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 Neuro-affirming practice and ABA

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is evolving to better serve the diverse needs of neurodivergent individuals. Neuro-affirming support in ABA embraces values that honor the unique experiences and strengths of neurodivergent people. Here are the ten core values of neuro-affirming support in ABA:

1. Promoting Self-Advocacy

Promoting self-advocacy ensures neurodivergent individuals can navigate society while meeting their needs and honoring their differences. Self-advocacy involves providing individuals with the tools and information necessary to communicate their wants and needs effectively. This includes teaching them to identify their needs, understand their differences, explore strategies, and express concerns. By honoring their decisions and providing choices, we empower individuals to advocate for themselves in all aspects of life, including education, employment, healthcare, and relationships.

2. Rejecting Neuro-Normativity

Neuro-normativity centers a particular way of functioning as the superior and right way. Rejecting neuro-normativity means creating space for all ways of functioning and recognizing that differences are not deficits. It involves challenging societal norms that label neurodivergent individuals as having deficits and instead promoting an inclusive understanding of diverse ways of thinking, feeling, and communicating.

3. Validating Differences

Validating differences involves recognizing the diversity in how we function, from the way we feel to the way we learn and communicate. By moving away from labeling differences as deficits, we acknowledge that there is no right or standard mind or brain. Validating differences doesn't mean denying challenges or needs but understanding that these are not failings or problems with the individual. It's about embracing the full spectrum of human diversity.

4. Honoring All Forms of Communication

Communication is not limited to spoken language. Honoring all forms of communication means recognizing and valuing multiple ways of communicating. This includes providing neutral information on neuronormative communication, identifying communication needs and preferences, and ensuring access to preferred communication methods. Teaching and promoting Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and educating caregivers and individuals about AAC are essential aspects of this value.

5. Adapting Systems and Environments

We live in a neuronormative society that often isn't set up for neurodivergent people. Adapting systems and environments involves identifying and removing barriers, creating adjustments, and making accommodations to fit the needs of neurodivergent individuals. It's about shifting the focus from changing the individual to changing the environment to work with our differences, not against them, and building a meaningful life.

6. Respecting Autonomy

Respecting autonomy is about honoring an individual’s right to control their own body and make their own decisions. It includes recognizing their right to say no, determine what is helpful or distressing for them, and define their own experiences. Respecting autonomy acknowledges that individuals are the experts of their own lives and should have control over their own bodies and decisions.

7. Presuming Competence

Presuming competence means recognizing that an individual has the capacity to understand, think, and learn. When we presume competence, we are more likely to seek out unique and personalized strategies that bring out the best in the individual’s learning and development. It’s about believing in their capabilities and potential.

8. Reframing Expectations

Neurodivergent individuals are often judged by neuronormative standards. Reframing expectations involves adjusting our views on how individuals should develop, communicate, learn, and function. It also means redefining expectations around success, productivity, executive functioning, and independence to avoid disadvantaging those who function differently. This value calls for a more inclusive and flexible approach to therapy and life.

9. Signals of Acceptance

Visible cues that embrace neurodivergent-affirming practices, such as the infinity symbol, identity-first language, and inclusive terminology, are vital in creating a welcoming environment. These signals convey safety and acceptance, letting individuals know they are in a space that respects and values neurodivergent identities. It's essential that these symbols reflect genuine commitment and understanding, avoiding superficial gestures and ensuring that practices align with the affirming messages these symbols represent.

10. Prioritizing Lived Experiences

Prioritizing lived experiences means valuing the insights and perspectives of neurodivergent individuals. Their experiences provide invaluable guidance for creating supportive, effective, and empathetic interventions. Listening to and learning from their stories ensures that ABA practices are genuinely affirming and responsive to their needs.

By embracing these core values, ABA practitioners can provide neuro-affirming support that respects and uplifts the unique experiences of neurodivergent individuals, fostering a more inclusive and empowering environment.

Heavily inspired, and many thanks to Sonny Jane Wise:

Source: Neurodiversity Affirming Practice: Core Principles | by Sonny Jane Wise | Medium

"Always presume competence, for within every individual lies the potential for greatness and growth."

 - Unknown

Why did we make this set?

Because we are passionate that affirming, safe, and compassionate care is made available, and the standard, for anyone accessing behaviour support - especially when working with neurodiverse populations.

Who are these resources for?

This deck and resources were specifically designed for both clinicians, parents, and business owners. We hope that is helps make your practice more affirming and conducive to HRE for neurodivergent individuals.

What's in the deck?

Side 1: An important value in Neuro-affirming practice.

Side 2: Ways to incorporate this neuro-affirming value into your office, services, and clinical practice, alongside resources for clinicians and caregivers.

From our team to yours......

Get all the resources, printables, and more - curated by our team just for you. We hope these are helpful!
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