Inclusive Education

I’m a parent of two of neurodivergent kids in Dripping Springs ISD. I advocate neurodiversity, the social model of disability, universal design for learning, and inclusion as frameworks for the ethical and compassionate treatment of neurodivergent kids—and all kids.

This primer on neurodiversity and the social model defines terms and offers the self-advocacy perspective. Please invest a moment in getting in touch with the modern neurodiversity and disability movements. Understanding our point of view and listening to our feedback is vitally important to the future of education and work.

Education, Neurodiversity, the Social Model of Disability, and Real Life – Ryan Boren

For education to succeed, it must move from the medical and deficit models to the social model. Unfortunately, education in Texas is out of touch and inaccessible. We need vision beyond the deficit and medical models.

Inclusion > special

We need vision beyond grit and bootstraps.

Growth Mindset and Structural Ideology

The project-based learning DSISD is attempting is a positive step toward inclusive education. Teams are the magic of creative industries. Silicon Valley understands the value of teams, particularly diverse and inclusive teams. Companies employing creatives increasingly understand what education must now understand, inclusion is the new normal.

Inclusion is the new normal

Corporate Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion is a priority at my company, Automattic. We’re not the only ones. There is a rising international Diversity & Inclusion movement, starting in tech. Experimental micro-credential systems are working on Inclusion badges. As pipelines shift from the language of degrees to the language of skills and badges, an inclusion micro-credential will be valuable in industries that increasingly run on diverse, inclusive teams.

Agile and Scrum in Education

Contributor Covenants, Codes of Conduct

To be compatible with contributor covenants and codes of conduct that are a norm in creative communities, public education must be inclusive. The efforts of Texas Values against a transgender student at DSISD breaks the codes of collaboration. Their values are incompatible with neurodiversity, the social model of disability, and the codes of conduct that apply to much of corporate America.

In an era of massive software driven change, the culture of public education should be compatible with the norms of agile teams and distributed collaboration. Self-organizing teams working in open by default, inclusive by default cultures build great things. This is the present and future of work. What we’ve learned over decades of iterating development culture for adult creatives applies also to students.

Our market is the world. Our audience is the world. Designing for the lived experiences of the full spectrum of human diversity requires working inclusively.

Inclusion is the new normal. Inclusion is the way to our boldly better future. Diversity is a fact of the modern world that is good for society and good for business.

Inclusion is the new normal

Regards,

Ryan Boren

Dripping Springs, TX

About

DSISD Commons #8

In this one,

  • Dyslexia and shame
  • Open Education Pedagogy
  • Compliance culture and school to prison
  • The False Promise of Education
  • Special Education in Texas
  • These kids were bursting to tell someone
  • Created serendipity
  • Average social sensitivity and psychological safety in teams
  • Eye contact and neurodiversity
  • Connected Students and Explicit Instruction
  • Critical thinking
  • Coding, Education, and Teams
  • Writing in education in the age of collaboration

Dyslexia and shame

Most schools and reading programs designed for remediation of dyslexia are based on the idea that dyslexia equals brokenness. Their aim is to transform the child into a person who can read without problems. But I’m here to tell you that’s just wrongheaded. I’ve learned that if you make your primary goal teaching your child to read or spell just like every other child, you’re going to decrease your child’s chances of achieving success. It’s like telling a person in a wheelchair that she needs to put in more time to learn how to walk.

I am introducing these terms to address an underlying bias in our schools: that eye reading is the only form of reading. You can help move the needle on this limited assumption by using the terms eye reading, ear reading, and finger reading yourself and explaining them to your child. We need to celebrate children’s love of ideas and quest for knowledge and give them permission to not like standard books at the same time! When we give kids opportunities to gather information and explore ideas in other ways, they will thrive.

Focusing on eye reading overlooks the real goals of education, which are learning, independent thinking, and mastering the ability to make new connections in the world of ideas.

A central theme in this book is that we must question what we are taught is the “normal” way to do things, and instead integrate multiple ways for our children to access information.

Source: Foss, Ben (2013-08-27). The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning (Kindle Locations 387-389). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

For more, see Ben Foss on Dyslexia and Shame .

Open Education Pedagogy

Puyallup provides the following advice to other districts thinking about using OER and joining the #GoOpen movement:

1. Free is good, but open is better. The ability to remix and adapt is more important than just free access – it allows you to keep the focus on teachers, honors their professionalism and improves their practice.

2. Think carefully about your platform. If you truly want to share and be open, you need a method of delivery that is accessible to all.

3. OER allow us the opportunity to be 100% aligned to standards. You have to do the work up front to align the materials, or you will lose out on the power of OER to address core instructional needs.

4. Recruit teachers to be ambassadors of OER – their enthusiasm will help to sustain the work.

Source: Puyallup School District: Investment in Teachers – Office of Educational Technology

For an open platform that provides accessible delivery to all, see Communication is oxygen. Build a district wide collaboration infrastructure and an open by default culture.

Compliance culture and school to prison

A collection of links on compliance culture and pipelines.

The False Promise of Education

This piece is chock full of structural ideology and systems thinking. I worked it into my piece on Growth Mindset and Structural Ideology.

But education cannot guarantee opportunity — it’s government policy and economic practices that increase or decrease the likelihood of success. The centrist promise of education is a false promise. This doesn’t mean education cannot be a force of positive social change, just that in its current incarnation, US education discourse simply works to release those with influence from the responsibility of making a social system that supports working people.

This is the centrist’s promise about education: getting an education will save your life; education will be the difference between success and failure. If your house, which also serves as a private daycare, catches fire — and you’re a single mother and have to work twelve hours a day — school will provide a way out. If your company lays you off after thirty years of service, don’t worry, you can get an education and switch careers.

Millions of new workers will enter the job market in 2017, graduating from their “paths to opportunity.” Yet the path to opportunity might not end up anywhere in the face of sluggish to moderate job creation. The number of graduates doesn’t correlate with the number of available jobs. It’s like saying if we teach people how to play musical chairs well enough, everyone will get a seat.

Education’s real promise is that it is one site among many others in the struggle to transform the social structures that create inequality.

Schools don’t necessarily make a better society; they simply get people ready for the society that exists. Recognizing this doesn’t mean giving up on the radical potential of education or descending into a vulgar or mechanistic view of education.

Blending the lessons of the reproductive view and resistance theory provides a crucial, materialist reality check on the centrist view of school. We must fix the social structures which create inequality and poverty in the first place.

If you want most people to be successful in the economy, the economy itself has to work for most people. It won’t matter if most people work harder in school, or if we reform school ad inifinitum. Schools will largely reproduce the existing conditions of the economy, not serve as compensation for the economy’s faults.

But just because getting a job requires having a degree doesn’t mean that more and better schooling will cause there to be more available positions society-wide. To get a job, you have to have a degree. But you don’t have to get a job because you have a degree.

This causal sleight of hand is symptomatic of the centrist promise. Schooling will not cause economic equality in an unequal economy, but it will certify people to find positions within that unequal economy. It may successfully lead folks to positions within society, but it won’t necessarily lead them to social success.

These data show that wealth goes to the wealthy, not the educated. At the macro-level, there is no relationship between socioeconomic success and schooling.

If the centrist promise were true, then greater educational attainment for the broader US population should have coincided with more economic success for more people. If schools create real opportunities for socioeconomic success, there should have been decreasing income inequality as the general population became more educated.

This is clearly not the case.

Schooling cannot control the number or kind of jobs available in an economy.

They articulated a more critical position on education, arguing that public education is part of a broader process of social reproduction: schooling activities correspond to existing echelons of social hierarchy and opportunity, preparing students for positions within that hierarchy. Schooling does not lead to opportunity in the sense that it creates opportunity; it simply prepares students to exist (or not exist) within the opportunity structure that the government and economy create.

Source: The False Promise of Education | Jacobin

Special Education in Texas

Inaccessible, inhumane, and in need of inclusion, neurodiversity, and the social model.

These kids were bursting to tell someone

@sara_ann_marie presents Design for Real Life in 50 minutes. Included is an anecdote about how lowering communication barriers even a little can help kids.

Design for Real Life

Created serendipity

Collaborate and seek perspective in the commons.

Average social sensitivity and psychological safety in teams

This piece on iterating teams at Google offers interesting insight on social sensitivity and psychological safety. I pulled several quotes here. Here are a handful on teams and psychological safety.

In Silicon Valley, software engineers are encouraged to work together, in part because studies show that groups tend to innovate faster, see mistakes more quickly and find better solutions to problems. Studies also show that people working in teams tend to achieve better results and report higher job satisfaction. In a 2015 study, executives said that profitability increases when workers are persuaded to collaborate more. Within companies and conglomerates, as well as in government agencies and schools, teams are now the fundamental unit of organization. If a company wants to outstrip its competitors, it needs to influence not only how people work but also how they work together.

Google’s People Operations department has scrutinized everything from how frequently particular people eat together (the most productive employees tend to build larger networks by rotating dining companions) to which traits the best managers share (unsurprisingly, good communication and avoiding micromanaging is critical; more shocking, this was news to many Google managers).

Norms are the traditions, behavioral standards and unwritten rules that govern how we function when we gather: One team may come to a consensus that avoiding disagreement is more valuable than debate; another team might develop a culture that encourages vigorous arguments and spurns groupthink. Norms can be unspoken or openly acknowledged, but their influence is often profound. Team members may behave in certain ways as individuals — they may chafe against authority or prefer working independently — but when they gather, the group’s norms typically override individual proclivities and encourage deference to the team.

As the researchers studied the groups, however, they noticed two behaviors that all the good teams generally shared. First, on the good teams, members spoke in roughly the same proportion, a phenomenon the researchers referred to as ‘‘equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.’’ On some teams, everyone spoke during each task; on others, leadership shifted among teammates from assignment to assignment. But in each case, by the end of the day, everyone had spoken roughly the same amount. ‘‘As long as everyone got a chance to talk, the team did well,’’ Woolley said. ‘‘But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined.’’

Within psychology, researchers sometimes colloquially refer to traits like ‘‘conversational turn-taking’’ and ‘‘average social sensitivity’’ as aspects of what’s known as psychological safety — a group culture that the Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson defines as a ‘‘shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.’’

Psychological safety is ‘‘a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up,’’ Edmondson wrote in a study published in 1999. ‘‘It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.’’

What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘‘work face’’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel ‘‘psychologically safe,’’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy. We can’t be focused just on efficiency. Rather, when we start the morning by collaborating with a team of engineers and then send emails to our marketing colleagues and then jump on a conference call, we want to know that those people really hear us. We want to know that work is more than just labor.

Google, in other words, in its race to build the perfect team, has perhaps unintentionally demonstrated the usefulness of imperfection and done what Silicon Valley does best: figure out how to create psychological safety faster, better and in more productive ways.

‘Don’t underestimate the power of giving people a common platform and operating language.’

Source: What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team – The New York Times

I worked this into my piece on Agile and Scrum in Education.

Eye contact and neurodiversity

Don’t force eye contact. Gaze aversion is a sensory processing tool, one necessary to managing overwhelm.

Source: Eye Contact and Neurodiversity – hypubnemata

Connected Students and Explicit Instruction

“The new information economy, as opposed to the older industrial one, demands more innovation and less imitation, more creativity and less conformity.” In other words, this isn’t just about doing school “better.” It’s about transforming our work.

  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology.
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally.
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes.
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information.
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts.
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.

Regardless of how we define the skills needed by today’s global graduates, however, it’s undeniable that these needs will continue to morph as our ability to create and share expands and as we face increasingly complex global challenges—climate change, workforce shifts, changing demographics, the growing global threat of terrorism and violence, and more. That’s why, as the late Seymour Papert (1998) said,

The one really competitive skill is the skill of being able to learn …. We need to produce people who know how to act when they’re faced with situations for which they were not specifically prepared.

The bad news, however, is that new research suggests that traditional schooling may actually discourage these dispositions. For example, in one experiment described by Gopnick (2016), 4-year-olds were much less likely to find their own solutions to making a complicated toy work when the experimenter “taught” them (“I’m going to show you how my toy works”) than when the experimenter allowed them to observe her trial-and-error efforts and think about the problem (“Hmmm … I wonder how this toy works?”). As Gopnik writes,

Studies show that explicit instruction, the sort of teaching that goes with school and “parenting,” can be limiting. When children think they are being taught, they are much more likely to simply reproduce what the adult does, instead of creating something new.

The new reality is that our students will be required to build their own curriculums, find their own teachers, and assess themselves as learners and doers in an increasingly complex variety of contexts. That is the work of new global-ready learners. And preparing them for it is the work of the modern school.

Source: Educational Leadership:The Global-Ready Student:Getting Schools Ready for the World

Critical thinking

Overall, young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak.

Source: Evaluating Information: the Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning

 

Coding, Education, and Teams

Adapting, working in groups, are those, in the end, the two necessary elements required to work in the digital world in general?

In my profession, when you want to hire someone who knows how to code, you make them sit and code. You don’t ask them for their diploma. If they have a diploma, that’s great for them, but we don’t care about it. Coding is a job or a know-how in which a diploma has no importance. In the end, people have it, or they don’t. It may be the case in other fields, but in mine, a diploma is not something that permits you to objectively judge someone when it comes to a know-how. Plus, the fact that there’s no diploma takes away some of the stress for the students.

A diploma also means following rules. 42 is a school that’s open 24/7. At 3 a.m., you can still see between 300 and 400 students working there. So we’re used to a system in which a certain number of rules are necessary in order to get a diploma, but those aren’t compatible with our teaching methods.

We’re doing something that works quite well: We rely on cooperation. People talk a lot about Collaborative Economics nowadays. Well, here at 42, we chose Collaborative Education. What does it means? It means putting people together and making them learn together. The knowledge, you can acquire it from the internet. You can type anything into Google, and there’s your answer. So lessons are useless, you’ll find the best lectures in the world on the internet, if you want to learn. But we do not wish to make them learn stuff by heart, we want to teach them how to develop, work, and live together, to build projects together and to make them happen. That’s what we want to teach them.

Source: Xavier Niel explains 42: the coding university without teachers, books, or tuition | VentureBeat | Entrepreneur | by Arthur Scheuer, Ulyces.co

Writing in education in the age of collaboration

As a hacker and writer, I spend a lot of time in text editors. Almost everything I write starts in my favorite text editor. A text editor is my thinking space. My notes are not just a record of my thinking process, they are my thinking process. Iteration and ideation happen in my editor, in plain text.

In the age of distributed collaboration, we are constantly writing. Equip students with the writing tools and flow popular with hackers, writers, scientists, and screenwriters—plain text & Markdown. Let’s infect education with the love of plain text. It’s portable, flexible, ubiquitous, and humane.

Source: Writing in Education and Plain Text Flow – hypubnemata

Ben Foss on Dyslexia and Shame

Update: An updated version of this post is available on my main blog.

We should be measured by what we can do, not by what we can’t.

Shame cuts off connection and thrives on hiding.

Dyslexia is a particularly powerful form of shame, and it involves a lot of vulnerability.

Vulnerability can be defined as true courage.

Shame is a very lonely moment.

Reading disabilities often match in intensity the level of shame associated with incest.

Dyslexia is a perfect storm of shame.

  1. Arrives at the time you are first being evaluated
  2. Made harsher by lack of explanation. Fail without context.
  3. Reinforced by peers and institutions

“Retard” is a bullet sent at a child when it gets said.

Guilt is feeling bad about something you did, something you can fix. Shame is feeling bad about who you are.

I knew I was going to be on a bad list. There was going to be a good list, and I was going to be on the bad list, maybe alone.

I was proud because I changed the narrative.

Negative scripts: blame, contempt, comparison

The shame of special education.

Dyslexia is like a bad cellphone connection to the page.

Leadership is changing what people think is possible, or changing what they think is appropriate.

Source: Choose strength not shame: Ben Foss at TEDxSonomaCounty – YouTube

Dyslexia is not a disease, it is an identity. An identity is not something one cures; it is the basis of community and is an element of self you aim to understand and embrace. My hope is that you and your child will learn to own dyslexia, to understand it, and ideally, to celebrate it.

This book— and your mission as a parent— is about moving the model for your child from dyslexia as disease to dyslexia as identity, an identity we can all be proud of.

Most schools and reading programs designed for remediation of dyslexia are based on the idea that dyslexia equals brokenness. Their aim is to transform the child into a person who can read without problems. But I’m here to tell you that’s just wrongheaded. I’ve learned that if you make your primary goal teaching your child to read or spell just like every other child, you’re going to decrease your child’s chances of achieving success. It’s like telling a person in a wheelchair that she needs to put in more time to learn how to walk.

I am introducing these terms to address an underlying bias in our schools: that eye reading is the only form of reading. You can help move the needle on this limited assumption by using the terms eye reading, ear reading, and finger reading yourself and explaining them to your child. We need to celebrate children’s love of ideas and quest for knowledge and give them permission to not like standard books at the same time! When we give kids opportunities to gather information and explore ideas in other ways, they will thrive.

Focusing on eye reading overlooks the real goals of education, which are learning, independent thinking, and mastering the ability to make new connections in the world of ideas.

A central theme in this book is that we must question what we are taught is the “normal” way to do things, and instead integrate multiple ways for our children to access information.

If you are a dyslexic person or the parent of a dyslexic child, I recommend that you allow technology to become your new best friend.

The key to my happiness occurred when I stopped trying to change my brain, and started changing the context around me.

One dyslexic friend of mine described his shame as “slow-drip trauma.” He felt unworthy and “not normal” every day. As an adult, he was treated for post-traumatic stress syndrome that was caused by his experiences in school.

Ninety percent of my injuries happened when I was in school and before I was talking about my dyslexia publicly. Hiding who you are can translate into self-harm. When I talk with my peers in the dyslexia movement, a majority of them had a specific plan for suicide when they were teenagers. I regularly meet dyslexic kids who cut themselves or worse when they were young. I am fine today, but the hiding left scars, figurative and literal, for many of us.

My friend Steve Walker, a very successful dyslexic entrepreneur, tells me all the time that you could not pay him enough money to go back to any type of school setting. He even says that he would sooner kill himself than go back to school. Yet in the same breath he will also say that you could not give him enough money to take away his dyslexia, because it is a part of who he is. Many times when I was in school or taking a standardized test, I rejected an accommodation because I was embarrassed and ashamed: I did not want to stand out, or I was frustrated that it would take too much effort to get permission to have my exam read aloud to me.

The majority of teachers and administrators are well-intentioned and look for ways to help your child. However, they often miss the most important point, which is that the goal is not to fix your child— your child is not broken. The goal is, instead, to play to your child’s strengths, support his weaknesses, and give him access to information.

Dyslexia is a genetic, brain-based characteristic that results in difficulty connecting the sounds of spoken language to written words. It can result in errors in reading or spelling as well as in a number of areas not considered major life activities, such as determining right and left. Individuals who are dyslexic can be highly independent and intelligent. Dyslexia is also characterized by a set of strengths that typically come with this profile in one or more of the following areas: verbal, social, narrative, spatial, kinesthetic, visual, mathematical, or musical skills. Overall, it is characterized by an increased ability to perceive broad patterns and a reduced ability to perceive fine detail in systems.

In this definition, dyslexia is characterized as a “disorder,” as opposed to a characteristic. The word disorder suggests that something is “wrong” or that the person is broken. However, disability can be defined only in a particular context, which is to say if there was no such thing as written text, there would be no disability related to reading.

Often people discuss dyslexia in terms of it having been diagnosed, but that word reinforces the notion that dyslexia is a disease, a scourge, an imperfection, and that someday we can find a cure. As I said in the introduction, there will be no cure because there is no disease! Dyslexia is a characteristic, like being male or female, or from a certain state, or a graduate of a certain university. There’s nothing less than perfect inherent in any of those descriptions, is there? You can start changing this practice in your own house today, replacing the phrase “diagnosed with dyslexia” with “identified with dyslexia.”

Source: Foss, Ben (2013-08-27). The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

See also,

Eye Contact and Neurodiversity

Update: An updated version of this post is available on my main blog.

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.

Source: CHAMPS and the Compliance Classroom – Ryan Boren

Don’t force eye contact. Gaze aversion is a sensory processing tool–one necessary to managing overwhelm.

A challenge I am continually faced with as an autistic adult is the misinformed presumption and resulting behavior of neurotypical people when I do not look at them the in way they expect, want or demand of me. It is challenging because society has put the onus on me to change. Often it does not matter to others why I am different. They just want me to stop being different. Recently I was told directly, “If you want to be treated like a real person then act like one!”

Eye contact can be hard for autistics for a variety of reasons. When I was a youngster I received too much bright, bold, painful sensory information from making eye contact. To guard against the intense physical pain I did not engage in eye contact. If my teacher demanded eye contact I obediently did so, but at a price. I would float out of my body, hover up near the ceiling and look down, watching the little girl of me (Endow, 2013).

Donna Williams says, “Dissociation is the ability to cut off from what is happening around you or to you. In its simplest form it is daydreaming. It is a skill all children have and which children with autism tend to overdevelop in managing a world they find overwhelming for a whole range of reasons” (Williams, 2013).

My sensory system has changed over time and eye contact does not produce as much pain as it once did. When I am well regulated I can manage the moderate pain I do experience from eye contact in my day-to-day life. However, avoiding eye contact is something I automatically do to minimize the amount of incoming sensory information and thus cut down on pain. I have to remain on high alert so as to catch when I am automatically moving into this eye contact shut down mode or I will not even know when it is happening.

Yet, even when people know eye contact can be painful and that we will not pick up much social information, we are STILL expected to perform the feat for the social comfort of others. Each time we don’t perform the socially expected eye contact people assign negative character attributes to us such as shifty, sneaky, untruthful, disinterested and hiding something.

Imagine how you might feel if you were asked to stop looking at people – to cease all eye contact. Now imagine how much more difficult that would be if each time you did manage not to engage in eye contact you felt physical pain and the only way to relieve that pain was to look at the person even though you knew it would make others unhappy. This is often what we put autistics through when we insist they go against the way their brain does business by forcing them to use typical eye contact”  (Endow, 2013).

Source: Autism and Eye Contact by Judy Endow, MSW

Educators have been taught that it is essential to get individuals’ attention before beginning instruction and to recapture attention to task when peoples’ demeanors suggest that their attention is waning. To accomplish this task, teachers often first attempt to get attention by cuing “Look at me.” They also often assume that they have individuals’ attention when they “get eye contact” and that those who do not conform cannot be paying attention. Thus, when individuals who have autism seem to avoid looking into the eyes of teachers and others with whom they interact, the strategy that comes most naturally and is often pursued quite intently is the verbal cue “Look at me.” If an individual who has an autism spectrum disorder fails to respond within what is viewed as a reasonable length of time, the cue may be repeated more forcefully. If the person still fails to look as directed, misinterpretations of why the person isn’t “complying” may fuel futile power struggles that only frustrate everyone concerned and further thwart the abilities of individuals with autism to respond. Whether requesting eye contact is a wise approach to focusing attention depends both on the person who has autism and on circumstances surrounding the expectation.

Sometimes getting an individual to “make eye contact” becomes a high priority that falls under the rubric of “compliance and direction following” training. Individualized education programs often include objectives such as “will make eye contact when requested 80% of the time”. Some goals and objectives seem to be stated in context of assumptions that students with autism spectrum disorders have sufficient understanding of social conventions to make routine judgments about where, when, and with whom eye contact is appropriate and expected and/or that they are consistently able to spontaneously initiate and selectively maintain eye contact in social situations. As an example, consider an objective that states, “Will increase eye contact when in social situations with peers. Student will make eye contact X number of times every 10 minutes when involved in shared activities.” Folks who write and strive to achieve such goals and objectives may be as naive in their understanding and interacting with individuals who have autism as individuals with autism are naive at understanding and using social conventions. We need to re- examine assumptions that undergird choices among instructional/interactive strategies, to define purposes that we hope to accomplish, and to candidly assess whether hoped-for outcomes are being met. While attempting to maximize adaptive behaviors on the part of individuals who have autism spectrum disorders, we too must adapt when observed responses clearly indicate that our purposes are not being achieved.

“If you insist that I make eye contact with you, when I’m finished I’ll be able to tell you how many millimeters your pupils changed while I looked into your eyes.”

In addition to difficulties with attending to and interpreting information that is embedded in social context, some have great difficulty with attending to and coordinating two sources of sensory input at once. For example, astute teachers often observe that a student with autism “looks out the window all the time, just doesn’t appear to be paying attention at all, but then can tell me everything I said.” It appears likely that the described student has difficulty with coordinating listening and looking behaviors and, perhaps, with receiving and processing information coming in from multiple sensory channels. Insisting that he make eye contact might well render him unable to take in and store auditory input. Or… he may be able to coordinate looking and listening in some situations but not in others. Educators who are relatively unfamiliar with autism are often understandably perplexed by inconsistencies evident in an individual’s response patterns. There appears to be a natural inclination to assert that, “if he could do it in that situation, I know he can do it in the other…”.

Source: Should We Insist on Eye Contact with People who have Autism Spectrum Disorders

We may not look the interviewer in the eye, especially when it’s our turn to talk.  We may look at the conference table surface, the floor, or the framed art just above your head on the wall behind you.  Please don’t take that the wrong way.  As mentioned, we’re (often extremely) engaged and enthusiastic.  Focusing on someone’s eyes may feel like staring (either we’re doing the staring or someone is staring at us, either of which is uncomfortable), which can interfere with our ability to concentrate.  Focusing on something other than someone’s eyes allows us to concentrate again.  For me, it’s akin to “taking the pressure off”.  Again, it’s nothing personal, nothing specific to the interviewer themselves.

A popular and stubborn misconception says that this indicates dishonesty, lying, or otherwise hiding something.  This is absolutely not true.  Over 40 years of research has completely debunked this myth.  It’s also nothing personal against the interviewer (or to whomever else with whom we’re talking); we’re not trying to avoid the person or express disinterest, dislike, or any other negative emotion.  It’s simply a matter of discomfort, and this generally applies widely; for those of us who are more uncomfortable making eye contact, we will generally experience this discomfort with almost everyone, maybe except for a few very close family members or friends (if that!).  Therefore, please don’t take it as a personal affront, sign of disrespect, sign of disinterest, or “evidence” of dishonesty.

Source: Dear employers ~ How to work with employees “with” Asperger’s / #autism ~ Part 3: Thoughts on Interviewing, Hiring, and Promotion – the silent wave

For instance, a big focus of Evie’s therapy was “making eye contact.”  I couldn’t understand why this was so important.  Finally, I said, “I really don’t care if Evie makes eye contact.  I want to find a way for her to communicate what she needs.”

Who does eye contact REALLY help?  Does it help Evie when it seems aversive to her?  Or does it help other people feel more comfortable with Evie?

Source: the cost of compliance is unreasonable | love explosions

Looking away from an interlocutor’s face during demanding cognitive activity can help adults answer challenging arithmetic and verbal-reasoning questions (Glenberg, Schroeder, & Robertson, 1998). However, such ‘gaze aversion’ (GA) is poorly applied by 5-year-old school children (Doherty-Sneddon, Bruce, Bonner, Longbotham, & Doyle, 2002). In Experiment 1 we trained ten 5-year-old children to use GA while thinking about answers to questions. This trained group performed significantly better on challenging questions compared with 10 controls given no GA training. In Experiment 2 we found significant and monotonic age-related increments in spontaneous use of GA across three cohorts of ten 5-year-old school children (mean ages: 5;02, 5;06 and 5;08). Teaching and encouraging GA during challenging cognitive activity promises to be invaluable in promoting learning, particularly during early primary years.

Source: Helping children think: Gaze aversion and teaching – Phelps – 2006 – British Journal of Developmental Psychology – Wiley Online Library

The global view about liars is that they look away from you (avert their gaze) when they are lying. This is a false belief, which can be backed up with 40 years of research. What you will often find is that liar’s will often consciously engage in greater eye contact, because it is commonly (but mistakenly) believed that direct eye contact is a sign of truthfulness.

For these reasons, no relationship exists between eye gaze and deception.

Source: Guide To Detecting Deceit and Evaluating Honesty

Inclusion > special

Hello DSISD special education,

I’m an autistic hacker and writer. My neurodivergent kids are in DSISD. You may have seen me on Twitter talking about the social model in the #IamDSISD hashtag. Today I did a big update on my neurodiversity and social model primer. If you’ve seen it before, check it out again.

Education, Neurodiversity, the Social Model of Disability, and Real Life

Education is dominated by the deficit and medical models. There is little vision beyond them. The swelling neurodiversity and disability movements are changing our framing from the deficit and medical models to that of inclusion and the social model. There is a new narrative on cognition and ability, one that needs to be heard and understood in DSISD. Inclusion is the new normalInclusion is the way to our boldly better future. Diversity is a fact of the modern world.

We can better understand students and check our ableism by connecting with neurodivergent communities online. Get on Twitter. Twitter is where the perspectives and intersections are. Disability and neurodiversity are the most intersectional identities. Special education teachers must be in the digital commons improving their heuristics and getting in touch with the modern neurodiversity and disability movements. Seek, for example, the #ActuallyAutistic perspective. These self advocates are the real experts on autism.

There are five books I wish every educator, therapist, doctor, and coach with relationships with my kids would read. Autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia are amongst the diverse operating systems in our family. Also in our family are scientists, mathematicians, engineers, writers, business developers, and technologists. Our neurodivergence is an asset, if we can endure our ableist systems and culture of compliance.

That’s a tall order of reading, of course, which is why I made the primer. Read the primer, follow its many links, and check out which books of these you can.

I write often on education, neurodiversity, and disability. Here are some of my recent pieces.

I also post weekly-ish updates on topics I’ve discussed in the DSISD commons and in chats with DSISD educators and parents.

Regards,

Ryan Boren

DSISD Growth Mindset

DSISD growth mindset messaging sounds much like the same old deficit, grit, bootstrap narrative. It seems unaware of the last couple years of growth mindset, structural ideology, and restorative practices discussion. The Twitter messaging is the same word image amplification seen at other districts coming late to the growth mindset fad. Those coming late don’t seem to have picked up the lessons of the early adopters. Carol Dweck explains some of those lessons in her Revisit. I see some of the problems she mentions in the DSES messaging.

Here’s my primer on structural ideology. It’s where we’re going with the Design for Real Life and Universal Design efforts. Structural problems must be acknowledged in order to design for and educate humanity in its diversity. We’re bringing the social model into design, work, and our real lives. Progressive educators championing universal design for learning, inclusion, restorative practices, and 1:1 tech are doing the same for education.

Neurodiversity is the social model for minds. Let’s unite behind neurodiversity and the social model of disability. Let’s acknowledge our unique operating systems, our unique bodies, and our unique abilities. From compliance culture and the deficit model we must escape. We can do so through continuous learning and iteration. Seek perspective in the intersections.

Free, life-changing, and available to everyone. Everyone. That is the promise of public education. Design education for real life.

Progressive educators

Progressive educators informed by structural ideology, restorative practices, inclusion, neurodiversity, and the social model of disability.