1. What is Autism / Takiwātanga?
  2. Towards comprehensive bans of conversion therapies
  3. Raising healthy children
  4. Creating thriving communities
  5. Towards mutual understanding and a better world
  6. Autistic culture
  7. Autistic language
  8. Autistic collaboration

What is Autism / Takiwātanga?

Takiwātanga is the Te Reo Māori word for autism, which means “in his/her/their own space and time“.

It is important to bust the stereotypes that continue to be perpetuated. Autism is not a set of behaviours, social awkwardness or a lack of empathy. It also isn’t something that can or should be treated. Autistic people simply experience the world differently to how non-autistic people do. This means we don’t fit into the boxes non-autistic people expect us to in many and varied ways. We tend to stand out from the crowd – whether we want to or not.

The difference in autistic social cognition is best described in terms of a heightened level of conscious processing of raw information signals from the environment, and an absence or a significantly reduced level of subconscious filtering of social information.

Autism is a genetically-based kaleidoscope of human neurological variants that can not be understood without the social model of disability, i.e. recognising that autistic people are often disabled by economic, environmental and cultural barriers.

The following definitions, examples, and explanations from the autistic community may assist you to better understand autistic culture and autistic people:

  1. Jorn Bettin. 2019. A communal definition of autism. Neuroclastic
  2. Arianne Garcia et al. 2019. Who are autistic adults?
  3. Nick Walker. 2014. What Is Autism?. Neurocosmopolitanism
  4. Autismo: Mi cerebro atípico. 2020. The Guide for Navigating Autistic Minds. Neuroclastic

Towards comprehensive bans of conversion therapies

“Conversion therapies” are pseudoscientific practices of trying to change an individual’s behaviour to conform to the social expectations of a particular culture using psychological and physical interventions.

Various jurisdictions around the world have passed laws against LGTBQIA+ conversion therapy. However, the same underlying techniques of torture and dehumanising coercion continue to be applied to young autistic children and other vulnerable people.

Now is the time for the governments all around the world to act and to ban all forms of “conversion therapy”. The time for change is now:

  1. Alfie Kohn. 2021. Why Positive Reinforcement Isn’t So Positive: Troubling Questions About Behaviorism with Alfie Kohn. NJ Autism Center of Excellence
  2. Alice Richardson, Kim Crawley, Laura Dilley, Pip Carroll, Rory. 2021. What is autistic conversion therapy? Autistic Collaboration Trust
  3. Tania MeInyczuk. 2021. The CRPD and the #BanABA movement. Autistic Strategies Network

Raising healthy children

The following webinars and documentary provide an introduction to personalised parenting and education techniques that allow all children to thrive, including autistic and otherwise neurodivergent children:

  1. Allison Hoffmann, Jake Pyne, Terra Vance, Sarah S. Hernandez. 2021. What would learning environments that are optimised for the needs of autistic and otherwise neurodivergent children look like? Autistic Collaboration Trust
  2. Terra Vance. 2021. Autism: It’s not OUGHTism. Neuroclastic
  3. Gareth Morewood. 2020. Using Low Arousal Approaches in Learning Environments. Studio3
  4. Ido Kedar and Meg Proctor. 2020. The power of presuming competence with non-speaking AAC user Ido Kedar. Learn Play Thrive
  5. Carol Black. 2010. Schooling the World.

Creating thriving communities

Like bees and ants, humans are eusocial animals. Through the lenses of evolutionary biology and cultural evolution, local communities are the primary organisms within human society. The implications for our civilisation are profound.

  1. Helena Norberg-Hodge, Steven Gorelick, and John Page. 2011. The Economics of Happiness. Local Futures 
  2. Gabor Maté and Helena Norberg-Hodge. 2021. The profound impacts of social and economic structures on our most intimate experiences of what it means to be human. Local Futures

Towards mutual understanding and a better world

Neurodiversity is the diversity of human brains and embodied minds – the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species.

1 in 5 people are considered neurodivergent. Neurodivergent people:

  • Adhere to idiosyncratic moral value systems rather than social norms
  • Are okay with exploring ideas that upset the “social order”
  • Spend much more time experimenting and implementing ideas that others would consider crazy or a waste of time
  • Have untypical life goals: new forms of understanding, making a positive impact, translating ideas into artistic expression
  • Autists in particular have unusually developed pattern recognition abilities and an unusual ability to persevere

Members of the neurodiversity movement adopt a position of diversity that encompasses a kaleidoscope of identities that intersects with the LGBTQIA+ kaleidoscope by recognising neurodivergent traits – including but not limited to ADHD, Autism, Dyscalculia, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Synesthesia, Tourette’s Syndrome – as natural variations of cognition, motivations, and patterns of behaviour within the human species.

The following explanatory videos, webinars, and articles may help you to better relate to the many neurodivergent people amongst your family, friends, and colleagues:

  1. Damian Milton. 2020. Autism and the Double Empathy Problem. University of Kent
  2. Fergus Murray. 2021. We’re here. We’re weird. Get used to it.
  3. Communication First. 2021. LISTEN.
  4. Jax Bayne and Rakshita Shekhar. Autistic sociocultural immunity challenges neurotypical perceptions of reality. 2020. Autscape
  5. Jorn Bettin. 2020. Autism – The cultural immune system of human societies. Autistic Collaboration Trust
  6. Jorn Bettin. 2021. Making the world a safer place for everyone. Autistic Collaboration Trust
  7. Jorn Bettin. 2019. Pathways to good company. Autistic Collaboration Trust

Autistic culture

Autists are acutely aware that culture is constructed one trusted relationship at a time – this is the essence of fully appreciating diversity.

All books featured by the Autistic Collaboration Trust are written by members members of the Autistic community.

Society must start to move beyond awareness and acceptance towards appreciation of cognitive diversity. On the one hand a shared culture can streamline collaboration, but on the other hand, the more open and diverse a culture, the more friendly it is towards minorities and outsiders.

It is very easy for groups of people and institutions to become preoccupied with specific cultural rituals and so-called cultural fit, whereas what matters most for collaboration and deep innovation is the appreciation of diversity and the development of mutual trust. This is obvious to many autistic people, but only very recently has cognitive diversity started to become recognised as genuinely valuable beyond the autistic community.

Inclusive culture is minimalistic. In contrast, relying on the social transmission of hundreds of unspoken rules via osmosis is not only distinctly unfriendly from an autistic perspective – it also stands in the way of collaboration across cultural and organisational boundaries at all levels of scale.

Autistic language

There is huge variety in the ways autistic people communicate using words, both spoken and written. This is the verbal spectrum.

Often those who can not speak remain the most misunderstood and the most misrepresented.

CommunicationFIRST, ASAN, and AASR have created a toolkit for people who want to learn more about nonspeaking autistic people, methods of communication other than speech, disability representation in media, autistic meltdowns, trauma-informed care for autistic people, restraint and seclusion and their alternatives, and how to best support nonspeaking autistic people and survivors of restraint and seclusion.

Autistic collaboration

It is precisely because autists have to spend conscious effort on understanding each individual that we are well equipped to act as a catalyst and translator between very different cultures.

The catch is that this unique capability only becomes apparent if the cultures in question are open to potential collaboration with the rest of the world, and are not learning disabled by in-group competition and fear of the unknown.

One of the persistent negative stereotypes is that we are poor at collaboration. Often the exact opposite is the case. Collaboration can take many forms, and different people have different needs and preferences. Autistic people learn and play differently. We communicate and enjoy ourselves by sharing information and knowledge, and not by negotiating social status.

Non-autistic people seem ill equipped to recognise how all the little exaggerations they use on a regular basis, such as “you look great” (when you look and feel sick), and small deceptions such as “sorry, I have an important meeting to attend to” (when someone prefers not to help you and hoards information for personal advantage) or “I helped develop a great product” (when the person was not involved and only got to know the finished product and never contributed any feedback to the development team) over time add up to a non-collaborative and potentially toxic culture.

Autistic forms of communication within a neurodiverse team and within a psychologically safe environment actually impart a collaborative advantage to the entire team.