A Credo for Support: Respecting Autonomy in a Society of Interdependence and Care

Do Not try to modify my behaviour.

Be still & listen. What you define as inappropriate

may be my attempt to communicate with you in the only way I can.

Do Not see me as your client. I am your fellow citizen.

See me as your neighbour. Remember, none of us can be self-sufficient.

Do Not try to control me. I have a right to my power as a person. What you call non-compliance or manipulation may actually be the only way I can exert some control over my life.

Do Not work on me. Work with me.

Source: A Credo for Support

Via: Autism and Behaviorism – Alfie Kohn

This credo is a beautiful recipe for respecting autonomy in a framework of interdependence and care. I’m going to share it with the educators and caregivers that work with our family.

The late Herb Lovett used to say that there are only two problems with “special education” in America: It’s not special and it sure as hell isn’t education. The field continues to be marinated in behaviorist assumptions and practices despite the fact that numerous resources for teachers, therapists, and parents offer alternatives to behavior control. These alternatives are based on a commitment to care and to understand. By “care,” I mean that our relationship with the child is what matters most. He or she is not a passive object to be manipulated but a subject, a center of experience, a person with agency, with needs and rights. And by “understand,” I mean that we have an obligation to look beneath the behavior, in part by imaginatively trying to adopt that person’s point of view, attempting to understand the whys rather than just tabulating the frequency of the whats. As Norm Kunc and Emma Van der Klift urged us in their Credo for Support: “Be still and listen. What you define as inappropriate may be my attempt to communicate with you in the only way I can….[or] the only way I can exert some control over my life….Do not work on me. Work with me.”

Source: Autism and Behaviorism – Alfie Kohn

Previously,

Self-determination Theory > Behaviorism

I see elements of self-determination theory pop up in liberated ed, critical pedagogy, and other places where people have turned away from behaviorism. Self-determination theory is a better lens for understanding human motivation than behaviorism.

The locus of pathology exists not in the autistic person, but in the interaction between a hostile environment and the subjugated autistic. It is essential for parents, practitioners, educators, and autistic people themselves to ask the crucial question— Is the autistic a machine, or an organism? Are we active agents in our own embodied experience, or are we a locus of behavior? It is not with defiance, but autonomy, that I declare as an autistic person— I am not a manifestation of stimuli and response. I am agential. I am Autonomously Autistic.

Despite the field of Disability Studies’ rhetorical progress toward new models of disability, Autistic subjectivity is still locked within medical pathologies and assumptions of deficit. Self-Determination Theory provides an intriguing contrast to other psychological frameworks, making it possible to reconceptualize and re-localize deficit. We can then disrupt our assumptions and form new principles that empower autistic people to develop in autonomous, competent, connected, and self-directed ways.

Self-Determination Theory positions itself as directly and unapologetically antithetical to behaviorism, a fact that manifests in the literature repeatedly in behaviorist commentary…

AUTONOMOUSLY AUTISTIC | CANADIAN JOURNAL OF DISABILITY STUDIES

Telltales of self-determination theory are the terms autonomy, mastery, purpose, and intrinsic motivation. Daniel Pink’s pop-sci treatment of self-determination theory, “Drive”, helped popularize these terms.

Audrey Watters asks of persuasion and behavior design “how they imagine to leave space for freedom and dignity.” Self-determination theory offers that space, which is why it shows up in progressive education and neurodiversity advocacy.

Dr. Leif Singer has a great introduction to self-determination theory:

https://leif.me/2017/01/self-determination-theory-understanding-human-motivation-for-fun-and-profit/

Jonathan Mooney offers an example of autonomy, mastery, purpose, and intrinsic motivation in this brilliant talk. This timestamped link should take you to the right place:

It is reasonable to ask, particularly given the range of terminology used to define the executive processes that impact outcomes of young people with disabilities, including autism: Why focus on self-determination? Why is innovation in theory related to self-determination important to guide assessment and intervention to promote positive outcomes across the life course, particularly during the transition from adolescence to adulthood? First, as noted previously, the terminology adopted in self-determination research and practice emerged largely from the voices and advocacy of people with disabilities. Advocates across disability popula- tions have consistently used the term self-determination to describe their right to self-direct their own lives. The impact of this advocacy has been significant, particularly in policy. 

Self-determination is a key value and outcome targeted in disability policies and human right treaties enacted over the past 30 years. The right to self-determination also continues to be a rallying cry in the self-advocate community.4 For example, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) states, ‘‘disability is a natural part of human diversity. Autism is something we are born with, and that shouldn’t be changed. Autistic children should get the support they need to grow up into happy, self-determined autistic adults.’’10 

Second, interventions to promote self-determination have been developed that can support people with disabilities to take steps toward self-directed lives. Such interventions can be personalized based on strengths, interests, and supports. There is the inherent diversity in the autistic community (e.g., ‘‘There is no one way to be autistic’’).11 Understanding each autistic person’s strengths and support needs, from their perspective, must be a focus of self-determination interventions particularly during the transition to adulthood when there are new and changing demands. 

Advancing the Personalization of Assessment and Intervention in Autistic Adolescents and Young Adults by Targeting Self-Determination and Executive Processes | Autism in Adulthood

Culture, Autonomy, Communication, Diversity and Inclusion

Five important things.

Culture and Autonomy

When we survey our employees, culture and autonomy always come up as top reasons people stay.

Why we stay at Automattic: culture and autonomy
Why we stay at Automattic: culture and autonomy

Source: 2016 Year Review

Culture always wins over tools and technologies, but most of the business world is tone deaf to understanding culture.

Source: FAQ about The Year Without Pants (with satisfying answers)

Culture can be the foundation for all future innovation, or it can be the single biggest resistance to innovation. Don’t fuck up culture.

Source: Project-based Learning and School Culture

Communication is Oxygen

793 Slack channels, 441 P2 blogs, 4,628 Zoom video chats
793 Slack channels, 441 P2 blogs, 4,628 Zoom video chats

That’s a lot of writing.

In the age of distributed collaboration, we are constantly writing.

Source: Writing in Education and Plain Text Flow

Change the technology culture of school. The voice & choice of inclusive education needs an open by default infrastructure for communication and collaboration. Technology will not find its place in the classroom until we move away from the remediation of the deficit model and embrace open and accessible collaboration.

Source: Communication is oxygen. Build a district wide collaboration infrastructure and an open by default culture.

Diversity and Inclusion

ICYMI, I’m sharing recaps of my D&I professional development. I hope and intend to continue this series.

Diversity & Inclusion Recap #1