Just Sayin’

Design for real life.

Design for pluralism.

Solve for the infinity.

Foreground complexity as the baseline.

Multiplicities are an intention: We build the best collaboration, the deepest learning, when we expand the opportunities for complex vision.


Design is tested at the edges.

Compassion is not coddling.


Human cognitive diversity exists for a reason; our differences are the genius – and the conscience – of our species.

To face the challenges of the future, we’ll need the problem-solving abilities of different types of minds working together.

Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general.

Difference is not our deficit; it’s our operating system.


The right to learn differently should be a universal human right that’s not mediated by diagnosis.

Written communication is the great social equalizer.

To not presume competence is to assume that some individuals cannot learn, develop, or participate in the world. Presuming competence is nothing less than a Hippocratic oath for educators.

Noncompliance is a social skill.

It’s not about behavior.

Design learning where there is no option for oppression.


There is no path to equity that does not involve a direct confrontation with inequity.

Inequities are primarily power and privilege problems.

You cannot counter structural inequality with good will. You have to structure equality.

We are all accountable to the urgent work of building a more just, more equitable world.


By focusing on the parts of the system that are most complex and where the people living it are the most vulnerable we understand the system best.

When we make things for people at their worst, they’ll work that much better when people are at their best.

Everything we do publicly can be made more inclusive and uplifting with intersectionality, and everything we do can become exclusionary and oppressive without it.

When we build things – we must think of the things our life doesn’t necessitate. Because someones life does.

A mismatched interaction between a person and their environment is a function of design. Change the environment, not the body.


Fix injustice, not kids.

Free, life-changing, and available to everyone.

Provide freedom to those who deal with a world that’s built to be hostile toward them.


Nothing about us without us.

We exist as friction.


Embracing pluralism is good citizenship. Democracy demands equal accommodation.

Default to open.


Do not be the oppressor.

People suffer, and when they do, it’s for a reason.

Foregrounding of Complexity as the Baseline

Neurodiversity and the social model for bodyminds are about the “foregrounding of complexity as the baseline.”

I foreground all of this to underscore that there is a neurological difference, or a spectrum of neurology, that must be attended to. The movement for neurodiversity is not interested in homogenizing experience. We are different and we require different accommodations. On the other hand, my interest is not in the neural per se, which I find quickly loses its usefulness in such discussions, particularly in the ways it can be taken up in the humanities and the social sciences as an explanatory category. The neurological is only one point of departure for the question of autistic perception, and of autism more broadly.

So I would say that the concept of the neuropolitical is not particularly interesting to me. I want to support the movement for neurodiversity because I find it exciting and deeply important in its foregrounding of complexity as the baseline. And I want to think about the ways in which an engagement with neurodiversity affects how we think of the political and how we effect change. The political emphasis here is less on neurology than on the question of how normative modes of being subsumed under the unspoken category of the neurotypical organize experience, and how an engagement with neurodiversity changes the questions we ask and the actions we support.

Neurotypicality is a grounding narrative of exclusion. The neurotypical is the category to which our education systems aspire. It is the category to which our ideas of the nuclear family aspire. And, it is the category on which the concept of the citizen (and by extension participation in the nation-state and the wider global economy) is based.

In the context of education, which is the one I am most knowledgeable about, the mechanisms for upholding the neurotypical standard are everywhere in force. Every classroom that penalizes students for distributed modes of attention organizes learning according to a neurotypical norm. Every classroom that sees the moving body as the distracted body is organized according to a neurotypical norm. Every classroom that teaches predominantly for one mode of perception is organizing its learning according to a norm. Every classroom that knows in advance what knowledge looks and sounds like is working to a norm.

Intelligence, understood as the performance of a certain kind of knowledge acquisition and presentation, is built on the scaffold of neurotypicality as the unspoken norm. To speak of the normative tendencies of education is not new. My concern is with what remains largely unspoken in that conversation. Having “special needs” classrooms upholds neurotypicality, for instance, as the dominant model of existence. Drugging our children because of their attention deficit is upholding a neurotypical norm. Sending our black and indigenous children to juvenile detention centers in disproportionate numbers is upholding a neurotypical norm which takes, as neurotypicality always does, whiteness as the standard.

To engage with neurodiversity is to speak up about the extraordinary silence around neurotypicality and to acknowledge that we do not question ourselves enough as regards what kinds of bodies are welcomed and supported in education, and in social life more broadly. It is still far too rare that we discuss neurotypicality as that which frames our ways of knowing, of presenting ourselves, of being bodies in the world.

Source: Histories of Violence: Neurodiversity and the Policing of the Norm – Los Angeles Review of Books

“We’re advancing inclusive design now in Tech — which means that everyone’s individual identity and/or state will compete with each others’. Working collaboratively needs to become the norm.”

Source: John Maeda’s #DesignInTech

Previously:

Autistic Canaries

Autistic man Freestone Wilson suggested in the 1990s that autistic people are functioning as the “miners’ canaries” of civilisation. When the air in the mine is poisoned we do not prevent canaries being born in case they suffer from the poison and upset us: we clean the air or close the mine.

Source: Discussion paper on eugenics and diversity

Autists are like the canary in the coal mine of mainstream society. We are amongst the first who are affected by pathologically hyper-competitive cultures.

Source: What society can learn from autistic culture | Autistic Collaboration

…at the same time, Asperger insisted that the non-compliance of his patients, and their tendency to rebel against authority, was at the heart of what he called “autistic intelligence,” and part of the gift they had to offer society.

Source: THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO AUTISM: On Hans Asperger, the Nazis, and Autism: A Conversation Across Neurologies

And, take my word on this, no one can identify and rebel against an unfair system as efficiently as a kid or adult with ID, except perhaps an autistic person. They know the system is unfair!

Source: PBIS is Broken: How Do We Fix It? – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?

Heed the canaries. Include us when designing for pluralism. Design is tested at the edges.