☀️💪 Offline: Fresh Air, Daylight, and Large Muscle Movement

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A Black non-binary hiker stands on a wooden deck with their cane, looking out into the surrounding forest. They have a shaved head and wear glasses, a peplum shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes.
A Black non-binary hiker stands on a wooden deck with their cane, looking out into the surrounding forest. They have a shaved head and wear glasses, a peplum shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes.

Credit: Disabled And Here
Home » 🌳 Space 🚀 » ☀️💪 Offline: Fresh Air, Daylight, and Large Muscle Movement

Give your kids the gift of daylight.

In order to maintain healthy attention kids need three things that are often in short supply in schools — fresh air, large muscle movement, and daylight. One of the easiest to fix, in many schools, is daylight.

How Will You Redesign Your School Over The Next Six Months?

Offline,our learners enjoy fresh air, daylight, large muscle movement, and the freedom to stim and play.

A Black non-binary hiker stands on a wooden deck with their cane, looking out into the surrounding forest. They have a shaved head and wear glasses, a peplum shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes.

Immediate Contact with the Outdoors

We move in freedom and enjoy immediate contact with the outdoors in any weather.

Soft silky leaves of "Cowboy Toilet Paper" covered in dew

A Connection to Place

When people have a storied relationship with a place, when they know its history and understand the flora and fauna that call it home, they care.

Two children having an adventure, climbing and stepping in a river exploring a beautiful natural area.

Play

There is nothing more human than play. 

Humans were designed to learn in play. In fact, nearly all mammals evolved this way.

Stimming

While stimming, we are able to unravel the everyday ordinary barrage of sensory and social information that becomes overwhelming.

Neuroception and Sensory Load

Neurodivergent people have heightened neuroception and different bio-social responses to stimulus.

It’s Not Rocket Science

Just listen. It’s not rocket science, just listen. Ensure there is quiet space and outdoor space that people can access at any time.

🌳 Immediate Contact with the Outdoors

A disabled Black non-binary hiker sits and reaches into a bag of grapes and carrots. They are holding trekking poles and resting on a wooden bench surrounded by forestry. The hiker has a shaved head and wears glasses, a peplum shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes.

Credit: Disabled And Here

William Alcott – and we’re talking early 1830s and he was, more or less, creating schools from almost nothing – talked about how the garden was essential, how a collection of distracting wonders was essential, how a covered porch – allowing learning to stay outdoors in any weather – was essential.

Imagine contemporary learning spaces that challenge every convention of the places we built as schools in the twentieth century. Imagine gathering spaces that encourage young people to work and play together in natural learning communities supported by teachers who create pathways that guide them towards adulthood. Imagine a merger of transparent natural and built environments that allow learners the delight of multisensory inputs through access to natural light, fresh air, and green space. Imagine a continuum of flexible spaces designed to create an atmosphere of choice and comfort as students pursue their interests and passions through transdisciplinary learning that fosters collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication.

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

school should go further than providing space, light, and air: “It should be a place where the child can feel that he belongs, where he can move in freedom, and where he can enjoy immediate contact with the outdoors.

The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids

Children must be challenged educationally, however the wisdom emanating from the building itself is explicit: children deserve and flourish in an atmosphere of love, community, mutual respect, beauty and a connectivity to nature.

The school building as third teacher
Humanoid figure with green hued skin wrapped in vines
Meditating with Trees by Heike Blakley
A covered, wrap around porch with ceiling fans

A covered porch – allowing learning to stay outdoors in any weather – was essential.

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

⛰ A Connection to Place

When children have a storied relationship with a place, when they know its history and understand the flora and fauna that call it home, they care.

Take It Outside. Exploring Place-Based Learning and Risk | by Abe Moore | Medium

According to Barry Lopez, a framework for developing a lasting connection to place should go beyond function or beauty. Lopez posits three qualities are required, paying intimate attention, creating a storied relationship rather than a purely sensory awareness, and engaging in reciprocal ethical unity.

Take It Outside. Exploring Place-Based Learning and Risk | by Abe Moore | Medium

Onondaga Chief and Faithkeeper Oren Lyons discusses the increasingly urgent issues of global warming and climate change and points to Indigenous peoples, their core values, and their reciprocal relationships to the natural world as sources of instruction for human beings to heed in order to combat those issues.

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

For Aboriginal peoples, country is much more than a place. Rock, tree, river, hill, animal, human — all were formed of the same substance by the Ancestors who continue to live in land, water, sky. Country is filled with relations speaking language and following Law, no matter whether the shape of that relation is human, rock, crow, wattle. Country is loved, needed, and cared for, and country loves, needs, and cares for her peoples in turn. Country is family, culture, identity. Country is self.

Seeing the Light: Aboriginal Law, Learning and Sustainable Living in Country.
Msit No'kmaq
For all the life
The trees
The air
This is how we end our prayer
Way ha
Way ha hey ho

Msit No’kmaq by Morgan Toney

Msit No’kmaq means “All My Relations” in Mi’kmaq.
Msit No’kmaq aims to support people in reconnecting with themselves, each other, the land, waters, and all beings…

Our Story — Msit no’kmaq

Oftentimes, we hear the phrase that our ancestors are watching over us, but my father always told me that our animal and plant relatives are also watching over us. He always told me that as long as we protect nature, nature will protect us.

Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science

Taking care of nature, and nature taking care of us in return, is the greatest teaching my father has taught me. Indeed, nature protects us as long as we protect nature. This is something Western science has failed to understand or explain. Settler colonialism introduced ideologies and beliefs that nature is meant to provide us resources, to meet our needs, without requiring us to protect it as well. Nature has been described as an infinite sink, and this is what has led to overfishing, overharvesting, and essentially environmental degradation. Environmental degradation is the destruction that continues to occur in our environments. It is why our environment continues to face severe droughts, wildfires, and other natural disasters and our ecosystems continue to decline.

As long as we continue to remove ourselves from nature, nature will not be able to protect us from environmental impacts.

Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science

It is important to reemphasize that Indigenous knowledge and teachings are described as place based. This means that every Indigenous tribe, pueblo, or community has their own unique ways of thinking and managing their landscapes. Place based for Indigenous peoples goes more in depth than just an enclosed natural place. It broadens to the landscape, and this more holistic lens is embedded among Indigenous knowledge systems.

Everything is interconnected, even during our environmental and climate justice movements. We do not just advocate for our rights and natural resources, as it should be if we were applying this systems thinking into our ways of knowing. We also advocate for language, gender, spirituality, and everything else that is integral to our identity as Indigenous peoples. Everything is interconnected ultimately to our environment through our cultural values and ways of knowing.

Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science

In the times we find ourselves in, with the crashing of ecosystems, dying out of fish and trees, change and destabilization of climate, our relationship to place and to relatives—whether they have fins or roots—merits reconsideration.

Indigenous peoples are place-based societies, and at the center of those places are the most sacred of our sites, where we reaffirm our relationships.

Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth

You’re either gonna change your values, or you’re not gonna survive.

Chief Oren Lyons

🛝 Play

Two children having an adventure, climbing and stepping in a river exploring a beautiful natural area.
Two children having an adventure, climbing and stepping in a river exploring a beautiful natural area.

There is nothing more human than play. 

Humans were designed to learn in play. In fact, nearly all mammals evolved this way.

Play’s Power

Children have evolved to learn mainly through thousands of hours of play. Play is a developmental powerhouse in a way no lesson plan or curriculum could be. 

The more we learn about the brain and body the more clear this has become. When we play and use our bodies we form connections between our neurons that can serve us for a lifetime. Play forms the basis of our social and emotional well-being. It teaches us to take risks and be okay with failure. It builds our abilities as problem solvers. And possibly most important this generation’s children, it bolsters their creativity and ability to generate novel ideas.  

Play’s Power

“There’s a lot of things that kids built,” he explains, looking around at the playground. “It’s not adults doing work; it’s kids doing work!”

Children need an environment with “the opportunity to engage in open, free play where they’re allowed to self-organize,” he adds. “It’s really a central part of being human and developing into competent adulthood.”

Play Hard, Live Free: Where Wild Play Still Rules : NPR Ed : NPR

The research is clear, but truth be told I feel no need to justify allowing my students to play. Simply the fact that they so clearly want to play is sufficient for me. The joy it brings is more than enough.

We have only one childhood. When what should be a play-filled period of life is gone, it is indeed ‘lost’. And that’s the loss I am worried about.

So when we talk about restoring humanity in education, I can’t think of a better place to start than in play, especially with our youngest learners.

Play’s Power

👋 Stimming

while stimming I am able to unravel the everyday ordinary barrage of sensory and social information that becomes overwhelming.

The Predictability, Pattern and Routine of Stimming | Judy Endow

Most of us stim because it calms us and helps alleviate our high levels of anxiety.

Siena Castellon

I can’t picture things in my head sitting still. I like to walk around and think.

Autistic Student


Sometimes I need a mind/body break. I need to be alone, I need to be in my head, and I need to stim. I stim by flapping my arms and clapping my hands while pacing. Stimming is a necessary part of sensory regulation. Stimming helps keep me below meltdown threshold. “Stimming is a natural behavior that can improve emotional regulation and prevent meltdowns in stressful situations.” “Let them stim! Some parents want help extinguishing their child’s self-stimulatory behaviors, whether it’s hand-flapping, toe-walking, or any number of other “stimmy” things autistic kids do. Most of this concern comes from a fear of social stigma. Self-stimulatory behaviors, however, are soothing, relaxing, and even joy-inducing. They help kids cope during times of stress or uncertainty. You can help your kids by encouraging parents to understand what these behaviors are and how they help.

Please proceed with what you are doing when I take a sensory break. I will observe from the edges and rejoin you when I am able.

We’re Autistic. Here’s what We’d like you to know.

We have five external senses and three internal senses. All must be processed at the same time and therefore add to the ‘sensory load’.

Understanding the sensing and perceptual world of autistic people is central to understanding autism.

Autism is viewed as a sensory processing difference. Information from all of the senses can become overwhelming and can take more time to process. This can cause meltdown or shutdown.

“IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE” – NDTI
Stimming. What’s That?

Stims are anything which is repetitive, stimulatory, and soothing and comforting

🧠 Neuroception and Sensory Load

Hyper-plasticity predisposes us to have strong associative reactions to trauma. Our threat-response learning system is turned to high alert. The flip side of this hyper-plasticity is that we also adapt quickly to environments that are truly safe for our nervous system.

The stereotypes of meltdowns and self-harm in autism come from the fact that we frequently have stress responses to things that others do not perceive as distressing. Because our unique safety needs are not widely understood, growing up with extensive trauma has become our default.

Because of our different bio-social responses to stimulus, autistic people have significant barriers to accessing safety.

Discovering a Trauma-Informed Positive Autistic Identity

Part of our neuroception is genetic. Neurodivergent people have heightened neuroception from birth or before birth.

Danger cues that are very painful to a neurodivergent person may be neutral or pleasant to someone else.

How to Use the Polyvagal Ladder. A set of graphics

Neurodivergent people are hypersensitive to mindset and environment due to a greater number of neuronal connections. They have both a higher risk for trauma and a large capacity for sensing safety.

Neuroception and the 3 Part Brain

Psychological safety is increasingly recognised as central to mental health & wellbeing. The polyvagal theory offers a ‘Science of Safety’ which can help inform clinical practice to promote wellbeing, resilience & post-traumatic growth, whilst mitigating trauma.

Developing a standardised measure of psychological safety.

To have my needs met as an autistic person would have transformed my experience in hospital. The sensory input added to my emotional dysregulation. I couldn’t engage with all the therapy on offer because of the added distress. Small changes would have made a big difference.

Emily

Image credit: Sam Chown-Ahern

If someone is autistic, they should get a sensory assessment. It was so important for me to understand myself and how I regulate.

Charli

Image credit: Sam Chown-Ahern

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.

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

The picture shows a school classroom as I see it, as an autistic person.  A kaleidoscope of shape and blinding lighting, with vague outlines which are probably other students.  Deafening noise.  The stench of different smells.  The confusion of many voices, including some heard through walls from neighbouring halls and classes.  School uniform that feels like barbed wire on my skin.

In the chaos, a different voice which I have to try to listen to.  It’s so hard.  My brain doesn’t want to tune the rest of the noise out.  Apparently I’ve been asked something, but I miss it.  The voice gets more strident, the class turns to look at me.  The intense stares overwhelm me.  The person next to me jostles me and it feels like an electric shock on my skin.  Only six more hours of hell to go…. only six….

Some of our autistic pupils simply cannot do this alone, without ‘time out’ to recover from the pain and exhaustion during the school day.  Not for hour after hour of puzzling painful chaos.

We’ve turned classrooms into a hell for autism. Autistic children mostly could cope in the quieter schools of decades ago.  Not a hope now.

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

What  schools need to do is to understand autism.  In understanding it, we can help to stop putting the children in pain and exhaustion.  It’s actually quite easy.  And quite cheap.

Make sure your school is getting really good autism training, from autistic experts and our allies.

Notice I said ‘autistic experts”…  People who can detect what’s happening in that environment, using similar sensory systems to the pupil.  People who can explain autistic language and culture.  Yes, there is a different autistic language, a different autistic culture.  In the same way as it’s important to respect the culture of children from different ethnicities, it’s important to know about, and respect, autistic culture and communication style also.

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

This scene is quite similar to how I experience an autism sensory overload. When sounds, lights, clothing or social interaction can become painful to me. When it goes on long enough it can create what is called a meltdown or activation of the “fight-flight-freeze-tend-befriend” (formerly known as “fight or flight”) response and activation of the HPA axis; a “there is a threat in the environment” adrenaline-cortisol surge.

This makes seemingly benign noises a threat to my well-being and quite possibly real physical danger to my physiology. Benign noises become painful, and if left unchecked, enough to trigger a system reaction reserved for severe dangers. This is what days can become like on a regular basis for myself and many on the spectrum.

“Let me stick a hot poker in your hand, ok? Now I want you to remain calm.”

That is the real rub of the experience of sensory meltdowns.

Autistic Traits and Experiences in “Love and Mercy” The Brian Wilson Story – The Peripheral Minds of Autism

Needless to say, the dining hall, as well as being busy, crowded and a source of multiple odours, was also very noisy, as trays were picked up and clattered back down, cutlery jangled, and metal serving dishes clanged against metal hot plates. Meanwhile, the children, squeezed into rows of tiny seats bolted on to collapsible dining tables, grew louder and louder to make themselves heard over the racket. Indeed, the lunch queue alone can be the place where sensory problems ‘can turn into a nightmare’ (Sainsbury 2009, p.99). Perhaps unsurprisingly, therefore, all of the child contributors to this book – Grace, James, Rose and Zack – identified noise and crowds as being the most difficult aspects of school from a sensory point of view.

Indeed, the school environment can present autistic children with a multi-sensory onslaught in terms of sounds, smells, textures and visual impacts that constitutes both a distraction and a source of discomfort (Ashburner, Ziviani and Rodger 2008; Caldwell 2008). There was also clear evidence from my own study that sensory issues, and noise in particular, can be highly exclusionary factors for autistic children in schools.

Inclusive Education for Autistic Children: Helping Children and Young People to Learn and Flourish in the Classroom

🚀 It’s Not Rocket Science; Just Listen

Ensure there is quiet space and outdoor space that people can access at any time.

It’s Not Rocket Science: Considering and meeting the sensory needs of autistic children and young people

This is a list of useful research papers and Commissioned documents that have changed how we think about autistic people, and how we respond to their distress and their brain events.

Useful New Autism Info for Care Settings

Autism. Nearly 80 years on from the original misunderstandings in the 1940s.  So, what’s changed, in research?  Almost everything.

Autism: Some Vital Research Links

Just listen. It’s not rocket science, just listen.

Daisy

The number of autistic young people who stop attending mainstream schools appears to be rising.

My research suggests these absent pupils are not rejecting learning but rejecting a setting that makes it impossible for them to learn.

We need to change the circumstances.

Walk in My Shoes – The Donaldson Trust

Outside space. Many people find being outside and in natural very calming. Space to move away from other people, internal noises and distractions can be a good way to self-regulate. 

“I think things that are useful for autistic people would be beneficial for everyone. It would have stopped a lot of distress for a lot of people if they can take themselves away and calm down.”
Emily 

A sensory room or de-stress room. Easy access to a quiet space to de-stress can be an enormously helpful tool for people to be able to self-manage. Ideally, this room will be away from areas where there is heavy footfall or other outside noise. Many people find neutral spaces beneficial, with the option of lights and other sensory stimulus. 

“I think you should just be able to walk into the sensory room instead of asking staff and waiting for them to unlock it.”
Jamie 

It’s Not Rocket Science: Considering and meeting the sensory needs of autistic children and young people
Forest scene profuse with pink leaves
Heike Blakley

⏭ Continue on Page 4

The story continues on page 4, “⛺️🔥 Cavendish Space: Caves, Campfires, and Watering Holes for Dandelions, Tulips, and Orchids”.

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