Monday, 30 April 2012

Reality

I'm guessing most other teachers and other people working with students with Autism have already given mention to the Louis Theroux documentary broadcast recently on the BBC.

What I've found particularly positive is the awareness and recognition it has created for those parents and teachers dealing with the most global, complex forms of Autism - it hopefully dispels the 'Autism = Slightly Odd but with Amazing Superpowers' myth perpetuated by the A Beautiful Mind movie and more recently, the Touch drama series with Kiefer Sutherland. This is not to say Autism is a bad thing, but it is about working towards a more realistic middle ground when it comes to public understanding of this identifiable cluster of differences and difficulties - ideally where Autism is viewed simply as another distinct aspect of human diversity, presenting both possibilities and challenges to the person affected and those around them.

I've also enjoyed reading Louis Theroux's own thoughts on interacting with people identified as Autistic and how it has perhaps changed the way he produces his documentaries, and more specifically, the portrayal of subjects within them. The Independent published a lengthy interview with Louis Theroux around a fortnight ago, whilst the The Sun published a shorter, snappier version last week. Both are recommended reads.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Sparks

Have you ever sat there with a student identified as Autistic or ADHD (aren't we all?) and simply let them talk?

You might find, as they recount the latest movie or TV series they've watched in almost microscopic detail, that you don't know what they're talking about - and your mind might wonder back to all bits of paperwork and emails in front of you. You might even feel impatient, too polite to tell them to go away, yet too busy to 'waste time'.

But sometimes it pays to ignore that high-importance information request glaring at you from your computer screen (one press of a monitor button should do it) and simply sit there, and listen - and watch - as the student enthusiastically delivers their spiel on Batman or Blake 7.

Why? Because often these students - with all their lack of self-awareness, their inability to recognise social norms - have an unbridled zest for life. They carry the sparks that Indian author Chetan Bhagat talks about in this amazing welcome speech to new students, and remind us why we're here...

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Blurbs

I've just uploaded the following resources to TES:
I originally put together the two documents to reinforce my own understanding, as well as supporting colleagues (particularly NQTs, PGCE students). As ever, constructive feedback is welcome and appreciated.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Top Ten Quotes on Autism

Good Morning, today is 'World Autism Awareness Day'. To mark the event, I have found ten great quotes either specifically on Autism or with relevance to how we understand and approach this aspect of humanity.
>> “It seems that for success in science and art, a dash of autism is essential.” - Hans Asperger

>> “Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” - Albert Camus

>> “I don't know what causes autism, but I know what causes autistic people to suffer and that is the reduction of our identities to a medical problem that has to be cured.” - Zach Richter

>> “When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it. What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.” – Epictetus

>> “Autism is not a disease, a disorder, or something holding me prisoner in a shell. Autism is a culture, a lifestyle, and a way of being.” - Kassiane Sibley

>> “If I could snap my fingers and be nonautistic, I would not—because then I wouldn't be me. Autism is part of who I am.” - Temple Grandin

>> “Neurodiversity; What a beautiful word that encompasses the reality that God has many different ways to build a brain.” - Kathleen Seidel

>> ” … research demonstrates that autistic traits are distributed into the non-autistic population; some people have more of them, some have fewer. History suggests that many individuals whom we would today diagnose as autistic – some severely so – contributed profoundly to our art, our math, our science, and our literature. “ - Morton Gernsbacher

>> “Someone with Asperger’s really is like you, just more extreme.” - Dr. Winnie Dunn

And my favourite:

>> “Imagine a world where Aspergers was the norm, and non-autistics or neurotypicals were the minority. Let's try it: Those who feel the need to constantly be with a variety of friends are considered fickle. Those with no propensity for computers and science are called geeks. Those with no special interest are thought to be ungrounded and lost. Those without obsessive focus have to take classes to cultivate it.” - Rudy Simone

Within my own setting, Thornleigh Salesian College, I have sought to raise awareness of Autism with an after-school training session - which was both well-attended and well-received by colleagues. The full training session can be downloaded freely from here, and the powerpoint part can be viewed online here.