Skip to main content

Why a Ph.D Program

I wish I could educate far more teachers on developmental disorders and brain injuries so we don't keep pushing away some of our most gifted students. Autism spectrum disorders, frontal lobe traumas, and other conditions can cause an individual to struggle with a great many social situations, while also apparently contributing to "savant-like" gifts in other areas.

The problem is pedagogical, but educators have adopted strategies for more than 30 years that encourage groups, collaboration, role playing, and other valid techniques that isolate and even alienate those with ASDs, lobe injuries, etc. In the past, we dismissed these students as "super geeks" — and like me, many were placed on "independent study" projects because teachers ran out of options.

We really need to find ways to use technology to get past the social barriers, which I compare to being a non-native speaker of English. Probably a bad comparison, but I often feel I do not speak the same language as others.

In Minnesota, we have one of the three highest rates of autism spectrum disorders. Many of these students will be entering the universities in the next decade, thanks to mandated individualized education programs. Without the IEP approach, some future greats would never be "discovered" and much would be lost. But, I still think we need more mainstreaming and less isolation of these students.

That's really why I am here -- to work on this range of disabilities and discover better ways to educate this group, which is now as large as one percent of all students in a few school districts. In a 10,000-student district, we might have 100 students classified as ASD/brain trauma. Right now, educating those students is extremely expensive (up to $30,000/year each), which I think has to change and can change with the help of technologies.

Because I do not experience the same emotional range as others or know how to answer the question "How are you?" I end up being outside a group fairly quickly. I know facts, figures, and how my mind perceives things. I also know my perceptions are seldom the same as others' — few people experience real pain from certain colors or synesthesia at times.

Technology could, if we develop a better approach, bridge gaps for people. Right now, technology is merely serving to implement the same practices we use in traditional classrooms, but with cool new buzzwords.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Autism, Asperger's, and IQ

"Aren't people with Asperger's more likely to be geniuses? Isn't genius related to autism?"

A university student asked this in a course I am teaching. The class discussion was covering neurological differences, free will, and the nature versus nurture debate. The textbook for the course includes sidebars on the brain and behavior throughout chapters on ethics and morality. This student was asking a question reflecting media portrayals of autism spectrum disorders, social skills difficulties, and genius.

I did not address this question from a personal perspective in class, but I have when speaking to groups of parents, educators, and caregivers. Some of the reasons these questions arise, as mentioned above, are media portrayals and news coverage of autism. Examples include:
Television shows with gifted characters either identified with or assumed to have autistic traits: Alphas, Big Bang Theory, Bones, Rizzoli and Isles, Touch, and others. Some would include She…

Listen… and Help Others Hear

We lack diversity in the autism community.

Think about what you see, online and in the media. I see upper-middle class parents, able to afford iPads and tutors and official diagnoses. I see parents who have the resources to fight for IEPs and physical accommodations.

I see self-advocacy leadership that has been fortunate (and hard working, certainly) to attend universities, travel the nation (or even internationally), and have forums that reach thousands.

What I don't see? Most of our actual community. The real community that represents autism's downsides. The marginalized communities, ignored and excluded from our boards, our commissions, our business networks.

How did my lower-income parents, without college educations, give me a chance to be more? How did they fight the odds? They did, and now I am in a position of privilege. But I don't seem to be making much of a difference.

Demand that your charities seek out the broadest possible array of advisers and board members.…

Life Updates: The MFA Sprint

Life is okay, if more than a little hectic at the end of this first month.

With one month down, I'm 11 months away from my MFA in Film and Digital Technology. Though things might happen and things do go wrong, so far I'm on schedule and things are going well —— though I'm exhausted and working harder than I did for any other degree. Because the MFA requires projects every week, this isn't as easy to schedule as writing. Even researching a paper can be done from the comfort of home, at any hour.

You cannot make movies by yourself, at any time of day. It doesn't work that way. Filming takes time, and often requires a team of people. It's not comparable to working alone on a degree in writing or rhetoric.

The team-based nature of film is exhausting for me, but I enjoy the results. I also like the practical nature of the skills being taught. You either learn how to adjust ISO, f/Stop, shutter speed, and other variables or you don't. You can have theories …