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cevans

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United States
571 Posts

Posted - 11/07/2008 :  13:11:33  View cevans's Photo Albums  View cevans's Blog  Reply with Quote



Autism Hangout reporter Dr. Emily Willingham just returned from a parent teacher conference with her son TH's grade report. Like many parents of kids with autism, she's questioning whether TH should be made to conform to standards that to him may be meaningless.

This is a very thoughtful installment.

http://www.autismhangout.com/video/...tID=4&id=156

If you've a similar story, please leave it here (in this thread) for others to consider.

Craig




Autism Hangout: Learning, sharing, thriving!

Miltay

Forum Newbie


United States
4 Posts

Posted - 11/21/2008 :  12:48:27  Reply with Quote


I just watched this video clip and it completely echoed many of my own thoughts on my own son with AS. Most striking was the question of wether or not to try to make my child conform to what is considered "required" or "normal". By deffinition as well as composition, is it not a contradiction to define black and white standards of our species (in all areas) for what is "normal". Are we not genetically comprised of differences? Do we all look the same.....have the same pitch and volume to our voices......experience the same reactions to environmental stimuli................develop the same conditions............or have identical personallities, opinions, and spiritual beliefs?????? So how can we stamp a standard on all humans to meet the criteria of what someone along the way has assessed as essential? Does humanity or specifically one human fail if they cannot solve a certain mathmatical equation, or pass a test that was only implemented to determine the amount of funding that a school will recieve. What's the real motive here? Are people walking around this world with gaping holes in their sole because they never learned the Gettysberg Address? Or because they simply don't care to interact with others of our species?
This leads me to the question: if it is a matter of people on the spectrum "being in another, or their own world" why do we want to disturb their right to that. How are we to force the judgement that that world is not worth staying in? The fight is maybe then to make our own selves feel more "normal" by confirming that "our world" is the right one. And attempting to prove this by converting others to it. Sounds a little like the struggle of faith and religion, or personal views on lifestyle issues. And what if WE are the ones existing in the "wrong" world? You can't tell me that it's never occured to you that the world we live in just might be torture, or hellish. Maybe we're the ones who have it all wrong! How arrogant of us!

TO EACH HIS OWN.................but is it really that simple? No one ESPECIALLY those living aside the spectrum (aka family and friends of those on it) can deny the logistical reasons to get as much assimilation as possible from those we care for on the spectrum. That's just the way this world works, right?? Does it have to be?
Back to the original thoughts of the video clip that poked at my heart and mind....observing my son with the challenges of AS being that he has his own world of realities, but knows he lives in "this one" yet can't understand how to exist comfortably in it, leaves me emotionally struggling inside. The school system's views are that it is the ultimate goal for him to assimilate into society, and therefore it is best to keep him in mainstream education in an effort not to highlight that he isn't exactally "mainstream." But at what cost to him I wonder. I understand the basic principle of treating him normally in an effort to assure him that he is normal.......however, with all the emotional damage that has been and will continue to be done in this battle of brickwall vs. forehead known as social acceptance I fear that it is possibly not the best plan for him. Like in the video, it seems to me that this only showcases my son's weakness not only to his mostly cruel peers (that are defined as normal), but more devestatingly, to my son. What damage will be done because of this? Would it not be better to let him be in whatever wold he wants and make progress at the things he naturally will? Remembering that there is no "cure" for autistic disorders may be the most simple, and important thing we can do if our concerns are truely for the sake of our loved ones, and not our own comfort level. What right does any human have to demand ANYTHING of another?!!!! Think about that for a minute. What right does any human have to demand anything of another?
How dare anyone feel they are worth more than another! If we truely feel that we are simply trying to offer more, or fullfilment to those who are not like us, then we have to look at the other side of the coin and be willing to accept that they may have more to offer us than we know, or a different path to fullfilment. Who has the power to define such things accross humanity?


Live like there''s no tommorrow by making up for all your yesterdays TODAY! ----Miltay

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ejwillingham

Forum Newbie


United States
6 Posts

Posted - 11/22/2008 :  14:50:22  View ejwillingham's Photo Albums  Reply with Quote


quote:
Originally posted by Miltay
I understand the basic principle of treating him normally in an effort to assure him that he is normal.......however, with all the emotional damage that has been and will continue to be done in this battle of brickwall vs. forehead known as social acceptance I fear that it is possibly not the best plan for him. Like in the video, it seems to me that this only showcases my son's weakness not only to his mostly cruel peers (that are defined as normal), but more devestatingly, to my son. What damage will be done because of this? Would it not be better to let him be in whatever wold he wants and make progress at the things he naturally will? Remembering that there is no "cure" for autistic disorders may be the most simple, and important thing we can do if our concerns are truely for the sake of our loved ones, and not our own comfort level.


This is exactly the question. Where do we draw a line that says, "If you cross this, you're doing more harm than good?" We're struggling with whether or not we should continue this focus on "executive function" type stuff (like being able to write, think creatively, organize a paper, etc., at the same time) or "facilitate" his abilities with, say, letting him use a keyboard instead of writing. Has he hit a wall on the executive function, leading us (and his teachers) to simply now be doing more harm than good emphasizing what he can't do over what he can't? I tend to think so. My INSTINCT is to focus almost completely on reaching him through his abilities and interests without spending too much time on "standard" curriculum-type stuff. The only thing that holds me back from going all-out on that is that he has had SOME success with more standard approaches--eventually. The best example of that is his reading.

Thanks for commenting! Please, post more thoughts if you have them!

Best,
Emily

Emily Willingham

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Miltay

Forum Newbie


United States
4 Posts

Posted - 11/23/2008 :  08:54:36  Reply with Quote


I just wanted to share some thoughts I've disscussed with my son's personal therapist. She has been involved in several conferences lately on the subject of ADD, ADHD, and Asperger's that have been quite thought-provoking, if not enlightening. Some of the most important ideas shared have been that they (professionals who work with children with these diagnosisis) belief that these may be the people who grow to solve our world issues of peace, hunger, and environmental issues. Essentially the idea is that this is actually because of the way their brains work differently from us nuerotypicals. They may be far more creative in their thinking than we can even concieve. And this is exactally why they can't keep their notebooks organized, or instantly recognize and appropriately act on others' social cues.
Think of reading the directions to perform some small task like making a peanutbutter and jelly sandwich. Pretty straight forward right? Just follow direction #1, then #2, and so on. Well, they just might be so much more open minded, or full of other ways of doing this task that they can't just simply follow those directions like a programmed robot. Before they even follow step #1 and take out the bread, they're already thinking: "why does this have to be on bread? What about PB&J on rice? If I like rice, and I like PB&J, then the two together must be good. .....And why do I have to spread the jelly and peanutbutter seperately? Why can't I mix them in a bowl and then spread them on the bread in one step? Either way I'll end up with a PB&J sandwich." So if you can apply this illistration to EVERYTHING that ever crosses their minds, you can see why they just can't conform to our demands of conventionallity. And also, you can imagine just how they could find the ways to solve these huge world problems that I mentioned. They are always questioning what is supposed to be "the way", or right, or acceptable.
This helps also to explain why they shut out people, or other things because they're too much. Maybe they can't make the "right" decisions instantly on things because they're so consumed with all their ideas of what is going on, and what to do with that information that they just can't decide on one action to perform.......and then at certain points, shutting down, or shutting out takes that pressure off. No wonder they must have structure, and forewarning of any event not on their "schedule". I can totally understand that concept, and therefore understand my son a little more.

So, to get back to my original purpose for this rant, the things I just wrote of are what make me feel even more strongly that we need to change atleast some of our focus from demanding people to conform to "standards" that really mean what????? And focus on what gifts they could offer us if we only let them. We can't argue that our loved ones, and all those we encounter, or touch our lives in some way that may not be "normal" have given us things that enrich our lives, but THEY JUST MIGHT SAVE OUR LIVES SOMEDAY!!! Truely!
We put so much focus on making people be good citizens of a society that we fail to care to assure that we have made people (to include their whole being...souls and all) that are able to find and be in their proper place in humanity. We ALL have contributions and need to be allowed to give them NATURALLY in the way....whatever way, they may come. So does handwriting really matter? What's truely vital?

Live like there''s no tommorrow by making up for all your yesterdays TODAY! ----Miltay

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artdeanne

Forum Newbie


United States
10 Posts

Posted - 11/25/2008 :  07:23:36  Reply with Quote


Amen!
My son (an aspie) is 17 and a senior in high school. If I had it to do over again, I'd say, "too bad, your school curriculum won't work for my kid so you'll have to do this his way."

I really believe that each of these kids should be studying and learning everything they can that pertains to their "area of interest". School has been a complete waste of time and has caused serious anxiety for him (and our family). He's into animals and creating comic strips. Recently we discovered that this kid who, due to school anxiety, can't be in a classroom with more than 10 kids, can do animal demonstrations and teach cartooning in front of mainstream classrooms with 25+ kids. He's articulate, interesting and funny when he does it and he has no anxiety. Last week he presented a ringneck dove to a third grade class for 20 minutes. They were glued to his every word, laughed when he made jokes and drew enthusiastically as he showed them how to draw a cartoon dove. They all cheered when he finished. He walked out of the class and said, "It's as if God showed me how to use all the gifts he's given me at once. My love of animals, my artistic ability and my sense of humor all came together. I've found my calling!"

So, from now on I will only have him spend time on things that work with his gifts. The goal would be to educate school groups at a zoo, school or nature center. I won't allow any school to push their idea of what he needs on him any further. He knows what he wants to do with his life more than most neurotypical 17 year olds.

I think that IEPs will have to change in the future to be talent/gift specific. It's going to take some serious advocacy on the part of parents to get the ball rolling. Teachers who agree with this line of thinking will need parental back up to implement change.

With God, all things are possible.

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SpencerGNobleman

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7 Posts

Posted - 01/02/2009 :  18:44:14  Reply with Quote


26 year old with aspergers. I'm sitting here screaming let it go.

Look at it this way. Even if your kid can learn to write and get good grades with a ton of effort, that's just going to block his development of his natural abilities, and be something he will have to unlearn to integrate autism with a functioning adult personality later on. You seem to be banging your head against the same wall my parents were. Learn from their mistakes and ignore school standards.

I wish my parents had been as open to the idea of ignoring standards. Everything I did that was to earn grades was a waste of my time, and a pattern I had to unlearn to connect with my abilities once I got out of the oppressive school system. Your struggle is exhausting and harmful to your kid EVEN IF you are successful at getting him to meet the standards.

Those standards aren't created to help you or your kid, BTW. Schools still use pedagogic techniques that were developed explicitly to get people obeying instructions ready for life as an obedient worker. As an aspergian who functions in society, I cant emphasize enough how little school standards did for me, or how hard it was to heal from them, or how much of a waste all the struggle to get me to conform was.

You seem full of love for your kid in your video. Let the struggle to conform go, and you and your kid will both be much happier, and your kid will grow into a much healthier adult.

http://www.neurodiversity.com/lsd.html
Why aren''t people talking about these ideas?


Edited by - SpencerGNobleman on 01/02/2009 19:34:22

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ejwillingham

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United States
6 Posts

Posted - 01/03/2009 :  19:15:18  View ejwillingham's Photo Albums  Reply with Quote


Hi, Spencer--

No need to scream. I'm 40 years old, with a PhD and extensive experience teaching all ages and students with many different abilities. I detest "one-size-fits-all" teaching and am so nonconformist in my ideas about education that it would sent most EdDs screaming from the room.

I speak about my son through the filter of my own experience, which was very similar to his because he and I are very similar. I share your views about the way schools approach teaching, and I also share your views about how well that approach aided me in my own learning experience--which, to be clear, was very little. I would have done much better on my own. My quandary--our quandary--at this point is more about a balance between our son's interest in the social aspects of school than about what he's learning. He's got a very good friend, and he does not want to be out of school because of that. And right now, since he's 7 years old, his learning is as much about social processing and practice as it is about anything involving grades. I can see, clearly, that in a few years these things will change considerably. We likely will have to alter his day-to-day schooling, possibly even homeschooling. We're ready to do whatever is necessary to ensure that our son flourishes on terms that are best suited for him. Nothing we're doing right now is harmful to him. He's happy.

You argue that worrying about "standards" is going to exhaust us and lead to our son's being unhappy. I can counter that with my own experience in that my parents never engaged in this struggle or understood about standards because of their own insular and noncomformist behaviors, and that lack led me to wander in a social wilderness for many years, unable to understand, clinically depressed, and suicidal. So, there is some balance between the two that, in my view, must be achieved. An inability to recognize and adhere somewhere near a standard can be just as disabling as efforts at rigid adherence.

I do not have a struggle to conform or a desire to do so. That is not my fight. My fight is finding the balance for my son between pushing him to his potential even when it's something that's harder for him than almost everyone else, something he may NEVER really be able to do, and feeding his existing talents. I couldn't give a rap about "conforming" and never have. I always mentally cut through "social" expectations and constructs and focus on what is rational. Often, that leads straight down the noncomformist path.

Emily Willingham

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SpencerGNobleman

Forum Newbie


7 Posts

Posted - 01/06/2009 :  22:22:01  Reply with Quote


maybe i was projecting to much from my own situation. School would of been much different with a parent like you.

How does your sons intelligence compare to his classmates? Part of my experience was reading hundred page books, etc, before my classmates knew how to write their name. I had a speech problem and was reading before I was speaking intelligibly. I remember wanting to learn about negative numbers in the first grade, and being told that was in 6th grade. I remember a contest in second grade where there was a jar of m&ms and the person who guessed right won the jar. I won because I counted the length and width and height in m&ms and somehow managed to correctly intuit and apply the right formula for packing spherical objects into a cube. Then I went back to class to do timed multiplication tests which my classmates were doing on their fingers. I would be the first one done every time, get all the answers right, but since I didn't show my work, I didn't get good grades. (my work was to look at the question and see the answer in my head, I didn't understand why that was hard for people to understand).

They wanted to hold me back that year because I did not fit in socially at all with my classmates. I also felt like my teacher was sadistic towards me because I would reflexively correct her the second I saw a mistake. So maybe those experiences at that age caused me to project in my response. I wasn't diagnosed until after college.

"So, there is some balance between the two that, in my view, must be achieved. An inability to recognize and adhere somewhere near a standard can be just as disabling as efforts at rigid adherence."

This is really true. It sounds like you are really good at walking that line. My experience was so much on the 'rigid' side that I have trouble visualizing what a healthy middle would look like. Thanks for your response it lets me see some middle ground I wouldn't of imagined. It sounds like you have a much healthier way of being concerned for standards then I experienced.

http://www.neurodiversity.com/lsd.html
Why aren''t people talking about these ideas?

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ejwillingham

Forum Newbie


United States
6 Posts

Posted - 01/09/2009 :  13:50:09  View ejwillingham's Photo Albums  Reply with Quote


Hi, Spencer--

I appreciate your thoughtful comments, questions, and insights. My son's IQ testing indicates very high percentiles for some things but low percentiles for others. More subjectively, his teachers, therapists, etc., have always said that he is "so smart," and he is, in ways that are becoming increasingly apparent. For example, in math, he's been daydreamy and unfocused, but suddenly, he can easily add double- and triple-digit numbers in his head and doesn't want to "show his work" because he's already gotten the answer "his way." He reads several grade levels above his grade after being placed last year in the "lowest" reading group. He just wasn't showing them what he could do.

I've had teachers who fairly obviously detested me, and I've always thought it was competitive on their parts. Teachers who are not secure in themselves will react that way to challenge.

He's halfway through second grade, time will continue to tell.

Thanks again for your insights. They're helpful to people like us who are looking down that road.

Emily

Emily Willingham

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SpencerGNobleman

Forum Newbie


7 Posts

Posted - 01/09/2009 :  19:59:04  Reply with Quote


I always scored low on one section and off the top end on the others. I scored low on a different section, so they took that as evidence I wasn't good at any of them. I think it's harder for my brain to switch gear. If I get going on the math test, and have to sit through boring english testing, my brain doesn't switch gears easily. Also, give me the english test when I'm thinking english a few hours later. I'd hypothesize there is a lot of bias in IQ testing us. It seems to me that IQ testing won't represent our abilities well.

If the person giving the test seems dumb, I don't care about the testing because it's obvious to me the people giving it to me behave completely robotically and without even the first bit of real intelligent behavior (and live most their lives like this). The cognitive dissonance in having my IQ tested by some of these people alters the results. Those tests are designed for the same reason they put grades on beef. I'm not interested in submitting to that dehumanization, especially when administered by people who don't display intelligence, and it bothers me that students don't rise up en masse and demand an end to it. All it would take is one year where all the students just filled in A's on all standardized testing to bring down the system that sucks the life out of them and replaces it with mediocrity. That seems to me the only truly intelligent response to most iq testing. But everyone else seems distracted by lies and the shiny things on their TV so they keep letting the life get sucked out of them. So I'm not really to concerned about an iq test (or school tests) unless it's presented as a fun puzzle. If i treat it like a puzzle, the other kids want to beat me up.

I reached a breaking point and I wrote a criticism of a psychology test in college instead of answering the test pointing out all the ways providing the answers he wanted to the stupid pointless questions he was asking generated cognitive biases that contradicted recent psychology and neurology and were scientifically proven to result in his students having a misunderstanding of psychology after time. Basically, everyone who aced the test would give answers that generated cognitive bias towards recalling falsehoods. I just thought to myself "I'm done with this game." after failing that test. A lot of times, being way smarter then testing generates failure.

They didn't want us to think, almost without exception. There are certainly good teachers, but the bad ones are worse then nothing. It also seemed obvious while I was in school that there were significant institutional pressure to reward mediocrity and harshly punish people who really excelled. (I had more ap credits then anyone else, including the valedictorian, and led the team that got second in state at knowledge bowl, but only graduated because the vice principal blatantly lied and told me to lie but not tell anyone and sign some papers saying I did work I didn't do to avoid the embarrassment of the smartest kid not graduating.) I think these problems are not a problem of my behavior, but are a problem of the school system I was put through. That's the pitfalls I experienced your milage my vary.

does he play a musical instrument? I really really wish I started playing an instrument younger then 15. I watched my uncle play fur elise and started playing fur elise and got lessons. If I had started earlier...

http://www.neurodiversity.com/lsd.html
Why aren''t people talking about these ideas?

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sutaparay

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United States
1 Posts

Posted - 05/18/2009 :  17:06:38  View sutaparay's Blog  Reply with Quote


As a parent and a professional I completely agree with what Emily says in this video. I just recently wrote this on Edweek and wanted to share with you all. It is useful information for those teachers who want to provide individualized education but often do not have the time and resources to do so. Our motto has always been "There is no such thing as a standardized brain, so why should there be standardized testing???"

Differentiated instruction is an important consideration in all classrooms but especially so in the special education setting. I would like to recommend a product that is designed to help teachers offer Differentiated instruction in both the mainstream classroom and the special needs classroom. These products are web based interactive software.

One program called Early Mind Matters is for ECE and Special ed. This program guides students through a series of cognitive learning activities and their performance is tracked. The program then generates a report of cognitive abilities and disabilities of each child. This type of information is valuable for an IEP in special education and also in the regular classroom to bridge gaps in knowledge or understanding early on. The program also offers cognitive training through successive rounds on these activities to further develop and improve 47 different cognitive skills. Moreover, the Early Mind Matters program can be customized if more cognitive training activities are required to correct a particular deficit. Using this program a teacher can evaluate all his/her students at the same time and get individual read outs of each child’s strengths and weaknesses. If you'd like to know more information about this program please go to www.neuropathlearning.com.

A similar program called Knowledge First can be used in regular classrooms. This program assesses both cognitive and academic performance of each child in specific subject areas. You can find demos of both these programs on the neuropathlearning.com website. Teachers I know have successfully used data coming from the Knowledge First program to address specific learning issues for children in their class. They have also designed their curriculum and teaching methods around the content in the Knowledge First program to further the gains. Knowledge First has consistently helped schools improve test scores significantly year after year.

What sets the providers of these programs apart from other educational/assessment software manufacturers is that they continually work with teachers, guiding, training and supporting them throughout the process. For example, each child's data is analyzed and an individualized report for each child is provided to the teacher.

We do not believe in a cookie cutter approach to education and we share Emily's desire to see more focus on each child's particular abilities. This is why our future direction is to design a program that can gauge individual aptitude so that each child's special strengths can be fostered.

Thanks

Sutapa Ray



Sutapa Ray, PhD
Neuropath Learning
600 108th Ave NE Suite 535
Bellevue, WA 98004
p: 425.646.5055 f: 425.646.5044
www.neuropathlearning.com

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