Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Why Are We Learning This?

This idea was prompted by a post I came across while looking through an anti-ABA linkspam given to me by someone on Reddit. Since then, however, I've been unable to find the post that inspired it again. In any case, this was a principle that was important to me before, but this post reminded me of it and convinced me to act on it.

When we are teaching children, we should try to make sure that what we are teaching them will actually be beneficial to them.

Now, this isn't to say that we must only teach stuff with a clear practical benefit. After all, you can also gain benefits from having a broader perspective on the world, learning to express yourself in a deep and meaningful way, learning that being persistent and trying hard can pay off, or even the joy of learning something simply because it's interesting.

Or, you can learn that adults will put you through pointless drudgery and make you miserable for something that ultimately has no real benefit to your life. Like doing long division by hand, because guess what, teachers, turns out I actually do always have a calculator with me! (And yet, teachers are still arguing that children need to do long division by hand, even in this time of smartphones, because of some vague, unproven and undefined benefits to their understanding of math.)

So, one of the areas I listed in my personal curriculum goal database for my child is the intended benefit of that particular goal to my child.

Some things have a clear, obvious and significant benefit that is only achievable by that goal. For example, being able to read fluently in English has a lot of benefits that are hard to replace with any alternatives - many books aren't available as audiobooks and text-to-speech has flaws.

Other things have less clear benefits that could be obtained in many ways. For example, being able to kick a ball is important for playing soccer, but playing soccer isn't really essential to life. Exercise has health benefits, but many exercises don't require any ball-handling skills. So, if my child really struggles with kicking a ball, that's not really a big deal.

If my child enjoys kicking a ball around, well, then, I'll gladly encourage them to build their ball-handling skills as long as they're having fun with it. But if I try to show my kid how to kick a ball and they get frustrated and upset and say that they're sick of playing with a ball, well, then, I'll drop it. Because basic ball-handling skills aren't worth them going through the stress of being forced to do something they don't enjoy. After all, if they don't like kicking a ball, they won't put themselves in situations where kicking a ball would be a useful skill anyway. And a skill you only use before you're old enough that people stop forcing you into recreational activities is pretty useless. Granted, ball-handling skills can build overall dexterity, but so can many other things, and hopefully at least one of those will be something my child enjoys.

And even with the most valuable skill, like reading, there comes a point where learning it might not be worth the cost. Torey Hayden, special education teacher and author, described one such child in one of her books - a seven year old girl who'd been put in her class after failing grade 1. She and her twin sister had suffered physical abuse in their original family and were currently living in a very loving foster home. Whereas her sister was thriving, she'd experienced a serious brain injury that seemed to have caused lasting visual processing impairment, resulting in pretty much total inability to tell letters apart.

Torey Hayden tried to teach her to read. But regular drilling with letters seemed to have only one effect - making this girl miserable. So, finally, Torey Hayden gave up and stopped working on literacy goals with this child, and her whole demeanor changed. It seemed pretty clear to both Torey Hayden and myself as I read the story that this child was better off without reading instruction, at least for now. (Unfortunately, Torey Hayden got in trouble with her superiors about this decision. Luckily, that's far less of a concern for homeschooling, but I will still have to worry about proving to the Saskatchewan government that I'm actually educating my child.)

And if there's one thing disability rights advocates have taught me, it's that it's possible to live a good life while lacking a lot of "essential" skills. So, if it comes down to struggling at the cost of mental health or learning to live without a skill that would be very useful, even the most essential skills are ultimately optional. I simply have a higher threshold for when I'll call off teaching them a really useful skill as opposed to a skill that's not so useful.

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Monday, December 20, 2021

How Do I Feel About Romance?

So, December Carnival of Aros is about attitudes towards romance. Just like how aces can identify as sex-repulsed, sex-neutral, sex-favourable, etc, the same is true for aros around romance.

However, whereas I see a fairly even mix of the different sex attitudes in most ace communities I’ve hung out in, the same is not true for aro communities, in my experience. The majority of aros I’ve encountered are solidly romance-repulsed.

What am I? Honestly, I don’t know. I know that I definitely don’t resonate with the standard romance-repulsed narrative of an aro who hates seeing anyone kiss, who gets overwhelmed and needs to hide away during Valentine’s Day, who is skeptical that romantic relationships (especially monogamous ones) could ever be experienced as healthy or positive even by allos, etc. Kind of a stereotype, sure, but I’ve met quite a few aros who resonate with at least some of that stereotype.

I do sometimes hate romance, though. When I read a fictional pairing as a QPR and really enjoy that, I hate seeing them get together romantically. I often get mad about accusations of “queerbaiting” because they seem to so often be thrown at great QPR pairs, like Holmes/Watson.

I also have mixed feelings about getting into a romance myself. I keep thinking I like the idea in theory, but when a potential opportunity actually presents itself, I always end up rejecting it. Then again, I’m sex-repulsed asexual, and all the romantic prospects I’ve had so far have been heterosexual cis men, so of course I haven’t wanted to date them - they’d want sex, and I don’t want to ever have sex. And the privilege of being cishet men is potentially fraught in and of itself. The only ones who haven’t been a total mismatch for me sexually (mainly fetishists who can enjoy fetish play without sex) have been geographically separated from me, and I can’t really do long-distance relationships that are actually emotionally significant and intimate, regardless of whether they’re romantic or platonic.

So, I have reasons why no IRL romantic prospect has seemed appealing to me. If a hypothetical romantic asexual who lives nearby and has a compatible personality and values to me showed interest in me romantically, I’d probably give it a go. So maybe I’m romance-favorable but just really picky? Or maybe I’d be shocked, if I actually entered such a relationship, by how unpleasant I find it. Who knows?

I also often like fictional romances. There’s characters I find cute together and like reading fluffy fanfics of them together - some of my recent favorite pairings are Zim/Dib and Geralt/Jaskier, as well as polyamorous Trevor/Sypha/Alucard. There’s also some fictional romances I like for how fucked up they are - some Zim/Dib stuff is like that for me, as well as Lenore/Hector.

And many of the fictional romances I’ve hated the most have also been hated by alloromantic people - Edward/Bella and Anastasia/Christian being particularly prominent examples. But I also have a femdom kink, and when I came across a gender-swapped Fifty Shades of Grey, I liked it much better. (You can see why I like Lenore/Hector, huh?)

Speaking of D/s, that’s an added wrinkle. A lot of people like to pretend kinks are only appealing to people because they’re sexually arousing. And despite being asexual, I actually do get sexually aroused by my kinks, to the point where I technically consider myself grey-ace because I feel sexual attraction conditional on one of my fetishes being triggered by someone. But I don’t only enjoy kink in a sexual manner, and I actually have several kinks that rarely, if ever, get me aroused.

And in the case of D/s, it’s not about sex for most people. Sex is certainly a part of it for most D/s relationships, but a lot of people practice D/s as a default mode for their relationship, in both sexual and non-sexual contexts. The sub is not necessarily getting aroused every time they say the word “Master”.

Is a full-time D/s relationship a romantic relationship? It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. There are people who consider themselves monogamously partnered to one person while having a D/s relationship with another person, for example. Does it matter to me whether a D/s relationship is romantic when I’m looking at it and figuring out if it appeals to my kinks? Not at all.

In conclusion, I’m grey-asexual, sex-repulsed and kinky. I have a very specific and precise understanding of exactly where I am on the ace spectrum. With the aro spectrum, though, I identify as aromantic, and everything more specific is a bundle of unknowns. Only thing I can say is I'm probably not romance-repulsed, and it makes me stick out in most aro communities.

Newborn Educational Goals

 This article is about the educational goals I’m setting for the birth to 3 months period of my child’s life.

So, first question: why am I setting educational goals for a newborn?

Well, since long before I’ve even known I wanted to be a parent, I’ve known that if I have a child, I want to homeschool them. And if you’re homeschooling, the distinction between school-aged and before is pretty artificial. There’s no particular reason why I can’t frame my child’s early learning in similar terms to how I plan to approach homeschooling when they’re actually ready for K-12 goals. It provides good practice, too - an opportunity to learn how to do this whole “tracking curriculum goals” thing before I have to prove to the Saskatchewan government that I’m not educationally neglecting my child.

And let’s make it clear that setting these goals does not represent any intent to pressure my child, take away their fun and free time, or take away my enjoyment of just being a parent. I believe that children learn best through play and naturalistic, everyday experiences, and learn better when they’re happy, relaxed, and curious. And I have every intention of prioritizing and dropping lower-priority stuff if it’s too stressful.

I’ve even built-in guidelines for prioritizing by explicitly stating how learning these skills will benefit my child. If that benefit is minor, depends on circumstances that don’t apply to everyone, or can be achieved by other things, that’s going to be one of the first goals dropped if things get tough.

And after all, many parents track milestones. What I’m doing is basically a variation on that.

As for why I’m writing this up at 18 weeks gestation, chalk it up to impatience and overpreparing out of excitement for my child’s impending birth.

So, what goals am I setting?

Life Skills

Under Life Skills, I have several goals related to my plans to practice elimination communication.

Elimination communication is controversial, however, in doing my research, it seems like most of the nay-sayers seemed to be making inaccurate assumptions about what EC entails. A lot of them seemed to be reacting primarily to the label of “early toilet training”, on the assumption that it involves using similar strategies for younger infants as would be used for an older toddler.

I do intend on my child wearing diapers. I don’t intend to offer any rewards or punishments based on whether my child eliminates in their diaper or in a potty. What I intend to do is offer my child opportunities to use a potty if they feel like doing so.

People differ in how they feel about the sensations of urine and feces on their skin, but most people don’t enjoy it. In addition, urine and feces on skin is a potential risk factor for certain health issues such as diaper rash, and although the consequences for infants are rarely serious, they can be uncomfortable.

Plus, on a selfish level, I’d rather not have to change diapers if there’s a viable alternative. Even if EC results in changing fewer diapers, I’ll consider it a success.

And if it doesn’t, well, I can always try more conventional potty-training later on.

Here are my EC-related goals, adapted from this Standards Based Life Skills Curriculum:

  • Cooperates with being placed on toilet

  • Toilets on a scheduled time with prompt

  • Urinates in toilet

  • Voids bowels in toilet

All of these goals are useful to my child for essentially the same reason - not having urine and/or feces on skin more than necessary.

My plans for working on these goals essentially boil down to holding my child over a potty at various times - right after meals and naps, every couple hours, and whenever I feel like my child might be about to use their diaper - whenever it’s reasonably convenient to do so. I might also use a timer at some point, if I find it useful. And try not to react with any sort of emotion contingent on whether or not my child actually uses the potty, to avoid any potential negative side effects if my child isn't able to control their bowel and bladder or prefers to use their diaper.


Obviously, actual words and even complex babbling is not likely to come for quite awhile, but early pre-linguistic skills are likely to develop soon after birth. The goals listed here are drawn from the Montessori Scope and Sequence: Infant curriculum.

Here are my language-related goals:

  • Responds to loud sounds in environment. (L.H&U.1)

  • Calms or smiles in response to human voice. (L.H&U.2)

  • Recognizes voice of parent or primary care-giver. (L.H&U.3)

  • Communicates pleasure through cooing sounds. (L.S.2)

  • Indicates different needs through different cries. (L.S.3)

  • Smiles when seeing a familiar person. (L.S.4)

Responding to sounds is useful because the primary orienting response directs visual attention towards sources of sound, which are often things that are also moving and/or contain useful visual information. This helps my child gather information about the world and coordinate sight and hearing together.

In addition, tracking this has the side benefit that if my child happens to be deaf, I’m more likely to spot it early on. Early diagnosis of congenital deafness can make a big difference to language outcomes - in my case, while I intend to sign to my child either way, a diagnosis of hearing impairment will mean that improving my signing proficiency moves to top priority, as well as getting my child access to help from others.

However, this is one item that my child has already started showing progress with prenatally, so I doubt they’re deaf. I've been able to feel movement for a little over a month now, and in the past week (slightly less than 18 weeks gestation), I've noticed that a noise source (such as my phone playing Time Team) placed against my pregnant belly can be an impetus for a flurry of movement. Still, I won't mark this as mastered until I'm able to observe a clear, consistent response, which isn’t very feasible with the sounds and their movements muffled by my belly.

Calming or smiling in response to a human voice is a sign that my child is paying attention to speech, a necessary prerequisite to learning to understand speech. In addition, smiling at people is likely to get them positive attention, which presents an early opportunity for them to learn that their actions can affect other people’s behavior.

Recognizing a primary caregiver’s voice (in my child’s case, my voice or the voices of their grandma, grandpa and possibly their uncle, depending on how much he chooses to involve himself) and smiling at a familiar person means that my child is starting to know which people can be trusted to take care of them. Since they’re completely dependent on us at first, this knowledge can provide them a sense of safety in our presence, as well as encouraging them to seek us out preferentially when they need help with something.

Communicating pleasure through cooing and needs through cries means being able to tell us what they want and don’t want, what feels good or bad to them. It means that they can let us know to do things they enjoy and help them avoid or stop things that make them unhappy. Again, this is especially important given how dependent they are on us to look after them. Me identifying those distinct cues explicitly also means that I might be able to translate my child’s communication to other people, such as babysitters if we have reason to hire any.

My plans for encouraging the development of these skills include:

  • playing with a rattle or other noisy toy to elicit an orienting response

  • narrating activities my child is involved in so my child gets to listen to speech a lot

  • going for walks with them because I tend to talk to myself on walks and could readily transfer that to talking to my child

  • playing simple anticipation games where I announce that I’m about to do something fun and then do it or recite a predictable rhyme with associated fun actions

  • playing music or singing for them to see if they enjoy it

  • responding as contingently and sympathetically as I can to my child’s attempts at communication so they can tell communication works (eg feeding on demand, giving them attention when they ask and backing off if they give me overload cues, soothing when they are upset and mirroring happiness when they’re happy, etc)

  • playing peek-a-boo to give them repeated opportunities to experience mini-separation and reunion in a fun way

Physical Education

A newborn is pretty helpless, physically, but hopefully my child won’t stay that way. At this age, increasing physical strength and coordination is a major priority

These goals are also drawn from the Montessori Scope and Sequence, and split into Equilibrium and Hand Control categories.


  • Lifts head while being held. (MD.E.1)

  • Raises head while lying on stomach. (MD.E.2)

  • Masters control of the head. (MD.E.3)

  • Supports upper body with arms while lying on stomach. (MD.E.4)

  • Stretches out and kicks legs. (MD.E.5)

  • Pushes down with legs when held above a hard surface. (MD.E.6)

The goals related to head control and pushing up with arms will benefit my child immediately by enabling them to move their head out of uncomfortable positions and look around at their surroundings more easily. The leg movement goals are less immediately beneficial, but represent prerequisite skills without which my child would be unlikely to be able to walk. While walking (or indeed head control) isn’t strictly essential for a good life, it’s a pretty important skill that would make my child have a much easier time in everyday life.

My child has already started showing progress on MD.E.5, beginning around my 12 week pregnancy ultrasound. On that ultrasound, I saw them kicking their legs and waving their arms, clearly moving all four limbs. Around the same time I also started feeling movement, which has become more and more distinct over time. However, before birth, my child isn’t having to work against gravity as much to move, because they’re in a liquid medium. So I won’t consider this skill mastered until they can demonstrate this ability when surrounded by air. In addition, they didn’t have the room to fully extend their legs on ultrasound, which is my interpretation of “stretches out legs”.

The rattle can also motivate development of head control, by providing an incentive to try to look around. Tummy time is also beneficial to head control - luckily, I know that if my child gets upset about classic “facedown on a mat” tummy time, I can try various positions and distractions, like putting them facedown on my body, lying down in front of them to interact with them, putting toys in front of them, or putting something beneath them to make it easier. A mobile can also motivate deliberate head movements by being another interesting thing to try to look at.

As for the two leg goals, diaper changes or other situations where my baby is flat on their back can be a good time to observe kicking and stretching. I could also encourage a full extension of the leg by gently straightening it with my hands. The best way I can think of to practice pushing down on a hard surface is simply to hold them above such a surface and give them an opportunity to try it.

Hand Control:

  • Opens and closes hands. (MD.HC.1)

  • Brings hand to mouth, explores hand with mouth. (MD.HC.2)

  • Instinctive prehension evident in grasping adult finger or object offered. (MD.HC.3)

  • Begins to observe own hands. (MD.HC.4)

  • Swipes at objects dangling on mobile or frame. (MD.HC.5)

Most of these skills are prerequisites to more functional hand use. Opening and closing hands and instinctive grasping contribute to the development of more deliberate grasping. Observing hands is an early skill in hand-eye coordination, which will eventually allow them to use vision to guide skilled hand movements. Swiping is one of the first deliberate object interactions my child will likely manage, and is also an early expression of hand-eye coordination. And bringing hand to mouth will eventually be important for self-feeding and currently assists in gaining tactile information about objects since a newborn’s mouth is more tactilely sensitive than their hands.

Many hand movements can also serve communication functions, especially relevant since I plan on modeling ASL signs to my child. Specifically, I’ll probably do a mix of ASL, PSE and key word signing, especially if my child is hearing - hearing children often benefit from mixed sign-speech communication styles that are not nearly as useful for deaf children. Bringing hand to mouth in particular is frequently an instinctive sign of hunger in very young infants, but also vaguely resembles the ASL sign for food/eat, and I intend to respond to it by modeling that sign and offering my child nourishment, to encourage them to make that connection more readily.

In addition to modeling signs and overinterpreting hand gestures that resemble signs, I also plan to use rattles, teethers and similar toys to encourage early grasping, swiping and mouthing, and to see if I can encourage them to look at their own hands by playing with their hands using my own. Swiping can also be encouraged using some of the cat toys I already have, since those toys are already designed to elicit swiping responses from cats.

Sensory Development

There's some overlap between this category and previous ones, but I'm going to go with the Montessori definition of this category for now.

As with most of the above goals, of course, these goals come from the Montessori Scope and Sequence. At this age, the goals in this category all focus on basic visual and auditory processing skills.


  • Reacts to different sounds. (VA.A.1)

This one seems to overlap quite a bit with L.H&U.1, under language. However, I draw a distinction by deciding that L.H&U.1 refers specifically to reaction to loud sounds whereas VA.A.1 includes softer sounds, and that VA.A.1 also refers to having different responses to different sounds instead of generalized response to any sound of a certain volume.

The benefits include gaining basic information from auditory cues, such as being able to recognize familiar objects by sound.

I plan to encourage development of this skill by playing or singing music, narrating activities, reading to my child (yes, even a newborn can benefit from being read to) and trying to engage them in back and forth interaction in general.


  • Displays interest in black and white mobiles. (VA.V.1)

  • Follows moving objects with eyes. (VA.V.2)

  • Recognizes familiar objects and people. (VA.V.3)

For the first one, what exactly my child is showing visual interest in doesn’t really matter that much, but black and white images tend to be easier for a newborn to make out clearly, and looking at things helps them build visual processing skills and learn about the world.

Moving objects tend to be important to monitor. Moving things are generally things that are capable of acting upon other things, and could be dangerous or something you can interact with. People are moving things, after all, so focusing on movement draws attention to social stimuli as well.

Recognizing familiar people, as discussed with L.H&U.3 and L.S.4, is a way of determining who could potentially be trusted to help them. Learning about individual people and their characteristics makes those individuals more predictable to my child. Meanwhile, learning about familiar objects can help my child recognize the differences between different objects of the same kind. And since certain objects tend to always be in the same places, it can also help my child learn about familiar locations, too.

Mobiles are an obvious tool, specifically mentioned for VA.V.1, though I’m not going to be exactly strict about the mobiles being black and white and the black and white things my child looks at being mobiles. Simple books could also be a good source of simple black and white patterns to look at. I could potentially combine this with tummy time, as well, to motivate my child to lift their head to look.

For movement, I can move things around in their visual field for simple tracking games, and once they start getting more hand control, swiping games as well. Visual tracking is pretty much a prerequisite to swiping accurately.

For learning about individual people, interaction of any sort is obviously relevant. Mirror play could also be fun, letting them see themselves as well as see me from multiple angles at once. Familiar routines with familiar objects can help them associate those objects with those routines.

Although none of the above skills can be displayed in-utero, my child has shown an important prerequisite to all of them - response to visual stimuli. Around late November (15 weeks gestation), my pregnancy app said that my child might be able to detect light through my belly, so I suggested to my Dad that we shine a flashlight on my belly to see if my child responded. They did, strenuously, and continued to be agitated for several hours afterwards. I don’t think it was a pleasant experience for my child, and I have no intention of repeating it, but it did give me some interesting information on my child’s visual abilities. Clearly, they can at least distinguish light from dark.

So, this brings me to the end of my newborn goals writeup - two of which are already showing progress in utero. I have a bunch more goals like this for older ages in a database on my phone. Around 3 months or so after birth, I’ll reassess which goals my kid’s already met and which ones we’re still working on (I’m assuming the EC goals will probably be “still working on” goals), and look for new goals for 3-6 months old.

If my child is struggling, any 3-6 month goals that have 0-3 month skills as prerequisites (such as moving eyes towards source of sound, which requires that they respond to sound at all) will need to be postponed. Note that if there’s any room for doubt about whether a skill is strictly required for another skill, I’ll err on the side of teaching my child earlier - for example, elimination communication requires ignoring a bunch of commonly listed “prerequisites” to toileting, which are also frequently skipped for physically disabled children.

I may also seek out assessments to determine if the lack of progress on highly significant 0-3 month goals is a sign of a disability. For example, if my child is not accomplishing any of their visual goals, this could indicate visual impairment, and I’d want to have them seen by an ophthalmologist to determine if they have an eye condition. Some congenital visual impairments can be treated, for example cataracts can be surgically removed, and regardless, I can focus on providing my child more tactile and auditory cues and plan for how to adjust my teaching plans for blindness. (Including learning Braille, eventually.)

Conversely, I may find, much as I did with newborn goals displayed prenatally, that my child is already showing some of the 3-6 month goals by the age of 3 months. In that case, I might look into related 6-9 month goals and see if any of them seem feasible. For example, there’s a decent chance that “turning head towards a source of a sound” might be a feasible goal for a 3-6 month old, even though the Montessori curriculum has it for 6-12 months (which is coded in my database as both 6-9 and 9-12 months, btw).

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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Kid's Hair Color

So, it's early in the morning and I can't sleep because pregnancy has made my usual insomnia way worse. And I got to obsessing over genetics. Specifically, what color will my child's hair be?

I'm blond. Which means that I have two recessive blonde alleles - let's call that bb. My Mom and brother are also blond, so they must have the same alleles. My Dad is dark-haired, but since he had two blond children, he must carry the blond gene, so let's call his genotype Db.

The sperm donor is dark-haired. His profile says so, and his childhood photo confirms it. But, the question is, does he carry a blond gene?

If he has any blond children, then he definitely does. But although the Donor Sibling Registry says he has four registered donor offspring, I haven't paid for a membership yet, and the information I can see for free tells me nothing more than that they exist and some of their genders. So, up until I get around to signing up for that, I can't say anything about my kid's diblings.

If he has a blond parent, he also must 100% be a carrier of the blond gene. Blond people are bb, remember? So a blond parent always passes on a blond allele to their child. But, according to his donor profile, both his parents are dark-haired.

So, could he still carry a blond gene? Sure, if one or both of his parents carry a blond gene. He lists one sibling, also dark-haired, but of the grandparents listed, two are blond. Now, the profile doesn't say which grandparents are on which side. But since both his parents are dark-haired, we know that both must have at least one dark-haired parent. So the two blond grandparents must be on opposite sides, meaning that both of his parents are carriers of the blond gene.

Two dark-haired carriers of the blond gene can have children with the following alleles and phenotypes:

DD - dark-haired, 25%

Db - dark-haired, 50%

bb - blond, 25%

So, a dark-haired child of two known Db parents has a 2/3rds chance of carrying a blond gene.

If the donor's genotype is DD, then my kid's genotype and hair color is 100% dark-haired Db. That's the only possible outcome.

But, if the donor's genotype is Db, then my kid has a 50% chance of either being Db (dark-haired) or bb (blond). They're definitely inheriting a blond allele from me, but the donor could give them either allele.

So, given that the donor has a 2/3 chance of being a carrier, there's a 1/3rds chance my child will be dark-haired because the donor is DD, a 1/3rds chance my child will be dark-haired from a Db donor, and a 1/3rds chance my child will be blond. So, that's a 2/3rds chance of dark-hair, and a 1/3rds chance of blond hair.

It'll be interesting to see my kid's hair color!

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Generalization: Is it Worthwhile?

I just came across this article about how to improve generalization of learned skills, and I’d like to discuss some of the example cases and ask a different question - is generalization even desirable?

In particular, I want to focus on Todd and Terry.

Todd has spina bifida. When not in his wheelchair, his preferred means of getting around has long been to scoot along the floor on his butt. When he was 7 years old, his teacher taught him to walk on crutches as a replacement for this behavior, and he was successful in learning to use crutches at school. Reports of this success motivated his parents to get him crutches at home - however, when he came back to school the next year, his skills with crutches had declined, and it turned out that he doesn’t use his crutches at home, preferring to scoot around like he always has.

The article doesn’t really get into the pros and cons of crutch usage for Todd very much. They acknowledge that Todd prefers scooting and theorize that he prefers it because he can scoot faster than he can crutch-walk, but apart from that, it’s taken as a given that crutch-walking is obviously better than scooting. But is this true?

There are a lot of adult wheelchair users who scoot at home, especially paraplegic wheelchair users like Todd. For example, some paraplegic people who live in inaccessible multi-level homes use a wheelchair only for the ground floor, crawl or scoot up or down stairs, and scoot around in the regions of their house that are only accessible from the stairs. Crutches would be far less effective in this particular situation - if Todd maintains his proficiency with bum-scooting, and in particular makes sure he’s able to scoot up or down stairs, he could potentially live in housing situations that would be inaccessible to many other wheelchair and/or crutch users.

Even if Todd does live in a wheelchair accessible home throughout his life, he’ll still have situations where his best option is scooting. For example, what if he’s visiting the pool? He probably won’t want to bring his crutches along while swimming, and crutches left on the poolside could be a tripping hazard. If he wheels or crutch-walks to an out-of-the-way spot, discards his mobility aids and crawls to the water, his mobility aids aren’t obstructing other people’s movements or facing as much risk of being lost or damaged. (If he’s really concerned about the safety of his mobility aids while he’s swimming, he could even use a combination bike lock to affix them to something immobile.)

This article also doesn’t mention what kind of crutches Todd is using. Some designs of crutches can actually be potentially harmful if used long-term - in particular, underarm crutches have been linked to radial nerve palsy. Hopefully, Todd has forearm crutches, which would be more appropriate for a person with a long-term spinal impairment. But underarm crutches are more readily available, and it’s worrying that no mention was made of the kind of crutches Todd uses.

In addition, for his long-term physical health, the best outcome for Todd would be to use a variety of mobility options involving a variety of postures and movements. This would improve physical fitness and reduce risk of pressure sores and muscle strain. Crutch-walking is definitely a good option for him, but so is scooting, and using both in appropriate situations is a better option than choosing one exclusively.

Ultimately, their solution seems to be beneficial to Todd - since Todd could scoot faster than crutch-walk, they encouraged crutch-walking by training him until he could crutch-walk faster than scooting. Learning to crutch-walk faster is undoubtedly beneficial for a child with Todd’s physical abilities. However, their overall approach to his case suggests that they see scooting as an obviously inferior option in all situations, only preferred by Todd because he has more practice with its use, rather than contemplating the potential benefits scooting could serve throughout his life.

Terry’s situation is worse. Terry enjoys hand-flapping and “light filtering” (they don’t specify what “light filtering” is, but I suspect they’re describing a stim I also have, where I move a hand around between my eyes and a light source to see how the light changes as my hand moves). He has been taught to avoid stimming in his elementary school classroom, but still stims in other contexts, and spends most of his recess time stimming. This is seen as a problem.

The fact that they’re setting goals to alter recess stimming highlights a major problem for many disabled children - a lack of true “free time”. Even in times when other children are allowed to freely select their own choice of amusement (as long as it’s not infringing on other children’s rights), disabled children are often given extra rules and expectations. Terry, by virtue of his disability, isn’t allowed to have true free play, because teachers will judge and second-guess his choices of how to play.

Children who stim vary in terms of whether their stimming blocks out attention to other stimuli, doesn’t affect attention, or improves it. If Terry’s stimming blocks out his awareness of other stimuli, then limiting it during educational activities would, actually, be in his best interests. However, if it’s not interfering with paying attention in class, Terry should be allowed to stim in class. Especially since hand-flapping and light filtering aren’t particularly disruptive behaviors, and would be easy for most NT classmates to tune out. (Teachers often greatly underestimate NT classmates’ ability to tune out atypical behavior from disabled classmates, likely partly as an excuse to justify unnecessary attempts at normalizing behavior that actually only bothers the teacher.)

If Terry had a classmate who did find his stimming genuinely disruptive, for example a Deaf classmate who keeps confusing stimming with Deaf-appropriate ways of attracting attention using peripheral vision, then the competing access needs of both students should be addressed in whichever way best serves both of them. This could be suppressing Terry’s stims, if that’s truly the best option, but it could also be changing the seating arrangements so Terry and his Deaf classmate aren’t in the same row (either putting Terry in front or behind the Deaf student could be helpful - and many Deaf students benefit from being in the front row anyway, whereas students prone to sensory overload often benefit from being in a corner), putting some kind of divider between them, encouraging Terry to stim in ways that involve less obvious hand movements, or other options.

In any case, even giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming that there are genuine reasons why Terry needs to not stim in class, those reasons do not apply to recess, at home, or any other contexts that don’t involve being actively educated or having another person with competing access needs present and unable to freely leave. If Terry uses stimming to block out sensation, for example, this is actually a very adaptive response in situations where he’s risking sensory overload - stimming in recess, for example, could mean that Terry has more energy to attend to class later on, and is less likely to have a meltdown resulting in behavior far more disruptive than just moving his hands in weird ways.

But no, they end up recruiting basically everyone in Terry’s life to suppress his stimming in every context. Which is incredibly harmful - not only does Terry not benefit from suppressing his stims in every context, but he’s also learning that literally no one in his life likes the way he naturally expresses himself. Even if this may not be true - most people in his life likely didn’t really mind his stimming, and only agreed to suppress it because Terry’s teacher has given them the false impression that it helps Terry to suppress his stims in every context.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Carnival of Aces December Call for Submission

The December 2021 Carnival of Aces will be hosted here! I saw that they didn't have hosts lined up for the next few months and I had an idea, so I thought I'd volunteer.

Since I'm pregnant right now and obsessed with babies, this month's theme is Children and Childhood. All of us were once children, so you can talk about your own childhood, and how your childhood experiences have shaped your experience of asexuality or vice versa. Or, if, like me, you're pregnant, parenting or intending to parent, you can talk about your own current or future children, and how their lives are shaped by your asexuality.

Submissions are due by New Year's Eve, and the round-up post will be posted on New Year's Day. I will attempt to respond to each submission within a couple days of entry, so if I haven't responded to your entry after a few days, please re-submit.