There are many ways to be a river. Image: Daniel Coe.

Originally a talk to the Waldorf Handwork Educators Teacher Conference
on the 15th of July, 2021.
Watch a video here. Hopefully this is of some interest to anyone interested in autism and learning, not just teachers of fibre-craft…

I want to talk today about different experiences of education, of making, and of the world. There are lessons from handwork and craft more generally that I think we can carry into life in general, and lessons from life that should be brought to bear on the handwork classroom. …


If anything is a disability, autism is. But is anything a disability?

The social model of disability sees disability as arising from the interaction between a person and their environment. Conventionally, we distinguish this from a person’s built-in impairments, although ‘impairment’ is arguably a problematic term — consider its literal meaning.

The main point is that a person is disabled by their environment, not anything inherent to them, so it is more accurate to talk about disabled people, rather than people with disabilities.

We can be more or less disabled, depending on what accommodations are made for us, and what…


The first ever Weird Pride Day was on the 4th of March, 2021–03–04.

This is a day for people to embrace their weirdness, and reject the stigma associated being weird. To publicly express pride in the things that make us weird, and to celebrate the diversity of humankind.

Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.’
- Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake

Weird Pride flag: An inversion of the normal curve, with the colourful outliers elevated and foregrounded against a standard normal curve in the background.
Weird Pride flag: An inversion of the normal curve, with the colourful outliers elevated and foregrounded against a standard normal curve in the background.
Weird Pride flag, designed in collaboration with Autistamatic

Why should people be proud of weirdness?

As with any ‘pride’ event, the issue is really with refusal…


An autistic science teacher considers what genuinely inclusive education might look like. This was originally a talk at Autscape in 2020, the conference for and by autistic people. The video of this talk is now online.

Many of us — autistic people, and those who are neurodivergent or just ‘weird’ in other ways — have difficult memories of our school days. We may have been excluded, bullied or just confused at different times; children can be merciless when they get the idea that someone deserves to be picked on, and frankly, adults in positions of power can be even worse.


The mathematics of pandemics

Exponential growth is a simple idea, with far-reaching consequences, and it’s something that everyone really ought to understand.

When something grows in proportion to how big it is already, it grows exponentially. So if it’s twice as big, that means it’ll grow twice as fast. It follows from this that it will regularly double in size. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will grow quickly — it might take 100 years to double in size! …


Queer pride in light of weirdmisia

Listen to this piece on SoundCloud or watch me reading it on YouTube.

There are a lot of reasons why I like the word ‘queer’, and a lot of reasons why some people don’t. One reason for both is that in a literal sense, ‘queer’ just means ‘weird’. Not everyone who isn’t straight and cisgender is weird in any other sense — but, well, many of us are. Recognising that is key to dealing with much of the abuse that queer people get. …


This essay appears as Chapter 10 in The Neurodiversity Reader. A reading of it is on SoundCloud, and on YouTube with visuals of water.

Ecosystems are richer when they are diverse: biodiversity makes for a more resilient system, with more ability to deal with shocks and to fill niches. Diversity is good for groups of humans, too, from the level of committees up to societies. It helps us make better decisions. We thrive on cross-pollination, learning from people with different perspectives who bring new ways of doing things and thinking about problems. Diversity is also just an unavoidable feature of…


Laser focus, sparks flying and going in circles: some of the things about autism that are not always disabling. Also the contents of this photo by tackyshack (CC-BY-NC-ND licence)

I’ve written before about autism as a disability: how important it is to recognise that it qualifies as one, however positive we want to be about neurodiversity, and how even the best things about it can be disabling. I think it’s fair to say that in the context of a society that’s not built for us, most autistic people are disabled at least to some degree. So are most other people who are diagnosably neurodivergent: the neurodiversity movement is largely a movement of disabled people, and it has much to learn from the wider disability rights movement. Even so, for…


Photo: Overload, by Sunando Roy (CC-BY-ND-SC). A boat which — like so many of us — is barely staying afloat.

Economic insecurity is dragging us all down

Being poor really takes a toll on people. There’s the malnutrition, of course; and the fact that cheap stuff costs more in the long run; and the reduced access to education. On top of all that, there’s the toll it takes on mental resources. The cognitive load associated with scrabbling to make ends meet is colossal: people have to spend much of their time putting mental energy into ensuring they (and those they care for) have the basic essentials of survival. The more you have to worry about, the less headspace you have left over for actively making things better.


Power, populism and polarisation

I don’t have the energy to be angry all the time. I don’t have the time. There are things I want to be getting on with. We should be building — building new systems for support, exchange and control, building working replacements for the stupid old broken mechanisms of power and accountability. We shouldn’t have to be pouring all our energy into opposing things; there shouldn’t be so much to be angry about.

Borne aloft on a crowd, a man basks in the flames of a raging Beltane fire.
Borne aloft on a crowd, a man basks in the flames of a raging Beltane fire.
Sometimes you just have to let the sparks wash over you. Photo by Poussiere d’etoile.

But there is so much to be angry about. We are stuck with people at the top who don’t understand the problems, or who actively benefit from…

Oolong

Educator, etc. | http://oolong.co.uk | @MxOolong

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