“Different” Shouldn’t be a Deficit in Schools with Dr. Bibi Pirayesh
March 15, 2022
Different Shouldn’t be a Deficit in Schools

We teach children that everyone is special and unique; everyone is different. So why is it that we don’t model for kids how to embrace those differences in school? Instead, we expect children to conform to the way “normal” children should learn and develop.

Instead of labeling children with diagnoses, which generally only serve to fund resources, we should embrace the differences of everyone.

According to this week’s guest, Dr. Bibi Pirayesh, disability is the social justice issue of ableism. Like racism and sexism, ableism puts up walls that are difficult to tear down.

In this episode, Bibi and I discuss what is the biggest roadblock of all: the systems and structures that are in place to help kids, but really are ways to force kids to conform.

I love the work that Bibi is doing to help anyone who doesn’t fit into the “normal” box feel seen and heard and find community in this global world.

About Dr. Bibi Pirayesh:

Dr. Pirayesh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Education from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master’s degree in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University where her work focused primarily on children’s development of mathematical thinking and cognitive neuroscience. She has worked as a learning specialist and educational therapist in private practice for over a decade.

While the emphasis of her work is on remediating learning disabilities in a one-on-one setting, she is also a sought after speaker and community advocate for children and families around learning rights. She works with children grades 1-12 and covers a wide range of learning difficulties including dyslexia, ADHD, and spectrum disorders. In 2020, Dr. Pirayesh launched The Difference is Not Deficit Project in 2020 to help promote the importance of seeing learning disability as a social justice issue, which was also the cornerstone of her doctoral research. In addition to her work in her practice, Dr. Pirayesh is also adjunct faculty at Pepperdine University and is involved with a number of service organizations including The Association of Educational Therapists. Connect with her on LinkedIn or visit her website.

Jump in the Conversation:

[1:48] – We must transform the school and learning construct
[3:33] – Words matter – difference, deficit, disability
[5:43] – We need to have a conversation about how we diagnose and the issues
[6:35] – The pandemic, isolation, and power of stories
[10:40] – Disability is a social justice issue
[14:28] – The biggest roadblocks to doing better
[18:34] – Turbo Time
[21:05] – What people need to know about supporting kids with learning differences
[25:15] – How to be a better activist
[29:12] – Bibi’s Magic Wand
[30:57] – Maureen’s takeaways

Links & Resources



Maureen O’Shaughnessy 0:03
Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at education evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of Ed active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:08
Hi, Bibi, it is so good to have you on education evolution.

Bibi Pirayesh 1:12
Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:15
Yes. And listeners. today I’m chatting with Dr. Bibi Pirayesh, founder of the difference is not deficit project. She created this in 2020 to help promote the importance of seeing learning disabilities as a social justice issue. And this topic was also the cornerstone of her doctoral research. Bibi, you’re a learning specialist and educational therapist, and community advocate for children and families around learning rights and education evolution, we know we must transform the school and learning construct. I’m curious, where did your story of addressing learning equity come from?

Bibi Pirayesh 1:59
Sure, um, well, I think I think it really came from working in the field, I was working as an educational therapist in West Los Angeles for a number of years. And I was able to see, you know, incredible changes for the students that I was working with, and other educational therapists were I knew we’re working with, but the demographic seemed to never change, it seemed to always be the same types of kids, there were kids who came from families who were, you know, upper, or, you know, even very wealthy families, people who could afford the services, the private services that we provide. And being a first generation immigrant myself, and, you know, having had the experiences that I had, that just was not okay with me, I couldn’t understand why all this research that we have all this work that we know how to do to remediate in certain aspects of learning disabilities, and then also help support and advocate for kids in school, why that was only happening for one particular populations. So that was really the thing that got me to want to go back to school and to understand kind of our systems better, so that I could I could maybe say things and I, I wish that it was a happier story. But it was, the more I learned the worse the gods.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 3:26
Yes. You know, I think words are important and semantics matter. Would you talk about word choice when people use the word difference or deficit or disability? I think people use them interchangeably in education, but I I don’t think they’re identical. What do you think?

Bibi Pirayesh 3:46
No, I mean, okay. Yeah, that’s the words are very important. You’re absolutely right about that. I do think that generally speaking, we live in a culture that very, that’s very ableist. And so any kind of difference is, you know, essentially seen as a deficit and as something that’s a problem, and that’s something that needs to be cured and fixed. And you hear a lot of language, like overcoming your disability, etc. And, you know, that’s really problematic, because that’s, that’s not how we should treat diversity and differences. On the other hand, there’s a really rich history in the disability movement, where there’s a pushback against the idea of not using the term disability because people with disabilities, we feel very proud of, you know, the disability, it’s a central part of their identity. So there is I think there’s there’s a lot of there can be a lot of confusion there. And those words are not necessarily interchangeable. But I do think that you know, there are some things that are considered a disability. And there’s some things that are just nor divergence in difference, but the The essential sort of common thread is, is the value judgments that we give to those words, and what that means for the person who’s being labeled with them.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 5:12
I like how you use that filter, a value judgment is if I have a disability, and I’m owning it, this is a part of my wonderful uniqueness. My value judgment is this is not a deficit, where if somebody else says, Oh, you’re different or disabled, so I think you’re right, it’s kind of in our mindsets, more than necessarily, which word packs which punch.

Bibi Pirayesh 5:37
Right. You know, and then, of course, there’s also the kind of agreed upon discourse, you know, so for example, there’s a lot of conversation right now about the way that we diagnose and the issues around diagnosis. But then, of course, we also know that diagnosis is incredibly important, because without it, students can’t secure the services that they mean. So we all have to, you know, we kind of begin to see that we’re navigating in a culture that makes things difficult. But we have to figure out ways to navigate because we have to all live in that culture.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 6:14
I agree. Absolutely. And I think you’re right, it’s a catch 22. Kids need those labels, to get all the services, but we don’t want those labels to be shackles.

Bibi Pirayesh 6:26

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 6:28
So tell us what you’ve created.

Bibi Pirayesh 6:31
Difference is not deficit projects, honestly, it’s something that grew one out of the the pandemic, the experience of the pandemic, and how isolated we all felt how isolated I felt my students were feeling. And then really the power of stories, I mean, how incredible it was just to, for me to listen to one of my stories, one of my students share something that they had experienced that day for a few minutes, and how, how calming that was for them. And so I wanted to kind of bring, bring together a put together a place where people could share their experiences, but specifically share their experiences with having a learning disability, or having a child with a learning disability or having a student with a learning disability. So that other people could read that, and, and feel less alone. There’s been a lot of research on the incredible power that sharing stories has for human beings, I think it just sort of calms and aligns our nervous system, when we hear stories. And so I wanted to encourage people to share more of the experiences that they were having. Because in private practice, you know, with every family that you work with, they think that their situation is so unique and so difficult. And they don’t know, for me, it’s easy to see, because I see so many people in the same situation, but they never really see each other. So that was, you know, one big point of the differences about deficit project. And the other was to really promote the idea that differences, not deficits, and it was kind of built on my doctoral work around some of the social justice issues that that we ignore when it comes to learning disability. So it’s a very new initiative. I’m so every time there’s an entry from you know, someone, I’m so excited to read it, and I know that other people read it. So you know, it’s just, it’s just something to basically get people to connect with one another and have a place to vent sometimes. It’s difficult, it’s really difficult to, to navigate these waters, and it can feel lonely. And it’s great to just be able to say, this was my experience, this was really terrible about it, or this was really incredible about it. And to get that out there.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 8:59
I love that. And you know, as a mom, I really can relate to what you’re saying. My daughter had a routine test and and we were living overseas. So we were home in the summer, we went back overseas to the Philippines. And this bloodwork result followed. And it’s like, oh, everything’s fine. And by the way, she has 3x chromosomes, trisomy X, and here I am in the Philippines, and I’m asking the the AP biology teacher, do you know what this means? I’m searching the internet. And luckily, I found at that time, it was a yahoo group of moms and an RN, because nobody could tell me. So what does this mean? And to hear their stories and to be able to ask questions and understand is this the same as autism? Is it this, and it made all the difference because I felt super alone and nobody had ever even heard of it, including her pediatrician. And wow, it was just you know, it was a while ago, but still, it’s not as well documented as Klein filters and as boys that have the chromosomes So it was a godsend to me to hear stories and not feel alone and try and unpack what does this mean, and what should I be doing or not doing as a mom? So it’s not just isn’t this nice to connect? For me? It was a life raft.

Bibi Pirayesh 10:16
Right? Right. No, absolutely. And we do we all go online, and we try to kind of find information. And so much of the information that’s useful is information, you know, hearing from people who’ve already been through it. Yeah. So yeah, absolutely.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 10:32
Yeah. So talk more about social justice, what is that to you? And what would it look like, applied to learning differences?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 10:41
Sure, well, I mean, I see learning disability as a social justice issue, you know, we tend to talk about, we tend to talk about racism and sexism, and you know, these things under the Social Justice umbrella, but we don’t really talk about disability. And, you know, disabilities is a huge ableism is a huge kind of branch, I guess you could say. But both white supremacy and capitalism. And it really, it’s not sort of like a theoretical thing. I think any parents, any child, any advocate who’s ever or even any teacher, who’s really tried to advocate for a child in a school system has felt this in their bones, because there is essentially a system that was set up by able people, it’s their laws, their rules. You know, this is the curriculum, these are the standards, this is the school system, this is the structures, this is what it looks like. And everything is kind of designed, you know, even when we think about like Ida is this great big, you know, advancement in disability rights. I mean, it’s essentially saying, we still set all the rules and the structures, and then we’re just going to provide an opportunity for you to access these things. So the voices of people with disabilities are not centered, things are not designed by them. Curriculum is not designed by or for kids with learning disabilities. So it really, really is a social justice issue in much the same way that you know, the other isms that we talk about under social justice are, but it’s not one that we talk about enough. And, you know, interestingly, it’s actually, it’s actually something that most kids, whether they have a learning disability, or they know, or they see someone in their classroom that has, it’s actually an ism that that you feel at a much younger age than a lot of other ones. But it’s not talked about enough at all. And then so, you know, of course, for me, you know, I went back to do my doctoral work, because I wanted to understand, you know, I sort of had a very naive notion of social justice, like, Okay, we have all this research, we know exactly how this works. But you know, now I just need to figure out, you know, how do we bring this to the public schools? And, you know, how do we share and provide access? And then I got into it, and I realized, oh, no, no, no, no, the things are working exactly as they were designed to. And it’s not that we don’t know any better, we do know better. But that’s just not the ideology that that drives us. And so it was a really, you know, it’s been a really difficult and rough road, coming to some of these understandings. But, you know, all of it has made me even more passionate about fighting for the rights of kids who who don’t fit. They don’t fit the mold. And that’s, and they shouldn’t, you know, we it’s a mold that we’ve created arbitrary, and we’re forcing everyone into. So, I don’t know if that answers your question.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 14:08
It does. And I am all with you. Why do we I mean, the metaphor I love is we don’t ask fish to learn to fly or birds to learn to swim, you know, why do we force kids to be something other? And where is the justice? We do know better? What do you think are the biggest roadblocks to us doing better for our kids with disabilities?

Bibi Pirayesh 14:34
I think I mean, to be honest, the the roadblocks are both ideological and economic. And I don’t think it’s, you know, I see so many parents, so many teachers in the trenches doing such hard work. I don’t think that we can ask individuals to do the work of systems. So you know, The roadblocks have to do with why the systems were designed in the way that they were to begin with, and why there is such resistance to shifting things. I mean, we, we know why. Because our schools are essentially set up to to raise future workers and consumers. I mean, that’s really that’s really are, we’re not in the business of figuring out what is best for the human being. So there’s a huge disconnect between education research, and that is really concerned with what does the child need? What does the human being need? And the world that we live in? Which is how do we use the human being to? Or how do we exploit the human being in order to make the system run? And as now, that exists? I don’t think there are any easy answers, unfortunately.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 15:58
No, I think you’re right. And as long as we want, what we want, versus what we know, everybody deserves, yeah, it, I think it in a way comes down to greed, and what dusting in our own little comfort zone on a lot of world issues that are messy and uncomfortable. So we just kind of don’t deal with them. They’re inconvenient. And we don’t want that. Yeah. So knowing all this, I love that you are on fire for this, what do you see is next for you and your mission.

Bibi Pirayesh 16:37
Um, you know, I’m working on a book, I think that we’re in such such an incredible moment in time right now. I think the pandemic, you know, really, really lifted the veil, and forced us to look at things that maybe before were a lot easier to ignore. It also forced people I mean, you know, for people who are sort of in the disability movement, they’ve been saying since day one, this is a massive disabling of events. And it really has been, and for the first time, I think people are experiencing with people that people with disabilities experience every day. And so there’s, there’s like a new and a new opening and new receptivity and new ability to walk in the shoes of the other. So at the same time, that the pandemic has really revealed so much of our individual selfishness, I think that it’s also shown, you know, it’s also increased our capacity for empathy. So I think it’s a really, really unique and incredible time right now. So I’m, you know, I’m working on a on a book to kind of, you know, how do we all become aware of the weights of the systems that we live under? So how do we function? How do we remain, you know, educators who are here for laboratory practices? How do we do this day today? While we are carrying the weight of, you know, of the systems that we can we know, we can’t really change on our own?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 18:16

Bibi Pirayesh 18:18
So that’s what I’ve been spending a lot of my days thinking about?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 18:21
Yes, well, a book. I can’t wait. You’ll have to keep us posted. So we can put the word out when it’s done. Absolutely. Yes. Yeah. Great. Yay. I want to pivot a little bit, and get to know a bit more about you, Bibi. So I have some turbo time questions. Are you ready?

Bibi Pirayesh 18:39
Oh, yes.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 18:42
What’s the last book you read?

Bibi Pirayesh 18:45
The last I mean, I’m not sure that I can say I finished reading it because it was so heavy that I couldn’t finish but it’s called medical apartheid. And its basis basically about the basically about how the site both the medical industrial complex and the psychological industrial complex have used black bodies throughout American history in order to advance the field. So that not light reading. But that was the last book.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 19:17
Oh, I just get images of the syphilis studies and the different things it’s like I cringe.

Bibi Pirayesh 19:24
It’s a lot worse than I think most of us know. And it’s a lot more current than most of us realize.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 19:30
Oh boy. Yeah. Okay. Next time I want my eyes open wider and Hmm, that would be a good highly recommend. Yep. Yes. How about two inspirational folks you’d love to meet?

Bibi Pirayesh 19:44
Oh, can maybe people who’ve passed away?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 19:47
Oh, yeah. Or even Harry Potter. You know, whoever.

Bibi Pirayesh 19:52
I would have loved to admit Bell Hooks. I was just complete shock and disbelief when I heard of her passing a few months. ago, I would have loved to have met her. And, you know, I would have also I would, I would have loved to met John Piaget, I would have loved to met Mr. Rogers. I mean, these are some of my heroes. But yeah, before he passes away, I’d love to meet Noam Chomsky. But not gonna happen.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 20:25
But it sounds great. How about a TED Talk that inspires you?

Bibi Pirayesh 20:32
I, I really enjoyed the danger of a single story. A teacher. I, that was really, that was it was a TED Talk that both both personally or personally, it really resonated. And then professionally in terms of my work, it really, it really made me like, I’ve listened to it at least 10 times.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 20:59
Yes, yes. How about the biggest thing you wish folks knew about supporting kids with learning differences?

Bibi Pirayesh 21:12
Um, oh, boy. I think I actually think it’s a lot like, you know, what the research shows in psychology, about how, ultimately, it’s really about the relationship that the therapist builds with their clients, and not necessarily any modality that they’re using. I think it’s the same here. Ultimately, if I asked myself, you know, what is my secret sauce? Like, what is the thing that makes me be able to help students feel more successful, as loaded as that word is? It’s, it’s because I, you know, I, I respect them, and I see them, and I invest in the relationship that we build together. And it’s really that relationship, that, that, that makes the changes that we want to see more than anything else. So I would say, I would say focus on that whatever your relation to the child is. Focus on the relationship that you build.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 22:16
I completely agree. Same for parents. Same for teachers, same for coaches. Yes, kids need to know they’re loved, and they need to know they belong, before we dive into. So yeah. And brain research supports that as well. So relationships versus some fancy formula. It’s, it’s simple, but it’s not easy.

Bibi Pirayesh 22:37
It’s not exactly a lot to earn the respect of someone who has who has basically, you know, gone through their life with the conclusion that they’re not respected in the world, because if they were they would be treated differently. Yeah. So it takes a lot. But it’s, it’s it’s sort of the it’s the central point.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 22:57
Yes. How about a pet peeve of yours?

Bibi Pirayesh 23:03
Pet peeve just generally in life, or pet peeve having to do with

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 23:07
either sometimes it’s fun, just generally in life, either is great.

Bibi Pirayesh 23:11
Yeah. I think a lot of people have gotten into the habit of I was just talking about this with someone the other day, you know, there’s this habit of like, putting your phone on speaker in public places, and then listening to really loud, like, whatever it is that you’re doing, and I just find that so intrusive, and you know, just not thoughtful about that. So that’s a bit I’m also very sensitive to sound so bother.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 23:41
I agree. Noise pollution. I think it’s a thing. Absolutely. Yes. What’s the passion you bring to the difference? Not deficit program.

Bibi Pirayesh 23:54
I think I think my passion is around. Speaking, it’s about speaking justice to truth. It’s speaking up against the systems that bind us. And so in every story, you know, what I tend to find when people are sharing is the, the way that their humanity and their their spirit gets constricted. Because they have to, because they keep coming up against these oppressive systems. And you know, it doesn’t it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. We think oppression, like, it’s not like, we’re not putting students in, in jail. But every time you’re told no, you can’t do it that way. Or, you know, no, you have to sit in your seat for this long or two things that just go against their natural way of being. And you know, my I just feel really impassioned to break that down.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 24:51
Yeah. Yes, I totally agree. And so many times, you don’t have to do it, just like in the early days of autism. Whereas like self stem and waving hands is of Oh, stop, stop, and we want you to look normal. It’s like, No, this is a form of regulation, it’s not hurting anything. So it’s about us getting comfortable with something other than maybe the little box we’re used to, before we shut somebody else down. Totally agree. Right?

Bibi Pirayesh 25:19
And you, you know, you said it, right. I mean, it’s, it’s when we sit and think about all the different ways that children with any kind of difference isn’t necessarily to be it needs to be a learning related issue, in all the ways in which they have to pretzel themselves in order to fit into our world. And then when we ask ourselves, what are we doing? What are the things that we’re doing in order to make things easier for them? How are we willing to change to kind of even meet them halfway? And unfortunately, it’s really not, it’s really not much, and that’s what makes it oppressive. It’s not a relationship. It’s, it’s very hierarchical. It’s a relationship of power. And, and yeah, that just that makes me really angry.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:07
Yes. What can others be doing to be more focused on this social justice need? How can they be bigger activists?

Bibi Pirayesh 26:21
Um, you know, there was there was a lot of questions around that, especially, you know, after everything that happened with the murder of George Floyd, and there was this big explosion about, you know, we need to pay more attention to some social justice issues. I would say the number one thing, though, is to really, to really learn more, read more, you know, people get impassioned, and they want to take action. But when you take action, without a deeper understanding you, you tend to actually create more damage. So, you know, and Paulo Flaherty, for example, who is, you know, kind of, in some ways, I would say, maybe the most important critical educator, when when he talks about act, you know, the importance of acting, taking action against injustice, the first two steps really have to be understanding the world that you’re living in, and then understanding yourself. Because without a deep understanding of the systems and a deep understanding of your own positionality and your own history, you’re not going to be able to act in ways that are useful. So I would say, spend a lot of time I mean, years and years and years, it’s ongoing. It’s never ending, listening and reading and learning about just you know, about the systems and about yourself. That’s what I would say don’t act. Pause.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 27:56
Absolutely. And what is something that most people don’t know about you?

Bibi Pirayesh 28:06
What is something they don’t know? Most people, I would say that, probably most of my, you know, I tend to be a very serious person. So I don’t know, I don’t know, most, let’s say

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 28:21
maybe it’s a quirky hobby, or a routine you have or you avoid walking under ladders. I don’t know.

Bibi Pirayesh 28:29
I would say most people probably think I’m a terrible cook. Because I hate to cook. And I eat out basically every single day. But I do actually cook once a year, and I make one like, big, big feast for my whole family once a year. And I’m actually really, really good cook. I just don’t really enjoy doing it. So yeah, I think that would be like one misconception when people find out that I can actually cook they’re always surprised.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 28:58
I love it that you don’t choose to do it. So you don’t.

Bibi Pirayesh 29:01
Right, right. No, I don’t enjoy it.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 29:04
Good for you. My final question is always the magic wand moment. So if you had a magic wand, what would you wish our cultures and worlds lens to be on learning differences?

Bibi Pirayesh 29:21
If I had a magic wand, I would want I would want people to understand that people with differences or disabilities are the way that they are on purpose. And they’re here to teach all the rest of us and I don’t mean in any subtle, you know, kind of inspirational way like their function is to teach us but they are valued exactly as they are. And they have a very, very important message to share with the world exactly as they are. There’s nothing that we need to help them change or overcome or fix. We are the ones who need to who we are the ones who need to change in order to actually see their value, not the other way around.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 30:17
Mic drop. I love that. Bibi, thank you for being this wonderful advocate and really supporting learners with disabilities. This is amazing. Thank you.

Bibi Pirayesh 30:30
Thank you so much for having me. And thank you for everything that you do. I am just amazed that everything that you do.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 30:38
Thank you and I look forward to getting to talk to you more and hear more about your book when it comes out. Thanks. It’ll be a while. That’s great.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 30:58
Ouch. Bibi’s comment that we live in a culture that is very ablest. And any difference is a deficit to overcome, packs a punch, her clarification, that the wording may change between difference and disability. But our value judgment is always the filter. Very important distinction. She comes back to this in her magic one moment at the end of our podcast. I too am conflicted about our diagnosis system. diagnoses, equal labels. These do help us get services. But I see a shift this generation labels seem to be much more of an identifier and define the whole person more than in the past. I think of people who might have said the gray weather in Seattle makes me feel depressed. And now I hear a lot of I have depression, and the label seems limiting at times. I’m thinking of an ADHD moms group, I attended one of their meetings to hear what they were doing to support their learners. And it was weird. It felt like the moms were there more around their identity as a mother dealing with ADHD than as problem solvers and collaborators to get changes for their learners or in the system overall. It makes me ponder if the pharmaceutical industry with their endless commercials about obscure conditions, makes us think that we have more conditions than we do. Especially more than when I was growing up. When I listen closely to these commercials, I’m actually a little shocked. It might be something like are your eyes dry? Well, then you have this condition. And here is the solution. And then they list all of these horrible possible side effects. But I think we’re only hearing that, oh, this could be another label for me. Here’s a diagnosis and a prescription we’ll fix it. So we’re leaning in on these two resources, diagnoses and prescriptions, and not on how we can change systems and behaviors to help alleviate or address the conditions. Tough topic. But I want us to be activists for educational change and not rely on labels and prescriptions please. Thinking more. I’m reminded of Dr. Hilary Goldthwaite fowls, Chief Accessibility and technology consultant with the empower the learner agency, she and her two partners are all about helping students understand their learning differences and identify strategies of what works for them so that they can be self advocates to learn on their terms. I encourage you to listen to episode 87 to hear about the powerful tools they use to help students pack in what they call the students backpack. This is not about diagnosis and pills. This is about self knowledge and self advocacy. Taking action. Very different. It’s wonderful that Bibi’s differences not deficits project brings people together to share stories connect and vent around their differences. Story is such a powerful connector in many cultures. And I’m happy to see it becoming more central in our own. It was helpful that Bibi stretched the social justice lens from racism and sexism to also include ableism I agree. We don’t talk about disabilities. Curriculum is not designed by or for learners with disabilities. All roads seem to lead back to our systems. BB is absolutely right. We can’t ask individuals to do the work of systems. It has Sad ring of truth when she unpacked why our schools resist current research and meeting learner needs saying, quote, Our schools are set up to raise future workers and consumers. They are not in the business of figuring out what is best for the human being. Another Ouch. A shift can be as simple as focusing on relationships, and building trust before diving into therapy or instruction.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 35:30
We can change the system. Recently Dr. Kristin Miller explained the research she had done with middle school math students. When she spent a third of the time focusing on students feeling safe, and a sense of belonging. Her math scores were higher than math classes that spent the whole time on instruction. The math scores were also higher than scores in her previous classes. check out episode 97 To understand more about how our brain needs safety and relationships, to be ready to learn. This is something we can do today in our school system. It does not cost any money, and it has wildly wonderful results. Not to mention kids feeling safe and valued. How important is that? Bibi is definitely walking her talk. She is speaking justice to truth, speaking up about the systems that bind us. She sees how spirits and humanity are shut down. As they come up against oppressive systems. It’s painful to hear her descriptions of how many of our learners and people with disabilities overall have to pretzel themselves to fit into our world. PBS Magic Wand of what lens she would like the world to have on learning differences is powerful. She wants people to understand that people with differences or disabilities are the way they are on purpose. They are here to teach us they are valued exactly as they are. There is nothing we need to fix. Mic drop. In closing, I absolutely agree with Bibi. We are the ones who need to change in order to actually see the value of all including those with disabilities. It will take an education evolution to make learning work equitably for all learners. Please join many of my podcast guests and other education experts from various fields in our April Ed active free Summit. Details are in the show notes. We need to become activists to make this change a reality. As always, thank you for being a part of the education, evolution.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 38:13
If you are finding yourself thinking, I need to do this in my school. Let’s talk about it. I consult and also have a book TEDx talk an online course to support starting learner driven schools and programs. My goal is to help schools and individuals find new innovative solutions to reaching every student. Let’s create an action plan together. Visit educationevolution.org/consult to book a call and let’s get started. Education evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving. We need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. I’d be so grateful if you’d head over to your podcast app to give a great rating and review if you found this episode valuable. Don’t wait. Please do it right now before you forget. I really appreciate it. Thank you listeners signing off. This is Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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