…positive niche construction is a strengths-based approach to educating students with disabilities. Armstrong describes positive niche construction in this way:
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.” In this book, I present seven basic components of positive niche construction to help teachers differentiate instruction for students with special needs (2012).
Armstrong goes on to identify the seven components of positive niche construction in the classroom:
- Assessment of students’ strengths
- The use of assistive technology and Universal Design for Learning
- Enhanced human resources
- The implementation of strengths-based learning strategies
- Envisioning positive role models
- Activation of affirmative career aspirations
- The engineering of appropriate environmental modifications to support the development of neurodiverse students
I like that list. I’m a cave orchid and need a compatible niche. Positive niche construction is an alternative framing to “least restrictive environment” that shifts us from deficit model framing to a strengths-based social model framing that supports neurodiversity.
Multiplicities are an intention: We build the best collaboration, the deepest learning, when we expand the opportunities for complex vision.
- Classroom UX: Designing for Pluralism
- Dandelions, Tulips, Orchids and Neurological Pluralism
- Design for Neurological Pluralism with Caves, Campfires, and Watering Holes
- Bring the backchannel forward. Written communication is the great social equalizer.
NeurodiVenture : an inclusive non-hierarchical organisation operated by neurodivergent people that provides a safe and nurturing environment for divergent thinking, creativity, exploration, and collaborative niche construction.