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

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

We assembled this as a quick introduction for those interacting and working with our neurodivergent, social model family.

Hello teacher, principal, professor, coach, tutor, therapist, psychologist, nurse, doctor,

I’m autistic. You probably believe some wrong things about me. Myths, misconceptions, and misguided awareness campaignsoverwhelm and erase the actual lived experiences of autistic people. Here is what I’d like you to know about me, autism, and my needs.

Autism and Me

Videos

For an introduction to autism and a taste of sensory overwhelm, check out these videos:

For a deeper dive, the entirety of the Ask an Autistic series is great:

“Empathy is not an autistic problem, it’s a human problem, it’s a deficit in imagination.” We can’t truly step into another neurotype, but we can seek story and perspective. These videos offer a taste what it is like to endure the daily gauntlet of neurotypical questioning. To not respond to questions is to be called rude. To not respond will get you publicly color-coded as an orange or red and denied perks that the compliant NT kids get. To not exchange this disposable social styrofoam is to be a problem. Make it stopEmpathize with what it is like to navigate these interactions while dealing with the sensory overwhelm of raucous environments not designed for you.

Advice to Teachers and Parents of Neurodivergent Kids

Our family follows and recommends this advice:

  • Be patient. Autistic children are just as sensitive to frustration and disappointment in those around them as non-autistic children, and just like other children, if that frustration and disappointment is coming from caregivers, it’s soul-crushing.
  • Presume competence. Begin any new learning adventure from a point of aspiration rather than deficit. Children know when you don’t believe in them and it affects their progress. Instead, assume they’re capable; they’ll usually surprise you. If you’re concerned, start small and build toward a goal.
  • Meet them at their level. Try to adapt to the issues they’re struggling with, as well as their strengths and special interests. When possible, avoid a one-size-fits all approach to curriculum and activities.
  • Treat challenges as opportunities. Each issue – whether it’s related to impulse control, a learning challenge, or a problem behavior – represents an opportunity for growth and accomplishment. Moreover, when you overcome one issue, you’re building infrastructure to overcome others.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. For many parents, school can be a black box. Send home quick notes about the day’s events. Ask to hear what’s happening at home. Establish communication with people outside the classroom, including at-home therapists, grandparents, babysitters, etc. Encourage parents to come in to observe the classroom. In short, create a continuous feedback loop so all members of the caregiver team are sharing ideas and insights, and reinforcing tactics and strategies.
  • Seek inclusion. This one’s a two-way street: not only do autistic children benefit from exposure to their non-autistic peers, those peers will get an invaluable life lesson in acceptance and neurodiversity. The point is to expose our kids to the world, and to expose the world to our kids.
  • Embrace the obsession. Look for ways to turn an otherwise obsessive interest into a bridge mechanism, a way to connect with your students. Rather than constantly trying to redirect, find ways to incorporate and generalize interests into classroom activities and lessons.
  • Create a calm oasis. Anxiety, sensory overload and focus issues affect many kids (and adults!), but are particularly pronounced in autistic children. By looking for ways to reduce noise, visual clutter and other distracting stimuli, your kids will be less anxious and better able to focus.
  • 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.
  • Encourage play and creativity. Autistic children benefit from imaginative play and creative exercises just like their non-autistic peers, misconceptions aside. I shudder when I think about the schools who focus only on deficits and trying to “fix” our kids without letting them have the fun they so richly deserve. Imaginative play is a social skill, and the kids love it.

Source: A parent’s advice to a teacher of autistic kids

  • 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.
  • Instead of school – we unschool and can follow our interests, dive deep in to passions, move our bodies, and control our environment

Source: Respectfully Connected | #HowWeDo Respectful Parenting and Support

Rules of Thumb for Inclusive Learning

The following heuristics bring together ideas from neurodiversitythe social model of disability, student-directed learning, passion-based learning, progressive education reform, social justice education reform, critical pedagogy, critical instruction design, restorative practices, hacker ethosjust culture, and distributed work. Use them when building inclusive spaces and culture.

For more on these rules of thumb, see Rules of Thumb for Human Systems.

Neurodiversity, the Social Model of Disability, Diversity, and Inclusion

Our family often writes on neurodiversity, the social model of disability, and education as well as diversity and inclusion.

Ryan Boren

We assembled this as a quick introduction for those interacting and working with our neurodivergent, social model family.

Hello teacher, principal, professor, coach, tutor, therapist, psychologist, nurse, doctor,

I’m autistic. You probably believe some wrong things about me. Myths, misconceptions, and misguided awareness campaigns overwhelm and erase the actual lived experiences of autistic people. Here is what I’d like you to know about me, autism, and my needs.

Autism and Me

  • I have difficulty responding to greetings and compliments. I am not rude; it’s just hard. Please afford me space and understanding, and recognize that that sociality has many ways of expression.
  • Auditory processing and time perception differences mean I often need extra processing time during social and learning interactions. Be patient, and don’t get frustrated or insulted if I can’t respond.
  • Sensory overwhelm is a marquee feature of my life. Autistic perception can be a high fidelity flood…

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