Setting up for success
In his latest Autistic Lincs column, Callum Brazzo talks about education.
The Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian Education Awards are next week.
What tips and tools lay the foundation of an autistic-friendly education? Let’s discuss.
1. Identity-first language
Though it is down to personal preference, many autistic individuals prefer autistic person (identity-first language or IFL) over person with autism (person-first language or PFL) as the former states that being autistic is their identity.
No, that is not a negative and whilst good intentioned high-profile people that an autistic person may meet (teachers, parents etc) may say the opposite, being autistic is nothing to be ashamed of (which is inferred when you say person with autism.)
Autistic people that refer to themselves as a person with autism reserve that right as I mentioned, however, many autistic people experience internal ableism, perhaps without realising, which is a gradual decrease of self-esteem that an individual feels after a build up of feeling ‘less than’.
2. NO ABA/PBS
Applied Behavioural Analysis/Positive Behaviour Support are both practices within the education system that are causing autistic people to feel ‘less than’ as mentioned above – but in a hidden way.
Let’s dismantle that oppressive method by remembering that communication is a spectrum and we should encourage all its forms LED by the individual (not by a chosen ideal communication/behavioural style such as speaking).
More could be written on this subject and it may continue to be debated but…can we not?
‘Therapy’ could be anything from speech and language to animal, LEGO, occupational and music.
ABA/PBS is sending people into rehabilitation, not therapy.
3. Nothing About Us, Without Us
A simple concept but one that can be forgotten in the structures of education.
It may be ‘easier’ to ask teachers with diplomas and carers with personally connected experience about what is best for autistic people but presuming competence in those all across the support needs cycle is key to authentic input and provision of services.
Particularly now, a blended approach of online and offline opportunities to connect is crucial to realising autistic people’s potential.
Approaches to inclusion must be varied but contrary to the idea of functioning labels which is to separate us rather than see us ALL on a support needs cycle, regardless of whether we are autistic or not, what benefits us as PEOPLE often includes autistic people.
4. Support Needs Cycle
Forget what you learned about ‘functioning labels’ and relearn about support needs.
Much like the other tip/tool to an autistic-friendly education, language is important but its meaning is not merely superficial.
The idea of ‘functioning’ is subjective and cyclical. For example, communication is a spectrum yet talking is seen as the top of an imaginary hierarchy and it needs to stop inside AND outside the classroom.
Therefore, the idea of support needs describes more accurately that subjective and CYLICAL nature. Situations and stages of life can vary which leads to a ‘spiky profile’ of development. Do not fear, the all-natural autistic support needs cycle is here!
These are only four sections but I do think they are key parts of encouraging healthier autistic wellbeing, setting them up for success rather than failing to fit into a majority ‘norm.’