Unlearning Deficit Ideology and the Scornful Gaze

Briefly, deficit ideology is a worldview that explains and justifies outcome inequalities- standardized test scores or levels of educational attainment, for example-by pointing to supposed deficiencies within disenfranchised individuals and communities (Brandon, 2003; Valencia, 1997a; Weiner, 2003; Yosso, 2005). Simultaneously, and of equal importance, deficit ideology discounts sociopolitical context, such as the systemic conditions (racism, economic injustice, and so on) that grant some people greater social, political, and economic access, such as that to high-quality schooling, than others (Brandon, 2003; Dudley-Marling, 2007; Gorski, 2008a; Hamovitch, 1996). The function of deficit ideology, as I will describe in greater detail later, is to justify existing social conditions by identifying the problem of inequality as located within, rather than as pressing upon, disenfranchised communities so that efforts to redress inequalities focus on “fixing” disenfranchised people rather than the conditions which disenfranchise them (Weiner, 2003; Yosso, 2005).

At the core of deficit ideology is the belief that inequalities result, not from unjust social conditions such as systemic racism or economic injustice, but from intellectual, moral, cultural, and behavioral deficiencies assumed to be inherent in disenfranchised individuals and communities (Brandon, 2003; Gorski, 2008a, 2008b; Valencia, 1997a; Yosso, 2005).

And this is the surest sign of deficit ideology: the suggestion that we fix inequalities by fixing disenfranchised communities rather than that which disenfranchises them. This, then, is the function of deficit ideology: to manipulate popular consciousness in order to deflect attention from the systemic conditions and sociopolitical context that underlie or exacerbate inequities, such as systemic racism or economic injustice, and to focus it, instead, on recycling its own misperceptions, all of which justify inequalities (García & Guerra, 2004; Jennings, 2004). It deflects our scornful gaze from the mechanisms of injustice and the benefactors of these mechanisms, and trains it, instead, on those citizens with the least amount of power to popularize a counter-narrative, just as the dominant “achievement gap” discourse draws attention away from underlying systemic conditions, such as growing corporate control of public schools, and pushes it toward “at-risk” youth from “broken” homes whose “culture of poverty” impedes them from “making it.” Deficit ideology defines every social problem in relation to those toward the bottom of the power hierarchy, trains our gaze in that direction and, as a result, manipulates the popular discourse in ways that protect and reify existing sociopolitical conditions (Brandon, 2003; Yosso, 2005).

Source: Unlearning Deficit Ideology and the Scornful Gaze: Thoughts on Authenticating the Class Discourse in Education

I really like that definition of deficit ideology and its function.

This, then, is the function of deficit ideology: to manipulate popular consciousness in order to deflect attention from the systemic conditions and sociopolitical context that underlie or exacerbate inequities, such as systemic racism or economic injustice, and to focus it, instead, on recycling its own misperceptions, all of which justify inequalities.

Use these definitions when evaluating mindset marketing. Where are you directing the scornful gaze? Are you directing it “on those citizens with the least amount of power to popularize a counter-narrative”. We are constantly spoken over in the neurodiversity and disability rights movement by narratives that direct the scornful gaze on us instead of on ableist systems. We spend so much time and energy doing counter-narrative that is out-amplified by orders of magnitude.

It becomes easier, then, to train the mass consciousness to pathologize disenfranchised communities—to, in effect, blame them for their own disenfranchisement. Once that scornful gaze down the power hierarchy is in place, so is established the justification for maintaining existing social, political, and economic conditions, such as gross inequities in access to healthcare or educational opportunity, or the waning of social programs and supports for disenfranchised communities.

I’m adding “scornful gaze” to my vocabulary. It and the “conquering gaze from nowhere” are useful for detecting when we’re using the framing of deficit ideology.

Check your gaze.


Spiky Profiles, Peripheral Minds, and Evolutionary History

In that same interview, when he was asked about what would happen to society if autism was eliminated, he said, “That goes to the larger issue that we wrestle with all the time around [artificial intelligence]. Part of what makes us human are [sic] the kinks. They’re the mutations, the outliers, the flaws that create art or the new invention, right? We have to assume that if a system is perfect, then it’s static. And part of what makes us who we are, and part of what makes us alive, is that we’re dynamic and we’re surprised.”

Source: Garcia, Eric. We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation (p. 22). HMH Books. Kindle Edition.


That quote appears in Eric M. Garcia’s new book “We’re Not Broken” and brings to mind my blog post “Cognitive diversity exists for a reason.

One of the quotes featured in that post reminds me of the spiky profiles of neurominorities.

“there are no superior genes, only genes that provide advantages with a tradeoff for other disadvantages” (Kozubek in Scientific American, 2016)

Source: Is Autism a Stress Adaptation? – The Peripheral Minds of Autism

Our spiky profiles are much about tradeoffs.

There is consensus regarding some neurodevelopmental conditions being classed as neurominorities, with a ‘spiky profile’ of executive functions difficulties juxtaposed against neurocognitive strengths as a defining characteristic.

A definition has emerged for psychologists and educators which positions neurodiversity ‘within-individuals’ as opposed to ‘between-individuals’. To elucidate: the psychological definition refers to the diversity within an individual’s cognitive ability, wherein there are large, statistically-significant disparities between peaks and troughs of the profile (known as a ‘spiky profile’, see Fig. 1). A ‘neurotypical’ is thus someone whose cognitive scores fall within one or two standard deviations of each other, forming a relatively ‘flat’ profile, be those scores average, above or below. Neurotypical is numerically distinct from those whose abilities and skills cross two or more standard deviations within the normal distribution.

Most humans are average in all functional skills and intellectual assessment, some excel at all, some struggle in all and some have a spiky profile, excelling/average/struggling. The spiky profile may well emerge as the definitive expression of neurominority, within which there are symptom clusters that we currently call autism, ADHD, dyslexia and DCD; some primary research supports this notion. In the future, these may shift according to our educational and occupational norms such as social demands, sedentary lifestyles, literacy dependency and automation of gadgets. To elucidate, although there are clear biological markers for those with a spiky profile which lead to observable, measurable psychological differences, there is nothing innately disabling about those differences when we consider a traditional, tribe-based community of humans. Within the biopsychosocial model of neurodiversity, understanding work-related intervention and treatment becomes more about adjusting the fit between the person and their environment than about treating a disorder. Critical review of the extant biopsychosocial research supports the social model proposition that the individual is not disabled, but the environment is disabling.

Source: Neurodiversity at work: a biopsychosocial model and the impact on working adults | British Medical Bulletin | Oxford Academic

We’re the kinky outliers, the peripheral minds. We’ve always been here, living and working the edges, creating dynamism and surprise, “bringing value to cooperative goals”.

This theory proposes that throughout history we evolved working together in villages and communities. The core majority were a group of similar-minded individuals that could get along easily and keep the peace. They evolved to process and prioritize information for sociability. They were adept at imitation, following the crowd and working with others. Because we know from the work of Dr. Fisher and Dr. Michael Lesser that these personalities were dispersed in such a way as the periphery were the more rare personality types. More interested in things and tinkering, exploring, telling stories and taking up causes. These different groups, or personalities, processed information uniquely and had different priorities and motivations. They were innovators, explorers, protectors, leaders, scientists, geeks, artists and creatives (Lesser and Kapklein, 2003). These neurodiverse outliers processed and experienced the world very differently than the more sociable core. However, because of both the core and the diverse Peripheral Minds we thrived with each unique personality bringing value to cooperative goals (Bergmüller et al., 2010; Smaldino et al., 2013).

Source: Is Autism a Stress Adaptation? – Peripheral Minds of Autism

Throughout our history, we have always had communities and villages with a core majority group of stabilizing, social, community-oriented individuals, and we always had the periphery minds, the outliers, those who needed to take in more information from their environments. The hyper-aware and vigilant; the innovators, the explorers, the protectors, the athletes, the hunters, the scientists, the geeks, the artists and the creative.

Source: Theory of Peripheral Minds of Autism – Peripheral Minds of Autism

Disability Dongles: Designing for the Individual, Not the Collective

“I feel like solutions to inaccessibility are often rooted in whiteness, because anyone who doesn’t think about it would think it’s cool but the reality is that they’ve created accessibility for the individual, not the collective and reinforces the class hierarchy because the wealthy would be the only ones with complete accessibility.”

Source: Imani Barbarin on Twitter

This feels like an important aspect of what Liz Jackson calls a “Disability Dongle”. Disability dongles are addressed to the individual, not the collective.

Disability Dongles

A well intended and elegant, yet useless solution to a problem we never knew we had. Disability Dongles are most frequently conceived of and created in design schools and at IDEO.

Source: Liz Jackson | Honoring the Friction of Disability – YouTube

Disability studies, particularly as offered by disabled Black women like Imani Barbarin, re-roots us out exclusive accessibility for the most privileged and into pluralistic accessibility for all. “Disability studies prevents disability dongles.”

This is why it’s absolutely essential to insert disability studies curriculum into design school.

Accessibility is only one part of disability. It’s the how.

Disability studies is the who. It’s the what. It’s the when, the where, and the why.

To be short, disability studies prevents disability dongles.

Source: Liz Jackson | Honoring the Friction of Disability – YouTube


Kinetic Cognitive Style

I’m not a fan of the “ADHD” label because it stands for “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” and the terms “deficit” and “disorder” absolutely reek of the pathology paradigm. I’ve frequently suggested replacing it with the term Kinetic Cognitive Style, or KCS; whether that particular suggestion ever catches on or not, I certainly hope that the ADHD label ends up getting replaced with something less pathologizing.

Source: Toward a Neuroqueer Future: An Interview with Nick Walker | Autism in Adulthood

We here at Stimpunks long for an alternative label for ADHD to catch on. Kinetic Cognitive Style is a good and needed reframing.

Reframe these states of being that have been labelled deficiencies or pathologies as human differences.

Source: Normal Sucks: Author Jonathan Mooney on How Schools Fail Kids with Learning Differences

“Kinetic” makes a good descriptor for the “ADHD” cognitive style for two important reasons:

  • Kinetic captures the energy of diffuse attention distribution as well as the inertia of hyperfocus.
  • Kinetic captures the need for plenty of large muscle movement and fidgeting.

ADHD or what I prefer to call Kinetic Cognitive Style (KCS) is another good example. (Nick Walker coined this alternative term.) The name ADHD implies that Kinetics like me have a deficit of attention, which could be the case as seen from a certain perspective. On the other hand, a better, more invariantly consistent perspective is that Kinetics distribute their attention differently. New research seems to point out that KCS was present at least as far back as the days in which humans lived in hunter-gatherer societies. In a sense, being a Kinetic in the days that humans were nomads would have been a great advantage. As hunters they would have noticed any changes in their surroundings more easily, and they would have been more active and ready for the hunt. In modern society it is seen as a disorder, but this again is more of a value judgment than a scientific fact.

Source: Bias: From Normalization to Neurodiversity – Neurodivergencia Latina

KCS reconceptualizes cognitive difference in a manner that allows Kinetics to live authentically.

I seek a reconceptualization of cognitive difference, to the end that those who bear now-stigmatizing labels of “deviance,” “disorder” and “syndrome,” may live and manifest their individuality, distinctive interests, gifts and capacities with integrity, in a manner that comes naturally to them, free of pressure to become people they are not, free of the automatic assignation of inferior status; and that they may enjoy the respect of their fellow citizens, rather than disdain and exclusion.

Source: neurodiversity.com | the autistic distinction

Via: Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement | SpringerLink

KCS recognizes and celebrates that “attention and its partner, interest, operate differently according to the type of brain one has.”

Whether we align our interests with others as in polytropism or follow the dictation of our dominant interest, as in monotropism, it’s all about ‘interest’.

The most important discovery I have made is that attention and its partner, interest, operate differently according to the type of brain one has. By ‘type’ of brain I mean whether you are AS or NT. Murray’s work on monotropism (tightly focused interest) and polytropism (diffused interests) (Murray 1986, 1992, 1995, 1996) is foundational to this thinking.

Source: The Passionate Mind: How People with Autism Learn

Peer Respite

A peer-run respite center is a non-clinical, completely voluntary service operated by people with their own stories of mental health recovery, trauma, hospitalization, incarceration, substance use, homelessness or some combination of these.

“When you’re in a psych hospital, they take everything — down to your shoelaces — for your protection. Then they slap a diagnosis on you,” Hart explained. “I got worse before I got better.”

Alternatively, the doors at the respite house are not locked. Guests are able to come and go to the store, their job, school or wherever they want to be.

“I think this would have definitely been a healing place,” Hart said. “You’re still part of the community and not on lockdown. In this space, you can feel the warmth, the encouragement, the safety.”

Source: An alternative to the psych hospital, run by people in mental health recovery – NC Health News


Stimpunks attempts the peer respite model on a very small scale, providing cash and respite along the lines of Afiya House.

Afiya strives to provide a safe space in which each person can find the balance and support needed to turn a difficult time into a learning and growth opportunity.

Source: Afiya Peer Respite

The house is intended to provide an alternative to hospitalization for individuals who are experiencing emotional and/or mental distress, and who feel they would benefit from staying in a community-based environment that offers peer-to-peer support focused on turning ‘crisis’ into a learning and growth opportunity.

The house offers individual bedrooms, community spaces (a living room, a finished basement, a meeting room, a kitchen and a sitting room), a variety of supplies (yoga, art, weighted blankets, etc.), and resource information for up to three people at a time. Stays generally range from one to seven nights.

Everyone who works at Afiya (as with the rest of our community) identifies as having ‘been there’ in some way. Experiences of various team members range from histories of psychiatric hospitalization to trauma to living in residential programs to living without a home to dealing with addiction and so on. No clinical supports are offered, but people who stay at the house have free access to the community where they can keep (or get) connected to clinical supports as desired.

Source: Afiya House (full version) – YouTube

The Stimpunks live at we affectionately call the “Irie Smial Preserve for Neurodivergents, Crips, and Burnouts”. We have a few acres of land with hundreds of trees and lots of breeze.

One thing we really like about the Afiya house model is that they provide caves, campfires, and watering holes so that dandelions, tulips, and orchids alike can find respite. Everyone has an individual space as well as community spaces so that they can progressively socialize according to their interaction capacity. Caves, campfires, and watering holes are necessary to designing for neurological pluralism and providing psychological safety. They’re necessary to positive niche construction.

The Irie Smial Preserve is designed by neurodivergents, for neurodivergents. We have space.

“Some autistic people’s needs will conflict with each other. For example, some autistic people may need the TV playing to calm down, as it can help to focus on specific sounds. But for others this may cause more stress depending on their mental state. Additionally, some autistic people may need to stim to feel relaxed and comfortable, or it may be involuntary when they are stressed, but noises they make (e.g. verbal stims), could really stress another autistic person out. I think the key here is space.”

Source: “It’s Not Rocket Science” – NDTi

We only have private, lockable space for one more person besides the 6 of us who live here permanently, so we’re limited to hosting one despite our sprawling space.

We’re less capacity constrained with our text-based warm line.

Peer-run warm lines – staffed by people who have lived mental health experience – have been shown to reduce loneliness and participants’ use of mental health crisis services. Additionally, a review of several studies found that digital forms of peer support improve the lives of people with serious mental illness by “enhancing participants’ functioning, reducing symptoms and improving program utilization.”

Source: Warm line gives peer mental health support – NC Health News

Stimpunks can do this only at a very small scale, and only occasionally as our high support needs family navigates our own ups and downs.

So, we would like to financially support those doing what we can only sporadically provide. If you provide peer-run respite or warm lines in the Austin, Texas area or elsewhere in Texas, contact us.

Emotion Matters in Alt Text: Text Descriptions and Emotion Rich Images

The relevant parts of an image aren’t limited to the cold hard facts. Images can make you feel a particular way, and that’s something that should be made available to a screen reader user.

“Emotion matters” really changed how I think about writing alt text. Léonie wrote a longer article on the idea, which I recommend reading.

Source: Writing great alt text: Emotion matters – JakeArchibald.com

So just what is a decorative image? It seems to me that one person’s eye candy is another person’s emotional link to a website.

A good alt text can conjure up wonderfully stimulating mental images. A friendly smile is the same in print, photo or wax crayon. Whether you listen to an image or see it, the emotional response is the key factor, so why should we recommend that these emotion rich images should be given a null alt text and hidden from screen reader users?

Perhaps it’s time we introduced another group of images: Emotion rich images and encouraged the practice of providing descriptive alt texts for them. If people don’t want to listen to the alt text, they won’t. If people don’t want to pause and look at the image, they won’t. In either case, it’s good to have the choice.

Source: Text descriptions and emotion rich images – Tink – Léonie Watson

So much emotion is lost with conventional alt text wisdom.

  • “One person’s eye candy is another person’s emotional link.“
  • “It’s time we introduced another group of images: Emotion rich images and encouraged the practice of providing descriptive alt texts for them.”

That’s a welcome reframing of decorative images that I’ll apply going forward.

Via: A Case for Accessibility Statements in App Stores | Accessibiity Weekly

Inclusion Through Options: There is no one size fits all when it comes to accessibility.

While you can read an in-detail breakdown of all accessibility settings in the game, what The Last of Us 2 creators did extremely well was not succumbing to the idea of ‘accessibility modes’.

“‘We want to be able to dig into the menus, fine-tune things, adjust things, really get into the nitty-gritty of what these options mean.'”

Making all of the accessibility settings fully customizable and open to fine-tuning by the player allowed everyone to find the perfect combination of options for their individual access needs. It removed barriers for many who wouldn’t be able to experience the game at all otherwise, but also allowed others to just make their gameplay experience more comfortable.

If Naughty Dog made the game high contrast for all the players and called it a day, it would probably not be dubbed ‘the most accessible game ever.’

There is no one size fits all when it comes to accessibility. Instead of choosing who to prioritize and counting tradeoffs for certain choices like universal high contrast mode, the obvious solution would be to let the user choose.

Similar approach can be taken with any accessibility work at a large scale. There is no blanket ‘accessibility mode’ or ‘accessibility setting’ (save for basic compliance) that will fit everyone’s needs. Giving the user full control to set up what works best for them is always the better choice.

Source: Twitter’s new font and Last of Us 2: an accessibility lesson to be learned | by Anna 4erepawko Mészáros | Aug, 2021 | UX Collective

During my stint as WordPress lead developer, I was in the “Decisions, Not Options” camp . There are merits to the philosophy, but it can be taken to inaccessible ends.

There will always be conflicting accommodations. Customization is key, especially at scale.


Mind Is an Embodied Phenomenon: Neurodiversity Is About Bodyminds, Not Just Brains

Neurodiversity, simply put, is the diversity among human minds. For 15 years or so after the term was coined, it was common for people to speak of neurodiversity as ‘‘diversity among brains.’’ There still are plenty of people who talk about it that way. I think this is a mistake; it’’s an overly reductionist and essentialist definition that’s decades behind present-day understandings of how human bodyminds work.

Mind is an embodied phenomenon. The mind is encoded in the brain as ever-changing webs of neural connectivity. The brain is part of the body, interconnected with the rest of the body by a vast network of nerves. The activity of the mind and body creates changes in the brain; changes in the brain affect both mind and embodiment. Mind, brain, and embodiment are intricately entwined in a single complex system. We’re not minds riding around in bodies, we’re bodyminds.

A lot of people hear neuro and they think, brain. But the prefix neuro doesn’t mean brain, it means nerve. The neuro in neurodiversity is most usefully understood as a convenient shorthand for the functionality of the whole bodymind and the way the nervous system weaves together cognition and embodiment. So neurodiversity refers to the diversity among minds, or among bodyminds.

In terms of scholarship, discourse, and praxis, there are two basic ways to approach the biopsychosocial phenomenon of neurodiversity. Sometime around 2010, I started referring to these two approaches as the pathology paradigm and the neurodiversity paradigm.

Source: Toward a Neuroqueer Future: An Interview with Nick Walker | Autism in Adulthood

So much of my perception of my autistic self is embodied. I feel sensory overwhelm in the nerve sense of neuro. It’s a brain and body thing.

As indicated by the title, the first essential term for this book is bodymind. Bodymind is a materialist feminist disability studies concept from Margaret Price that refers to the enmeshment of the mind and body, which are typically understood as interacting and connected, yet distinct entities due to the Cartesian dualism of Western philosophy (“The Bodymind Problem and the Possibilities of Pain” 270). The term bodymind insists on the inextricability of mind and body and highlights how processes within our being impact one another in such a way that the notion of a physical versus mental process is difficult, if not impossible to clearly discern in most cases (269). Price argues that bodymind cannot be simply a rhetorical stand-in for the phrase “mind and body”; rather, it must do theoretical work as a disability studies term. Bodymind is an essential concept in chapter 3 in my discussion of hyperempathy, a nonrealist disability that is both mental and physical in origin and manifestation. Bodymind generally, however, is an important and theoretically useful term to use in analyzing speculative fiction as the nonrealist possibilities of human and nonhuman subjects, such as the werewolves discussed in chapter 4, often highlight the imbrication of mind and body, sometimes in extreme or explicitly apparent ways that do not exist in our reality.

In addition to the utility of the term bodymind in discussions of speculative fiction, I also use this term because of its theoretical utility in discussions of race and (dis)ability. For example, bodymind is particularly useful in discussing the toll racism takes on people of color. As more research reveals the ways experiences and histories of oppression impact us mentally, physically, and even on a cellular level, the term bodymind can help highlight the relationship of nonphysical experiences of oppression—psychic stress—and overall well-being. While this research is emergent, people of color and women have long challenged their association with pure embodiment and the degradation of the body as unable to produce knowledge through a rejection of the mind/body divide. Bodymind provides, therefore, a politically and theoretically useful term in discussing (dis)ability in black women’s speculative fiction and more.

Source: Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction – Dr. Sami Schalk

Rejecting the Good Cripple Mythos: This is why we need cripple punk.

The post attracted a flood of hate mail, saying that disability isn’t something to be proud of, that disabled people shouldn’t smoke, or that a movement that “leaves out healthy people” isn’t punk. Trewhella took screenshots of the messages and added them to the post, writing, “This is why we need cripple punk.” Other people with disabilities started reblogging the post to add their own selfies, and tagging posts with cripple punk. To Trewhella’s surprise, a movement was born.

Realizing they were the leader of this new movement, Trewhella slapped together some rules and principles. “Cripple punk is exclusively by the physically disabled for the physically disabled,” they wrote. “Cripple punk rejects the ‘good cripple’ mythos. Cripple punk is here for the bitter cripple, the uninspirational cripple, the smoking cripple, the drinking cripple, the addict cripple, the cripple who hasn’t ‘tried everything’ […] Cripple punk does not pander to the able bodied.” Unlike the common inspirational depictions of disability, cripple punk allowed disabled people to be bitter, messy, and honest.

Cripple punk grew into not just a movement, but a community.

Source: How a teen punk led a movement for disabled people online – The Verge

I’m glad to see Trewhella and cripple punk get a compassionate write up. The cripple punk community and ethos are foundational to Stimpunks, inspiring our name.

Stimpunks rejects the good cripple mythos and is here for “the bitter cripple, the uninspirational cripple, the smoking cripple, the drinking cripple, the addict cripple, the cripple who hasn’t ‘tried everything’”.

The Importance of Stimming as an Adaptive Coping Mechanism

Autistic adults highlighted the importance of stimming as an adaptive mechanism that helps them to soothe or communicate intense emotions or thoughts and thus objected to treatment that aims to eliminate the behaviour.

Furthermore, more recent theories have suggested that stimming may provide familiar and reliable self-generated feedback in response to difficulties with unpredictable, overwhelming and novel circumstances (e.g. Lawson, Rees, & Friston, 2014; Pellicano & Burr, 2012). As such, stimming may provide not only relief from excessive sensory stimulation, but also emotional excitation such as anxiety (Leekam, Prior, & Uljarevic, 2011). Consistent with these suggestions, autistic adults report that stimming provides a soothing rhythm that helps them cope with distorted or overstimulating perception and resultant distress (Davidson, 2010) and can help manage uncertainty and anxiety (e.g. Joyce, Honey, Leekam, Barrett, & Rodgers, 2017).

Reflecting the aims of popular interventions, language surrounding the topic of stimming is often pejorative (Jaswal & Ahktar, 2018). Researchers sometimes assume that stimming falls within voluntary control and has asocial or antisocial motivations (Jaswal & Ahktar, 2018; Lilley, in press). For example, a prominent review of repetitive behaviours in autistic people attributed the onset of stimming to a ‘self-imposed restricted environment’ (Leekam et al., 2011, p. 577). Stimming has become so associated with autism that some scientists and clinicians use the term ‘stims’ interchangeably with ‘autistic behaviour’ (Donnellan, Hill, & Leary, 2013). Furthermore, therapies continue to treat stimming despite lacking strong evidence of efficacy or ethics (Jaswal & Akhtar, 2018; Lilley, in press). While researchers increasingly acknowledge limitations in the under- standing of, and interventions for, stimming (e.g. Harrop, 2015; Patterson, Smith, & Jelen, 2010), treatments may remain popular, in part because many parents regard it as noticeable and stigmatising (Kinnear, Link, Ballan, & Fischbach, 2016).

Autistic people have become increasingly mobilised and vocal in defence of stimming. Autism rights or neurodiversity activists believe that stims may serve as coping mechanisms, thus opposing attempts to eliminate non-injurious forms of stimming (e.g. Orsini & Smith, 2010). They decry practices such as ‘quiet hands’ (which teaches the suppression of hand flapping), instead using ‘loud hands’ as a metaphor both for using such non-verbal behaviour to communicate and for cultural resistance more broadly (Bascom, 2012). In addition, autistic scholar-activists denounce attempts to reduce their bodily autonomy (Nolan & McBride, 2015; Richter, 2017) and declarations of their stimming as unacceptable or as necessarily involuntary (Yergeau, 2016).

Source: ‘People should be allowed to do what they like’: Autistic adults’ views and experiences of stimming – Steven K Kapp, Robyn Steward, Laura Crane, Daisy Elliott, Chris Elphick, Elizabeth Pellicano, Ginny Russell, 2019

Let us stim! I couldn’t cope without my stims, including the self-injurious ones. They are lifelong companions that I wouldn’t want to be without.

Suppressing coping stims is violence against a neurominority.