here

--A Different Kind of Human by AURORA

I believe all persons with Autism need the opportunity to become friends with other Autistic people. Without this contact we feel alien to this world. We feel lonely. Feeling like an alien is a slow death. It’s sadness, self-hate, it’s continuously striving to be someone we’re not. It’s waking up each day and functioning in falsehood (French, 1993).

Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking

When I meet other people, ‘autistic’ or not, there is something instinctive in me that looks for where systems in them match systems in me.

When I am around non-autistic people I soon know they function according to a generally alien system of functioning that makes little match with my own. I know this is because they are essentially multi-track and I am essentially mono.

Autism: An Inside-Out Approach: An Innovative Look at the ‘Mechanics’ of ‘Autism’ and its Developmental ‘Cousins’ by Donna Williams

We call ourselves Warriors and Weirdos.

Aurora Aksnes

👏🧷🌳 Stimpunks Foundation Presents: Stimpunks Space

worms eyeview of green trees


The spaces where we belong do not exist. We build them with radical love and revolutionary liberation.

Gayatri Sethi, Unbelonging

Stimpunks Space is where we actualize our philosophy. stimpunks.org is the why. stimpunks.space is the how.

They need to be able to breathe.

Every time I get close to the edge
Breathe real slow

Breathe real slow
Down to your belly, to your toes
Breathe real slow

--Breathe Real Slow by Jim Lauderdale

I think the key here is space.

“It’s Not Rocket Science” – NDTi

⛑📚 Our Pillars 🗂🧰

Mutual Aid

Real help against the onslaught. Staying alive is a lot of work for a disabled person in an ableist society.

Learning Space

The place where we belong does not exist. We will build it. Anti-ableist space for passion-based, human-centered learning compatible with neurodiversity and the social model of disability.

Open Research

Digital sociology, neurodiversity studies, disability studies, and syncretism, in the open. Improving science by restoring the humanities.


Stay relevant in a constantly changing world. Dismantle ableism in your spaces.

⏭ Next Pillar: Open Research

The story continues with, “🗂 Facts, Fire, and Feels: Research-Storytelling from the Edges”

Navigating Stimpunks

Need financial aid to pay for bills or medical equipment? Visit our guide to requesting aid.


Need funds for your art, advocacy, or research? Visit our guide to requesting funds.


Want to volunteer? Visit our guide to volunteering.


Need a table of contents and a guide to our information rich website? Visit our map.