Posted in Advocacy

neurotypicals Are Very Odd Creatures: Watching Survivor to Analyze Neurotypicality

So, a long time ago, when the television show Survivor first came out, I watched it and was utterly fascinated.  The main thing I loved about it was watching Richard Hatch play a game no one else yet understood was the actual game of the show and (spoiler alert) be rewarded with a million dollars.

[A blue piranha with red stomach is hidden in some underwater grass. Jeff Probst, the host of Survivor, pointed out that a bigger fish can take your finger off with one bite. Image from Pixabay]
If you don’t know the game, the gist is they strand people on an island in two groups and early on, the way you get power is by winning challenges, many of which are physical, which can be a real problem due to (as the show goes on) less and less food being available to you unless you’re good at finding it on your own.  There are mental challenges, too, but these get hard given the lack of food as well.  The trick is to figure out how to stay healthy physically so you can compete physically and mentally.  When there are too few people to have two separate groups, they merge them together and the challenges become individual.  If you get “immunity,” the others can’t get rid of you by voting you out, but almost all of the people who are there after the merge then become a jury who decide who wins the million at the end, so if you’re too devious in your scheming, it will cost you.  Maybe.

Anyway, when the game first started, the original group had literally no idea what the game was, so it was relatively easy for Hatch to create a core alliance and use it to have an effective voting bloc to ensure that what he thought, strategically, would be the best thing to do, he was able to actually carry out.

Fast-forward to the season I just finished, season 6 (I only really watched the first, some of the celebrity edition, and the all-star season, so I’m watching old ones).  I was incensed this season, more than before, and it made me think about the “pretty people” vs. the rest of us and what all this means for society.

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Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, Parenting, Self-Care

Assistive Technology Can be Ugly: Focus on Aesthetics, not Bully-Potential, to Build a New World

The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism recently posted a great deal on ear defenders (ear muffs, headphones without plug-ins) from Boing Boing at its Facebook group.  The deal is still there for a few days, and I snapped up 5 for my students at school.  By the way, leave and come back until they give you 10% off on your first order.  It almost paid for my shipping which was $9.95 on 5 of them, the maximum it would sell me at a time.

[Image: Those big, bulky but effective and ever-prevalent ear defenders from 3M. They’re oversized and yellow. If your head is large, they might not work since they’re not adjustable, but they’re reasonably comfortable. But they are bulky. And that yellow makes SURE people can see them on your ears. But heck, they work and Amazon can get them to you quickly.  We have two pairs around here.]

Anyway, some “helpful parent” was complaining about how ugly and bulky they are and that it’s basically license to get your kid bullied as a result.  Later, she said, not realizing I was trying to help her not come off as a jerk, that there would be plenty of times it would be “inappropriate” to wear these headphones because of the bulk.  She kept silencing the voice of 1) a more experienced Autism Mama than her (me; my kid is clearly older) and 2) MOST importantly, an ACTUAL AUTISTIC PERSON.  Yeah, she’s new to this game.

She kept backpedaling to defend herself, rather than realize she was normalizing a systemic problem with society rather than focusing on her child’s needs.

Here’s why she’s wrong and how you can make the same point without enabling bullying or accepting the cruddy world we all of us are forced to live in.

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Posted in Catholic education

Friendship Challenges: Unteaching What the World Teaches Us

As you might imagine, my school is a haven for those who have been bullied in previous institutions.  Because we are small and we are also multi-age, it’s a lot harder to do that thing where kids decide (never the adults, do not kid yourself into thinking you have any say about popularity in a typical age-graded institution) who is and is not acceptable.  Also, because we follow the philosophy of St. John Bosco, we actually hang out with and play with our kids a lot more than in traditional schools.  We do this to mentor them more effectively and also to watch out for trouble spots.

Let’s think about a traditional school for a moment.  In a typical school, there are 15-35 kids in each class (the exact number varies dramatically) and based on the historic segregation of Disabled people as well as people of color, the kids are typically one race and “abled” enough to be tossed into “gen pop” (those so Disabled that they make teachers’ lives too hard in gen pop get hidden in segregated classrooms).

There is one teacher or sometimes there might be two adults.  The children greatly outnumber the adults.

And all the kids are the same chronological age.

No wonder they so easily ferret out who is different and make school a living hell for those people who don’t pass muster as “worthy.”

But my school is different.

My school is multi-aged (K-8).  Currently, we are not as culturally diverse as we were, but we are diverse in terms of socio-economic levels and abilities and/or neurotypes.

(I should make a quick note here that historically people of color are reluctant to homeschool, or engage in alternative-type schools unless encouraged to do so by the public school authorities.  It’s not because they don’t want to or can’t homeschool or look for alternative schools; however, there is heightened risk in parenting differently when you are a Person of Color.  Many school authorities have bullied Black parents with a call to child protective services if they don’t raise their kids the “right” way.  With longer-term success, I hope we can have more culturally diverse families using our program since it won’t be an “experiment” any longer.)

When children are constantly confronted with peers who are different ages, genders, races, and neurotypes/abilities, they are more acceptance of difference as no big deal.  When class sizes are small, kids learn quite quickly to make do with whoever is in the class with them, too.

Normally, all goes well here.

But we take what we learned from the “outside” with us.

Sometimes, I have to explicitly teach friendship to my students.

Here are the main rules I give them, with adjustments made based on specific circumstances.

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