Janet Miller | October 23, 2013
I just finished reading the article in Time Magazine “What’s Right with the Autistic Mind”. I really appreciated this article which supports the need to focus in on strengths rather than deficits. I encourage others to read this article and share with friends as it does offer insight into a different way of thinking. My brother who is a scientist and has a doctorate in bio physics (and is not on the spectrum) once commented that curing autism was not the right approach as the mind of a person with autism is often times a gift into a different way to think and solve problems. He said this understanding that his nephew needed intense intervention. My brother had an amazing connection to Connor and was able to understand how he processed information so could elicit pretty profound thinking from him.
The entire educational experience for parents as well as children with special needs is usually discussing what they are unable to do rather than recognizing the strengths and building on those. In a true transition plan this is exactly what should be done; build on skills to assist with employment options or other post high school experiences. My younger son asked me why I work so hard on keeping Connor engaged and I told him because we need to teach him how to exist in this world. I also explained that the best approach is to integrate his way of thinking and adapt this to our world in order for him to someday be independent. We also need to do our best at educating others so they can appreciate his strengths and those of many adults on the spectrum. My son asked me many other questions and I later learned that he was writing an essay titled, How to live with my Brother. He asked me to read the paper and my initial impression was that this was not truly Connor but an exaggeration to have more of an impact on the reader. I then thought about this more and concluded that most of what he had described was really pretty accurate but yet not how I saw Connor. My younger son knows his brother well and they are very close and I respected his perspective. This got me thinking about how others saw my son and what I could do to better represent his skills and strengths. This is not just true of my son but all these young adolescents. What can we do so others can appreciate them for who they are and what skills they are able to contribute?
As part a member of the Alternative Programming Advisory Committee at Tamalpais Union High District we discussed the essentials for student success. Here are some of the characteristics that were discussed and I am interested to hear if there are others that we may have missed that relate to our students: ability to advocate, emotional intelligence, basic /core academic skills, critical thinking skills, personal financial management, personal expression/creativity, teamwork, ability to see own potential, self-confidence, ability to assess impact actions have on yourself and others, ownership to learning.
I have contacted several different people to see if they are willing to help me create a support network for internships. More to follow…