When everything is a monoculture, diversity can look scary, wild, out of control. It’s understandable, but it’s unsustainable. To reconnect with diversity, we need to expand and rewild our thinking, and change our practices on a fundamental level. We need to notice and challenge the things that we take for granted.
But when we get too used to seeing monocultures, we forget that there can be anything else. We don’t notice what is being pushed out in favour of the familiar sameness we have gotten used to. Diversity becomes worrisome and weird and unfamiliar.Counselling for different ways of being | by Sonny Hallett | Jun, 2023 | Medium
Recognizing diversity enables collaborative niche construction that supports monotropic minds, and any type of mind. Monotropic people are recognizing and diversifying monocultures so we have the flexibility to create our niche and get into flow states.
Since reading NeuroTribes, we think of psychologically & sensory safe spaces suited to monotropism and zone work as “Cavendish bubbles” and “Cavendish space”, after Henry Cavendish, the wizard of Clapham Common and discoverer of hydrogen. The privileges of nobility afforded room for his differences, allowing him the space and opportunity to become “one of the first true scientists in the modern sense.”
Let’s build psychologically safe homes of opportunity without the requirement of nobility or privilege. Replace the trappings of the compliance classroom with student-created context, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and BYOC (Bring/Build Your Own Comfort). Let’s hit thrift stores, buy lumber, apply some hacker ethos, and turn the compliance classroom into something psychologically safe and comfortable to a team of young minds engaged in passion-based learning. Inform spaces with neurodiversity and the social model of disability so that they welcome and include all minds and bodies. Provide quiet spaces for high memory state zone work where students can escape sensory overwhelm, slip 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.
One of the more interesting ideas emerging from attention capital theory is the surprising role environment can play in supporting elite cognitive performance.
Professional writers seem to be at the cutting edge of this experimentation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the near future, we start to see more serious attention paid to constructing seriously deep spaces as our economy shifts towards increasingly demanding knowledge work.Simon Winchester’s Writing Barn – Study Hacks – Cal Newport
Like Cavendish, we’re autistic. We relate to much of his personal life. He needed his bubble, his cave, his sensory and social cocoon.
He also needed, occasionally, the company of a small set of his Royal Society peers. The Royal Society Monday Club was his campfire, his place where he could lurk at the edges and socialize with a small group on his terms.
It is not true, however, that he wanted to remove himself entirely from the company of his peers; he just wanted to stand off to the side, soaking everything in. Two scientists conversing on a topic of interest at the Royal Society’s Monday Club might notice a hunched figure in a gray-green coat lurking in the shadows, listening intently. Eager to solicit his appraisal of their work, his fellow natural philosophers devised a devious but effective method of drawing him into an exchange. “The way to talk to Cavendish is never to look at him,” said astronomer Francis Wollaston, “but to talk as it were into a vacancy, and then it is not unlikely but you may set him going.”NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
Cavendish was very uncomfortable in the public eye. He formed an alliance with Charles Blagden, an extroverted and outgoing Monday Club peer, whereby Blagden introduced Cavendish and his ideas to wider audiences. Blagden brought Cavendish to the creative commons, to the watering holes of science and naturalism.
Cavendish needed intermittent collaboration. Cavendish needed control over parts of his world in order to build his niche.
Dandelions, Tulips, and Orchids
Sensory hyperreactivity can greatly impact quality of life and has been found to correlate with clinically elevated levels of anxiety in both autistic children and adults.
Positive niche construction is a strengths-based approach to educating students with disabilities.
Cognitive Diversity Exists for a Reason
Human cognitive diversity exists for a reason; our differences are the genius – and the conscience – of our species.
Social Buffering and Collaborative Morality
Collaborative morality opens up opportunities to be respected and appreciated through the emergence of distinct abilities, virtues or spheres of elevated influence and respect even when these are associated with deficits.
Interdependence and Collaboration
Magic happens when you combine collaboration and neurodiversity.
⛺️🔥 Caves, Campfires, and Watering Holes
We provide caves, campfires, and watering holes so that dandelions, tulips, and orchids alike can find respite. Online and offline, we provide individual spaces as well as community spaces so that learners 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
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
“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”: Considering and meeting the sensory needs of autistic children and young people – NDTi
Our cave, campfire, and watering hole moods map to the red, yellow, and green of interaction badges (aka color communication badges). The three-level and three-speed communication flow used at distributed companies reflects the progressive sociality of cave, campfire, and watering hole contexts and red, yellow, green interaction moods. All of these facilitate intermittent collaboration.
We use Cavendish Space to pursue special interests and assist attention tunnels so that learners can slip into flow states.
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.Craft, Flow and Cognitive Styles
When focused like this an Autistic person can enter a ‘flow state‘ which can bring great joy and satisfaction to the person experiencing it.Monotropism
Down the rabbit hole: If it exists, you can reasonably assume there will be an autistic person to whom that thing is the subject of intense obsession and time spent.
The reality is that if it exists, you can reasonably assume there will be an autistic person to whom that thing is the subject of intense obsession and time spent, from blankets to drain covers (both of these are special interests of people in my acquaintance) and pretty much anything in between. When engaging in a special interest, autistic people are typically calmer, more relaxed, happier and more focused than they would otherwise be – for many, it is a form of release or even self-medication: a well-timed foray into a special interest can stave off meltdown and be a generally extremely positive force in an autistic person’s life.Learning From Autistic Teachers (pp. 30-31)
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’?
“Down the rabbit hole” is an English-language idiom or trope which refers to getting deep into something, or ending up somewhere strange.Down the rabbit hole – Wikipedia
Learning how to learn on his own proved one of the most important lessons of his life.What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry
🌷 Dandelions, Tulips, and Orchids
In summary, while some people are highly sensitive (i.e. orchids), the majority have a medium sensitivity (i.e. tulips) and a substantial minority are characterised by a particularly low sensitivity (i.e. dandelions).Dandelions, tulips and orchids: evidence for the existence of low-sensitive, medium-sensitive and high-sensitive individuals | Translational Psychiatry
sensory hyperreactivity can greatly impact quality of life and has been found to correlate with clinically elevated levels of anxiety in both autistic children and adultsAutistic sensory experiences, in our own words
🏗 Niche Construction
…positive niche construction is a strengths-based approach to educating students with disabilities.Reimagining Inclusion with Positive Niche Construction
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.” In this book, I present seven basic components of positive niche construction to help teachers differentiate instruction for students with special needs (2012).Neurodiversity in the Classroom: Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Succeed in School and Life
Seven components of positive niche construction in the classroom:
Reimagining Inclusion with Positive Niche Construction
- Assessment of students’ strengths
- The use of assistive technology and Universal Design for Learning
- Enhanced human resources
- The implementation of strengths-based learning strategies
- Envisioning positive role models
- Activation of affirmative career aspirations
- The engineering of appropriate environmental modifications to support the development of neurodiverse students
- Organisms are not passive.
- The environment is a product of organisms.
- Interactions are reciprocal.
- Ecology, development, & evolution are interdependent.
But the home advantage is not limited to sports. Researchers have identified a more general effect as well: when people occupy spaces that they consider their own, they experience themselves as more confident and capable. They are more efficient and productive. They are more focused and less distractible. And they advance their own interests more forcefully and effectively. A study by psychologists Graham Brown and Markus Baer, for example, found that people who engage in negotiation within the bounds of their own space claim between 60 and 160 percent more value than the “visiting” party.
Benjamin Meagher, an assistant professor of psychology at Kenyon College in Ohio, has advanced an intriguing theory that may explain these outcomes. The way we act, the way we think, and even the way we perceive the world around us differ when we’re in a space that’s familiar to us—one that we have shaped through our own choices and imbued with our own memories of learning and working there in the past. When we’re on our home turf, Meagher has found, our mental and perceptual processes operate more efficiently, with less need for effortful self-control. The mind works better because it doesn’t do all the work on its own; it gets an assist from the structure embedded in its environment, structure that marshals useful information, supports effective habits and routines, and restrains unproductive impulses. In a familiar space over which we feel ownership, he suggests, “our cognition is distributed across the entire setting.” The place itself helps us think.The Extended Mind – Annie Murphy Paul
Living by her own rules has had a massive positive effect. She’s constantly making adjustments, finding new ways to make herself more comfortable. “Everything feels different, it really does impact everything. Like my body was masked!” she says. Now that her daily environment works with her body rather than against it, she feels physically and mentally free. Marta Rose writes that divergent design should honor the unique relationships Autistic people have to objects.Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity (p. 16
Autistic people have built many niche communities from the ground up—both out of necessity and because our interests and modes of being are, well, weird.Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity (p. 218)
🌈 Cognitive Diversity Exists for a Reason
Human cognitive diversity exists for a reason; our differences are the genius – and the conscience – of our species.A Thousand Rivers
Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general.Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
“Great minds don’t always think alike.” We already understand the value of biodiversity in a rainforest.
To face the challenges of the future, we’ll need the problem-solving abilities of different types of minds working together.The Best Books on New Books on Autism | Five Books Expert Recommendations
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 a deficit of attention, which could be the case as seen from a certain perspective. On the other hand, a better, more invariantly consistent perspective is that Kinetics distribute their attention differently. New research seems to point out that KCS was present at least as far back as the days in which humans lived in hunter-gatherer societies. In a sense, being a Kinetic in the days that humans were nomads would have been a great advantage. As hunters they would have noticed any changes in their surroundings more easily, and they would have been more active and ready for the hunt. In modern society it is seen as a disorder, but this again is more of a value judgment than a scientific fact.Bias: From Normalization to Neurodiversity
If neurodivergence is essentially disablement, why do we keep replicating the gene pool? The less extensive, yet persistent, body of work indicating specialist strengths within neurodiversity, supports the hypothesis that the evolutionary purpose of divergence is ‘specialist thinking skills’ to balance ‘generalist’ thinking skills (as per the ‘spiky profile’). The evolutionary perspective is congruent with the Neurodiversity movement and essential to understanding the occupational talent management perspective that is currently in vogue.
The spiky profile may well emerge as the definitive expression of neurominority, within which there are symptom clusters that we currently call autism, ADHD, dyslexia and DCD.Neurodiversity at work: a biopsychosocial model and the impact on working adults | British Medical Bulletin | Oxford Academic
There is consensus regarding some neurodevelopmental conditions being classed as neurominorities, with a ‘spiky profile’ of executive functions difficulties juxtaposed against neurocognitive strengths as a defining characteristic.Neurodiversity at work: a biopsychosocial model and the impact on working adults
🤲 Social Buffering and Collaborative Morality
Are there alternative adaptive strategies to human pro-sociality? The role of collaborative morality in the emergence of personality variation and autistic traits
🤝 Interdependence and Collaboration
The combination of neurodiversity and the human capacities for collaboration and cultural transmission that defined the knowledge age enabled humans to thrive for many hundred thousand years in a diverse range of circumstances. Pre-civilised societies clearly appreciated the talents of autistic and otherwise neurodivergent people.The Beauty of Collaboration at Human Scale: Timeless patterns of human limitations
Autism is a crucially, vitally, urgently needed human variation—a powerful corrective and counterbalance to the hierarchical, dominance-based mentality currently driving human society and the planet off the rails.
Autistic/neurodiverse thinking and collaborating styles have a critically important role to play as an antidote to the currently dominant neurotypical social-ranking/dominance approach—a critically important role to play in bringing modern society back into some kind of sustainable balance, functionality, social justice, and sanity.
Autistic people are best understood as the agents of a well functioning cultural immune system within human society.
Autists are essential to the future of homo sapiens.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.The Beauty of Collaboration at Human Scale: Timeless patterns of human limitations