A Change of Frame: From Deficit Ideology to Structural Ideology

When your kid is DXed as autistic, almost all of the professional advice you get from education and healthcare is steeped in deficit ideology. The unhealthiness, unhelpfulness, and disconnectedness of this worldview leads some to consult autistic adults. Then, you discover neurodiversity and the social model of disability. And then, maybe, intersectionality, design for real life, and equity literate education. And then you find yourself in the healthier framing of structural ideology that is better for your kid and better for the systems and institutions that you’re now trying to improve.


I used to tell my students that ideology never announces itself as ideology. It naturalizes itself like the air we breath. It doesn’t acknowledge that it is a way of looking at the word; it proceeds as if it is the only way of looking at the world. At its most effective, it renders itself unassailable: just the way things are. Not an opinion, not the result of centuries of implicit and explicit messaging, not a means of upholding a power structure. It just is.

Source: the shame is ours

In politics our frames shape our social policies and the institutions we form to carry out policies. To change our frames is to change all of this. Reframing is social change.

When we successfully reframe public discourse, we change the way the public sees the world. We change what counts as common sense. Because language activates frames, new language is required for new frames. Thinking differently requires speaking differently.

Source: The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate

Feel free to share –

Diagram for anyone whose child was just diagnosed as autistic or might be autistic. #ActuallyAutistic #AllAutistics

Chart with 2 columns. Title - My Child is Autistic, What now? Top corner @AutSciPerson www.autisticscienceperson.com
Left column - Tragedy Narrative, crossed out "no" symbol underneath: Grieving for not having a “normal” child

Challenging Behaviors


Don’t give in, it’s manipulation

Put in time out for refusing to do a task

Withholding a child’s needs and wants to:

Try to make them speak verbally
Try to make them make eye contact
Try to make them sit still
Try to make them stop stimming

Limits or disallows use of sensory supports.

Right column - Neurodiversity Narrative, check mark underneath, Realize you had different expectations

Emotional dysregulation needs support

Meltdowns need sensory supports and time

They want something for a reason

Figure out why they cannot do a task.

Learn about alternative communication:

Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC)
Sign language (ASL/BSL/Makaton)
Typing or Writing
Pointing at Pictures

continue at text in reply tweet.

alt text continued –
Learn about sensory supports:
Ear defenders
Tinted glasses
Weighted blankets
Compression vests

Learn about autistic communication differences

Learn about autism from autistic adults. 1/1


Originally tweeted by AutisticSciencePerson (They/Them) (@AutSciPerson) on June 17, 2021.

20 thoughts on “A Change of Frame: From Deficit Ideology to Structural Ideology

  1. The deficit model prevented me from getting the supports I needed earlier in life that would have helped me with navigating the workplace before I even found a job. I was doing well in school, and then okay in college, so no one caught on that I didn’t actually know how to ask questions and that my executive function was just awful.

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