☀️💪 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🚀 It’s Not Rocket Science; Just Listen

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

⏭ Continue on Page 4

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