It’s time to Level UP! thinking about how to support individuals during unexpected and unpredictable events. ZigZag is a familiar term that is used to alert students (and others) to schedule changes. It’s been around quite a while (Amy first wrote about it in 2010)! Twelve years later, we know better… It is time to do better!
What do we know?
We know that interaction is a two way street and both parties in the interaction should have the tools they need to be successful. We know that partners need to support neurodivergent individuals in ways that increase predictability. They need to presume competence but also ensure comprehension and presume competence depends on access to support. We also know that neurodivergent individuals need to be empowered with tools to support their ability to alert partners when they experience unpredictability and/or need clarification, regardless of whether others in their environment perceive the unexpected change.
ZigZags and Hold UP!s is designed with these basic premises in mind.
The design also incorporates the knowledge that:
Partners are not heroes for giving forewarning of schedule changes. It is the decent thing to do and often it is literally their job. Partners frequently fail to recognize ZigZags that are experienced by autistic people, especially if they themselves are not autistic (when you are someone who takes in much more environmental stimuli and information, a whole lot more can be different from your expectations or memory of how an event or activity goes).
It is imperative that partners validate the experience of ZigZags when they are communicated by autistic people (through nonverbal and verbal means) and provide information and support.
Finally, the design of the communication strategies included in the support accounts for Useful Reality.
Functional and clear communication supports are prioritized. What is functional, clear communication for someone is up to them. This means not gatekeeping the language that is accessible to autistic individuals seeking assistance and/or clarification (“WTF!” do we mean?? Pages 12-14 address this). We’re not saying you need to use these “supplemental pages,” or that these terms are necessarily the perfect fit for your cultures or languages. Instead, we are hopeful that you will read them and consider their intent, and make sure to create your own cards based on common FUN and functional language in the autistic person’s community, culture, household, team, work, etc.
This is a complex, 14 page support – each page with a different function, and each explaining its relation to the utility of the support and to Useful Reality. To use ZigZags and Hold UP!s in its intended fashion (aka respectfully), you will need to read it all and use the partner and student (individual) supports together, not just a piece or a graphic that you like.
Once again, we must give a shout out to Ra Vashtar of ArtsAflame for his amazing art and ability to represent our ideas in graphic form.