Space

Stimpunks Space offers community and space for passion-based, human-centered learning with purpose. Our learners collaborate on distributed, multi-age, cross-disciplinary teams with a neurodiverse array of creatives doing work that impacts community. Via equity, access, empathy, and inclusivity, we create anti-ableist space compatible with neurodiversity, the social model of disability, and all types of bodyminds. We create space for the neurodivergent and disabled people most ill-served by “empty pedagogy, behaviorism, and the rejection of equity“.

Coming 2022.

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

A Guide to Human Centric Education
boy taking a photo using camera

Passion-Based” puts kids and their interests at the center and changes “teachers” into “educators” who are resourcers, advisors, and supporters.

When we reach Passion-Based Learning we are adding content to context, taking the natural curiosity and interests of kids and making education conform to those individual dreams.

Real Maker
close up photo of mushrooms

When learning is allowed to be project, problem, and passion driven, then children learn because of their terroir, not disengage in spite of it. When we recognize biodiversity in our schools as healthy, then we increase the likelihood that our ecosystems will thrive.

To be contributors to educating children to live in a world that is increasingly challenging to negotiate, schools must be ​conceptualized as ecological communities, spaces for learning with the potential to embody all of the concepts of the ecosystem – interactivity, biodiversity, connections, adaptability, succession, and balance. 

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

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

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

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

We provide inclusive community and space for neurodiverse, multi-age collaboration online and offline.

🌎 Online: Bringing Safety to the Serendipity

How do we help our students navigate the world of public, digital scholarship in a world increasingly dominated by harassment, abuse, disinformation, and polarization?

That’s the piece that’s been missing, bringing the safety to the serendipity.

Closing Tabs, Episode 3: Teaching with(out) Social Media – UMW Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies

Online, we bring safety to the serendipity with our distributed community and communication stack. Chance favors the connected mind. Our learners connect using 1:1 laptops and indie ed-tech. We give our learners real laptops with real capabilities, and we fill those laptops with assistive tech and tools of the trades.

Created Serendipity

Chance Favors the Connected Mind

Writing Online

A Social Equalizer and a Path to Power

Indie Ed-Tech

Rewire and Reshape the World

🕸 Created Serendipity: Chance Favors the Connected Mind

close up photography of yellow green red and brown plastic cones on white lined surface

Chance favors the connected mind. Opportunities for serendipity increase with bigger, more diverse networks. Build personal learning networks. Expose yourself to new perspectives. Listen in solidarityBe in the space. When we seek perspectives different than our own,  share hunches, and connect ideas, we participate in created serendipity.

Created Serendipity: Chance Favors the Connected Mind

You, each of you, have some special wild cards. Play with them. Find out what makes you different and better. Because it is there, if only you can find it. And once you do, you’ll be able to contribute answers to others and others will be willing to contribute back to you. In short, synthetic serendipity doesn’t just happen. By golly, you must create it.

Synthetic Serendipity – IEEE Spectrum and Vinge, Vernor (2007-04-03). Rainbows End (p. 52). Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition.

if we don’t support young people in building out a strategically rich graph, they will reinforce the worst segments of our society

🎧 “Seeing New Worlds” danah boyd (Team Human) | Read Write Collect

⌨️ Writing Online: A Social Equalizer and a Path to Community and Power

black and red typewriter

Writing is too important because, though forms and structures will differ, writing is the path to power for those born without power. This importance lies not in how to write a “five‐paragraph essay” or a “compare and contrast” book review but in the capability to clearly communicate visions both personal and collaborative. Whether the work is a tweet that generates action when that is needed, or a text message to an employer, or the ability to convince others in the political realm, or the expression of one’s identity in a form that evokes empathy in those without similar experience, “communicating” “well” is a social leveler of supreme importance.

 Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools.
two pens beside macbook

Ultimately, we argue that a workflow-focused approach to writing offers a pathway to agency, creativity, and confidence with computing-a spirit that is very much in line with the lineage of digital and multimodal work in composition studies.

Writing Workflows | Introduction

Text and reading have never been as pervasive and central as today. We live in a stream of digital revolutions pushing reading at the centre of our lives and activities. The result is the emergence of a new role for text as the all-purpose interface. This trend leads to a future made of text, where everything is mediated by text and in which everybody is directly and indirectly involved in the production and consumption of more text. The production of text is already collectively amplified, for instance, considering as texts receipts, reports, manuals, frequently asked questions, to-do lists, memos, contracts, chats, tags, notes, descriptions, emails, invitations, calendar appointments and so on. Therefore, the Future Of Text lies in the re-definition of text “craftsmanship”, focused on enabling and facilitating a text-mediated access and interaction with the relationships, functions and actors of the reality we live in.

The Future Is Text: The Universal Interface, The Future of Text

The use of text to augment all other media (i.e. text description, alternate text, tags) is widely used and, in some cases, it is essential or a legal requirement. Indeed, the use of text is necessary for archiving, retrieving media, and for accessibility by both humans and machines.

The Future Is Text: The Universal Interface, The Future of Text

Unfortunately this is a familiar experience for me and many other blind and partially sighted people. When using my phone I often get stared at, tutted at, and have even experienced several abusive comments about faking my blindness.

What they don’t realise is that I’m using several of the built in accessibility features to enlarge the text, zoom apps, and even have my phone read out information to me.

People think I’m faking my blindness because I use a phone – but it’s other people’s prejudice that’s the problem
masking tapes on table against white wall

I’m learning a lot about myself since my ADHD and autism diagnoses. One of the things I’m learning is that a lot of my ways of working are actually disability hacks: as it turns out a LOT of my people are very visual and a LOT of my people have poor working memory. Instead of trying to change myself to fit the ways of working I think I should have, because other people, I should maybe instead celebrate that I have, by trial and error and very little help or encouragement from anyone, kluged my way into some best practices for my particular career and set of challenges. I should congratulate myself on the self-knowledge that got me to a place that I’ve devised a whole workflow that minimizes the disabling effects of my particular forms of neurodivergence and allows me to shine. (para. 5)

Writing Workflows | Introduction
person writing on notebook

Morrison’s post suggests that workflows can be an inclusive and productive concept-that we have much to gain by considering how we work, what tools we work with, and how those preferences can help us think beyond a set of default, invisible, or unstated norms.

Writing Workflows | Introduction

Writing Online and Community

The rare studies on Internet use by adults with ID show that information and communication technology is important to them, to forge their identity and find a place in which they belong to a social network. Adults who were interviewed, in the few studies published, like social networking sites (SNS) particularly for keeping contact with parents and friends, making new friends, and giving and receiving support (Holmes & O’Loughlin, 2012; Löfgren-Mårtenson, 2008; Molin, Sorbring, & Löfgren-Mårtenson, 2015; Shpigelman & Gill, 2014).

The majority of participants from Shpigelman and Gill’s (2014) study also reported finding it easier to make new friends by Internet and being more comfortable communicating online than face to face. Furthermore, adults with ID say that the Internet provides them with a (cyber)space where they can escape their parents’ or caseworkers’ control and be more self-determined.

On the Web, they are freer to “go” where they want and make friends with whom they want, unseen by their guardians and caregivers (Löfgren-Mårtenson, 2008). They can describe their activities and express their feelings in blogs or other social media (McClimens & Gordon, 2009; Shpigelman & Gill, 2014).

People using devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops to be a part of community.

Internet access has opened a wide window of opportunity for people with ID and ASD, but more education and support is needed to ensure safe and positive Internet use by this population.

From solitude to solicitation: How people with intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder use the internet | Sallafranque-St-Louis | Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace

ANI launched its online list, ANI-L, in 1994. Like a specialized ecological niche, ANI-L had acted as an incubator for Autistic culture, accelerating its evolution. In 1996, a computer programmer in the Netherlands named Martijn Dekker set up a list called Independent Living on the Autism Spectrum, or InLv. People with dyslexia, ADHD, dyscalculia, and a myriad of other conditions (christened “cousins” in the early days of ANI) were also welcome to join the list. InLv was another nutrient-rich tide pool that accelerated the evolution of autistic culture. The collective ethos of InLv, said writer and list member Harvey Blume in the New York Times in 1997, was “neurological pluralism.” He was the first mainstream journalist to pick up on the significance of online communities for people with neurological differences. “The impact of the Internet on autistics,” Blume predicted, “may one day be compared in magnitude to the spread of sign language among the deaf.”

The neurodiversity movement: Autism is a minority group. NeuroTribes excerpt.

The revenge of the nerds was taking shape as a society in which anyone who had access to a computer and a modem could feel less disabled by the limitations of space and time.

NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity

One day someone will write a history of the Internet, in which that great series of tubes will emerge as one long chain of inventions not just geared to helping people connect in more ways, but rather, to help more and more types of people communicate just as nimbly as anyone else. But for the story here, the most crucial piece in the puzzle is this: Disability is an engine of innovation simply because no matter what their limitations, humans have such a relentless drive to communicate that they’ll invent new ways to do so, in spite of everything.

Microsoft’s Radical Bet On A New Type Of Design Thinking: By studying underserved communities, the tech giant hopes to improve the user experience for everyone.

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

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

We were no longer alone.

 7 Cool Aspects of Autistic Culture » NeuroClastic
pink bicycle parked beside a cherry blossom tree

Using hyperlinking and contextual computing, we take the written word (and the underlying paradigm about how we work on a computer) from one dimension and convert it to three dimensions.

It is the way for computers to truly serve the role as “bicycles for the mind“.

The Growing Movement for Hyperlinking and Contextual Computing

My hope for the Future Of Text is that, as in the past, it will adapt to us as we adapt to it. That it will bring the body—of writer and reader—back into view in all its difference and complexity.

Embodying Text, The Future of Text

🔌 Indie Ed-tech: Rewire and Reshape the World

black background with text overlay screengrab

“Indie ed-tech” offers a model whereby students, faculty, staff, and independent scholars alike can use the “real-world” tools of the Web — not simply those built for and sanctioned by and then siloed off by schools or departments — through initiatives like Davidson Domains, enabling them to be part of online communities of scholars, artists, scientists, citizens.

‘I Love My Label’: Resisting the Pre-Packaged Sound in Ed-Tech
blog icon information internet

Giving students their own digital domain is a radical act. It gives them the ability to work on the Web and with the Web, to have their scholarship be meaningful and accessible by others. It allows them to demonstrate their learning to others beyond the classroom walls. To own one’s domain gives students an understanding of how Web technologies work. It puts them in a much better position to control their work, their data, their identity online.

And then — contrary to what happens at most schools, where a student’s work exists only inside a learning management system and cannot be accessed once the semester is over — the domain and all its content are the student’s to take with them. It is, after all, their education, their intellectual development, their work.

The Web We Need To Give Students
woman lying and typing on laptop

No student will have mechanical limitations in access to either information or communication — whether through disability, inability at this moment, or even just discomfort. Learning is our goal, and we make it accessible.

We hand our students real laptops with real capabilities, and we fill them with software, apps, and bookmarks.

We want our children to discover how to choose effectively for their own needs. To do that, they need choices, and so we believe in Toolbelt Theory.

The Basics of Open Technology

Too often, education technologies are developed that position students as objects of education, a reflection no doubt of how traditional educational practices also view students. Education technologies do things to students, rather than foster student agency. If we are to challenge what “school” should look like, we must also challenge what “ed-tech” does as well. What sorts of technologies can and should we build to give students more control? What sorts of technologies can offer students the power to “own” their learning — their data, their content, their digital profiles, and their domain?

Claim Your Domain
ethernet cables plugged on a server rack

 Suppose that when students matriculate, they are assigned their own web servers…

As part of the first-year orientation, each student would pick a domain name. Over the course of the first year, in a set of lab seminars facilitated by instructional technologists, librarians, and faculty advisors from across the curriculum, students would build out their digital presences in an environment made of the medium of the web itself. 

In building that personal cyberinfrastructure, students not only would acquire crucial technical skills for their digital lives but also would engage in work that provides richly teachable moments ranging from multimodal writing to information science, knowledge management, bibliographic instruction, and social networking. Fascinating and important innovations would emerge as students are able to shape their own cognition, learning, expression, and reflection in a digital age, in a digital medium. Students would frame, curate, share, and direct their own “engagement streams” throughout the learning environment. Like Doug Engelbart’s bootstrappers in the Augmentation Research Center, these students would study the design and function of their digital environments, share their findings, and develop the tools for even richer and more effective metacognition, all within a medium that provides the most flexible and extensible environment for creativity and expression that human beings have ever built.

A Personal Cyberinfrastructure | EDUCAUSE

laptops in the classroom represent the first real chance at Universal Design for Learning – the first real chance to allow every student to choose the media format most appropriate for their own needs – the first real chance for students who are different to be accommodated without labels

SpeEdChange: Humiliation and the Modern Professor

“Indie ed-tech” draws rather explicitly on the spirit of indie music and the DIY (do-it-yourself) ethos of punk rock.

‘I Love My Label’: Resisting the Pre-Packaged Sound in Ed-Tech
The Power of Open in Education

To best prepare students for the future, we must think deeply and openly about our vision for school technology today. I believe every student, in every school, deserves equal and open access to computers. Students should have the freedom to explore and experiment with their school-issued devices. In an open schoolhouse, every student is trusted with learning technology and empowered to rewire and reshape the world.

The Open Schoolhouse – Building a Technology Program to Transform Learning and Empower Students

☀️💪 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, we provide learners fresh air, daylight, large muscle movement, and the freedom to stim.

Immediate Contact with the Outdoors

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

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.

🌳 Immediate Contact with the Outdoors

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.

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

👋 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

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

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.

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

🚀 It’s Not Rocket Science; Just Listen

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

⛺️🔥 Cavendish Space: Caves, Campfires, and Watering Holes for Dandelions, Tulips, and Orchids

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

Reimagining Inclusion with Positive Niche Construction

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

Since reading NeuroTribes, I think of psychologically & sensory safe spaces suited to zone work as “Cavendish bubbles” and “Cavendish space”, after Henry Cavendish, the wizard of Clapham Common and discoverer of hydrogen. The privileges of nobility afforded room for his differences, allowing him the space and opportunity to become “one of the first true scientists in the modern sense.”

Let’s build psychologically safe homes of opportunity without the requirement of nobility or privilege. Replace the trappings of the compliance classroom with student-created context, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and BYOC (Bring/Build Your Own Comfort). Let’s hit thrift stores, buy lumber, apply some hacker ethos, and turn the compliance classroom into something psychologically safe and comfortable to a team of young minds engaged in passion-based learning. Inform spaces with neurodiversity and the social model of disability so that they welcome and include all minds and bodies. Provide quiet spaces for high memory state zone work where students can escape sensory overwhelmslip into flow states, and enjoy a maker’s schedule. Provide social spaces for collaboration and camaraderie. Create cave, campfire, and watering hole zones. Develop neurological curb cuts. Fill our classrooms with choice and comfort, instructional tolerance, continuous connectivity, and assistive technology.

In other words, make space for Cavendish. Make spaces for both collaboration and deep work.

 Classroom UX: Designing for Pluralism

We provide caves, campfires, and watering holes so that dandelions, tulips, and orchids alike can find respite. 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.

campfire

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

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

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

Australia’s Campfires, Caves, and Watering Holes

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

Campfires, Caves and Watering holes | Libraries, Youth and the Digital Age
elephant-herd-of-elephants-african-bush-elephant-africa-59989.jpeg
The watering hole is an informal space where peers can share information and discoveries, acting as both learner and teacher simultaneously. This shared space can serve as an incubator for ideas and can promote a sense of shared culture. It is an informal area, where students can share in collaborative learning experiences.

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

“It’s Not Rocket Science”: Considering and meeting the sensory needs of autistic children and young people – NDTi
pink and white 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
woman with purple flower on ear

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

Autistic sensory experiences, in our own words

Niche Construction

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.

Interdependence and Collaboration

Magic happens when you combine collaboration and neurodiversity.

🏗 Niche Construction

a girl in a pink dress sitting on a wheelchair holding a magic wand

…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.” 

Reimagining Inclusion with Positive Niche Construction
spider web
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
a beaver in the wild
Photo by Scott Younkin on Pexels.com
Niche Construction
  • Organisms are not passive.
  • The environment is a product of organisms.
  • Interactions are reciprocal.
  • Ecology, development, & evolution are interdependent.

🌈 Cognitive Diversity Exists for a Reason

persons hands with rainbow colors

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 text

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

It doesn’t take long to figure out when observing the natural world that biodiversity creates pathways for organisms to not just survive, but also to thrive within ecosystems.

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

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
green cactuses on yellow wall background

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

🤝 Interdependence and Collaboration

Magic happens when you combine collaboration and neurodiversity.

Celebration of interdependence | Autistic Collaboration
man and woman holding each other s hands as a team

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
close up view of needle of a vaccine

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
Why haven’t we built anything for them yet?
Build a structure that will enable autistic people and their families to live happier, healthier, more engaged, more productive, more creative, successful lives.

NeuroTribes and the Real History of Autism
2016 Neurodiversity High Tech Conference

It is time to celebrate our interdependence! Collaboration allows us to create genuinely safe spaces.

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

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

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

✌️ We Believe

Human-Centered

Dehumanizing practices do not belong in schools.

Trauma-Informed

Attend to the practices, policies, and aspects of institutional culture that traumatize children at school.

Equity Literate

The path to equity requires direct confrontations with inequity.

Open Technology

No student will have mechanical limitations in access to either information or communication.

🫀 Human-Centered

Learning is rooted in purpose finding and community relevance.

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

Social justice is the cornerstone to educational success.

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

Dehumanizing practices do not belong in schools.

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

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

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

Source: The Need

child listening to music from tablet

Create a neurodiverse inclusive environment.

  • Adapt the Environment
    1. The sensory environment
    2. The timely environment
    3. The explicit environment
    4. The predictable environment
    5. The social environment
  • Support the Individual
    1. Disclosing diagnosis
    2. Project management
    3. Communication styles
    4. Well-being and work-life balance
    5. Trouble-shooting

Source: “IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE”

students doing their classwork together
  • Choice and Comfort
  • Instructional Tolerance
  • Universal Design for Learning/Individualization of Learning
  • Maker-Infused Curriculum
  • Project/Problem/Passion-Based Learning
  • Interactive Technologies
  • Connectivity

Source: Seven Pathways to Ensuring Life Long Learning Competencies

The Eight GAP Principles

The Eight Principles of Good Autism Practice are embedded in four themes: ‘Understanding the Individual’, ‘Positive and Effective Relationships’, ‘Enabling Environments’, and ‘Learning and Development’.

Understanding the Individual

Principle One: Understanding the strengths, interests, and needs of each autistic child.
Principle Two: Enabling the autistic child to contribute to
and influence decisions.

Positive and Effective Relationships
Enabling Environments

Principle Five: Leadership and management that promotes and embeds good autism practice.
Principle Six: An ethos and environment that fosters social inclusion for autistic children.

Learning and Development

Principle Seven: Targeted support and measuring the progress of autistic children.
Principle Eight: Adapting the curriculum, teaching, and learning to promote wellbeing and success for autistic children.

Source: Schools Competency Framework  | Autism Education Trust

🩸 Trauma-Informed

  • Commitment 1: Attend to the practices, policies, and aspects of institutional culture that traumatize children at school.
  • Commitment 2: We must infuse trauma-informed education with a robust understanding of, and responsiveness to, the traumas of systemic oppression.
  • Commitment 3: Dislodge hyper-punitive cultures and ideologies.

Being trauma-informed means consciously cultivating space in our mental models so that, even if we know nothing about a particular set of circumstances, we avoid the temptation to mindlessly apply rules.

Source: How Trauma-Informed Are We, Really? – ASCD

Principle 1: Antiracist, anti-oppression—Trauma-informed education is antiracist and against all forms of oppression.

Principle 2: Asset based—Trauma-informed education is asset based and doesn’t attempt to fix kids, because kids are not broken. Instead, it addresses the conditions, systems, and structures that harm kids.

Principle 3: Systems oriented—Trauma-informed education is a full ecosystem, not a list of strategies.

Source: Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education

Principle 4: Human centered—Trauma-informed education means centering our shared humanity.

Principle 5: Universal and proactive—Trauma-informed education is a universal approach, implemented proactively.

Principle 6: Social justice focused—Trauma-informed education aims to create a trauma-free world.

Source: Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education

  1. ​Shift from a reactive stance, in which we identify who has been traumatized and support them, to a proactive approach. Trauma-informed practices are universal and benefit everyone.
  2. ​Shift from a savior mentality, in which we see ourselves as rescuing broken kids, to unconditional positive regard, a mindset that focuses on the inherent skills, capacities, and value of every student. Educators shouldn’t aim to heal, fix, or save but to be connection makers and just one of many caring adults in a child’s life.
  3. ​Shift from seeing trauma-informed practices as the responsibility of individual teachers to embedding them in the way that we do school, from policies to practice. Trauma-informed teachers need trauma-informed leaders.
  4. ​Shift from focusing only on how trauma affects our classroom to seeing how what happens in our classroom can change the world. We can partner with our students as change makers for a more just society.

Source: Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education

⚖️ Equity Literate

With this in mind, my purpose is to argue that when it comes to issues surrounding poverty and economic justice the preparation of teachers must be first and foremost an ideological endeavour, focused on adjusting fundamental understandings not only about educational outcome disparities but also about poverty itself. I will argue that it is only through the cultivation of what I call a structural ideology of poverty and economic justice that teachers become equity literate (Gorski 2013), capable of imagining the sorts of solutions that pose a genuine threat to the existence of class inequity in their classrooms and schools.

Source: Poverty and the ideological imperative: a call to unhook from deficit and grit ideology and to strive for structural ideology in teacher education

The Direct Confrontation Principle: The path to equity requires direct confrontations with inequity—with interpersonal, institutional, cultural and structural racism and other forms of oppression. “Equity” approaches that fail to directly identify and confront inequity play a significant role in sustaining inequity.

Basic Principles for Equity Literacy

The Prioritization Principle: In order to achieve equity we must prioritize the interests of the students and families whose interests historically have not been prioritized. Every policy, practice, and program decision should be considered through the question, “What impact is this going to have on the most marginalized students and families? How are we prioritizing their interests?”

Basic Principles for Equity Literacy

The “Fix Injustice, Not Kids” Principle: Educational outcome disparities are not the result of deficiencies in marginalized communities’ cultures, mindsets, or grittiness, but rather of inequities. Equity initiatives focus, not on “fixing” students and families who are marginalized, but on transforming the conditions that marginalize students and families.

Basic Principles for Equity Literacy
Equity Pitfalls

Avoid These Equity Pitfalls

  1. Universal Validation – Not all ideas and perspectives are equitable. We don’t want to validate someone’s racist perspective. Equity is not about universal validation.
  2. Equity Detours: Addressing Equity Problems with Cultural Solutions – There is no path toward equity that does not involve a direct confrontation with inequity.
  3. Lack of Leadership – The people with the most equity literacy have to be the people with the most power.
  4. Going at the Pace of the Most Resistant – We are prioritizing the comfort of the people who are most resistant instead of prioritizing the discomfort the most marginalized people in the institution experience.
  5. Doing What’s Popular Instead of Doing What’s Effective
  6. Embracing a Deficit Ideology Instead of a Structural Ideology – If your equity initiatives are about fixing marginalized people rather than about addressing the conditions that marginalize people, there’s no way to get to equity.

🔧 Open Technology

No student will have mechanical limitations in access to either information or communication — whether through disability, inability at this moment, or even just discomfort. Learning is our goal, and we make it accessible.

  • Student Control
  • An Abundance of Tools
  • Accessibility
  • Access Everywhere
  • BYOD and an Open Network
  • Talk to Parents
  • Worry About Behavior, Not Technology
  • Spend Wisely
  • Trust in Children and Childhood

Source: The Basics of Open Technology

We want our children to discover how to choose effectively for their own needs. To do that, they need choices, and so we believe in Toolbelt Theory.

The Basics of Open Technology
black leather backpack on persons lap

Tools matter though. They are the most basic thing about being human.

They matter most for those who lack the highest capabilities.

And everyone needs a properly equipped Toolbelt to get through life.

Toolbelt Theory for Everyone

Toolbelt Theory is based in the concept that students must learn to assemble their own readily available collection of life solutions. They must learn to choose and use these solutions appropriately, based in the task to be performed, the environment in which they find themselves, their skills and capabilities at that time, and the ever-changing universe of high and low-tech solutions and supports.

So, the Toolbelt is designed to:

  • Break the dependence cycle
  • Develop lifespan technology skills
  • Limit limitations
  • Empower student decision making
  • Prepare students for life beyond school

Source: A Toolbelt for a Lifetime

We believe this act of human collaboration across an open platform is essential to individual growth and our collective future.

The flat-world technology revolution asks us to rethink our notion of what it means to be educated and literate in the 21st Century. However, one traditional skill remains unchanged: the ability to artfully and effectively self-express through writing. Blogs, reports, essays, and Tweets; writing across multiple modalities is learning made visual–and a full keyboard is still the most efficient tool to hone this skill.

The Open Schoolhouse – Building a Technology Program to Transform Learning and Empower Students

🏩 Our Foundation

Stimpunks Space is funded and operated by Stimpunks Foundation.

Mutual Aid and Human-Centered Learning for Neurodivergent and Disabled Creators
Mutual Aid and Human-Centered Learning for Neurodivergent and Disabled Creators

Stimpunks Foundation sponsors and employs neurodivergent and disabled creators and amplifies their work to our clients and throughout society. We exist for the direct support and mutual aid of neurodivergent and disabled people.

We complement mutual aid to creators with learning spaces for creators. Stimpunks Foundation serves neurodivergent and disabled people unserved by public and private schools. Via equity, access, empathy, and inclusivity, we build community learning space respectful of all types of bodyminds.

Read more about the philosophy of Stimpunks Space over at the Foundation website.

  • ⛑ Mutual Aid: Real help against the onslaught
  • ♿️📚Anti-Ableist Space for Human-Centered Learning
  • ♿️ The Need: Space without Behaviorism, Segregation, or Ableism
    • ➗ In anti-ableist space, there is no segregation of “special”.
    • 🥢🥕 In anti-ableist space, there is no behaviorism.
    • 🪙 In anti-ableist space, there is no “earning your token”.
    • 🫀🧠 In anti-ableist space, we are active agents in our own embodied experience.
  • ❤️ The Answer: Respectful Connection
  • ⚡️🦅🌈 The Feeling: Electric Belonging and Soaring Inclusion
    • 🤲 We create crip space that evokes the electrifying feeling of belonging.
    • 👩‍❤️‍👨 We foster the feeling of access intimacy.
  • 📚 The Learning: Passion-Based, Human-Centered Learning Compatible With Neurodiversity and the Social Model of Disability
  • ⛺️🔥 Come As You Are to Cavendish Space
  • ♿️⚖️ We Create Anti-Ableist Space

it is reckless to suppose that biodiversity can be diminished indefinitely without threatening humanity itself. Field studies show that as biodiversity is reduced, so is the quality of the services provided by ecosystems. Records of stressed ecosystems also demonstrate that the descent can be unpredictably abrupt. 

E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation » The Diversity of Life

‘Rebellion’ is not enough. We need to build new systems from the ground up, right now.

And it means grounding this effort in completely new frame of orientation, one in which human beings are inherently interconnected, and inter-embedded within the earth; where we are not atomistically separated from the reality in which we find ourselves as technocratic overlords, but are co-creators of that reality as individuated parts of a continuum of being.

Escaping extinction through paradigm shift
rainbow over river

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