This New Yorker article shed light on a horribly misunderstood population of the world. I really enjoyed how it explained the lens in which those on the spectrum see the world. In the diagnosis' infancy, Autism was thought to be a mask of intelligent people as opposed to an indicator of mental inability as previously thought. Then for years and years, scientists and doctors worked to find a "cure". Only recently are we engaging in the proposition that maybe it isn't a problem to be solved but more a gift to be treasured.
One of the big arguments by Foucault is the idea of over "medicalization" in our society and the dangers of powerful pharmaceutical companies for our students. Although I have isolated personal experience with this power in specific context, however I have seen and felt this power they speak of. The news talks of ADD epidemics, and there are more and more people each year it seems identifying or being diagnosed and medicating for a mental illness. This article talks of a similar conclusion in the Autism spectrum. These rising numbers beg to question of addiction, dependence, causes and cures. The thing is, I'm not quite sure these are the things we need to be focusing on. Often, it seems the individual is lost in these conversations.
For those students whose diagnosis and medication allow for a complete paradigm shift and a better quality of life for THEM, then for that I advocate. For those who are forced diagnosis and medication because that's what the teacher, doctor, parent, or otherwise determines is best for them, than that is where the issue arises. We should be creating space for the differently abled to not just survive, but to thrive as individuals. I feel we should almost go as far to say that we should take note from these differently abled and what the inability to conform allows them to accomplish.
I believe this is especially true for teachers. No, it may not be easy or convenient to create an atmosphere of learning for such a variety of learners, but isn't that the beauty of humanity; individuality and differentiation in thought, action, and emotion. We are a beautiful species that thrives because of our ability to see differently, school should be a place to encourage such exploration and discovery, not squelch in in the name of normal or standard. I do realize though the difficult place this puts teachers, in balancing both non-partican teaching and child advocacy. But here is how I have painted the line for myself: We are here to advocate for the opportunity to learn and discover the world so that they may one day go out into it and make it better. This means the content in which we teach should be diverse yet un-biased whereas the true advocacy comes in ensuring our students are given access to this information in the way that they need.
In short, regardless of where the world of science has been in regards to cognitive and behavioral differences, we are not at a place where we recognize the gift of individuality regardless of the different wrappings and as teachers it should be our goal to work WITH our students to discover what is needed to reveal that gift to the world. That I feel is our responsibility as teachers.
These are just a few photos showcasing my time at MSU. Lots of memories and even more smiles.