Young Adult Lit/Crit

May 1, 2008

Joyce’s Seminar

Filed under: seminar feedback — sostrom @ 8:32 pm

Joyce’s seminar on autism generated such an important discussion about something we will be facing increasingly in our classrooms.  Currently 1 in 150 children has an autism spectrum disorder.  With statistics like this, we are certain to encounter students with autism.  But, Joyce pointed out, it is not only that we as teachers should be educated, we also need to educate our mainstream students as more and more autistic students enter inclusion classrooms.

Joyce’s seminar folder was chock full of useful material.  One article, “Autism as a Metaphor” by Polly Morrice from The New York Times, pointed out some of the social and cultural behaviors that people with autism are unable to enact, such as making eye contact, being touched or standing close to others, and engaging in typical social situations.  Joyce facilitated our discussion by provoking us to consider how we react to people who, in Morrice’s words, “have problems communicating and understanding social behavior.”  She suggested that raising mainstream students’ awareness of these dictates of social interaction and the common response to people who do not act this way, we can help our mainstream students be more understanding of what it is like to live with an autism spectrum disorder.

The books Joyce brought in were, of course, a highlight of the seminar.  Her top recommendation was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.  I read this book a couple of years ago and it really is wonderful.  The main character, Christopher, is autistic.  Through his first person narrative, we get an insider’s view of how an autistic mind works – including diagrams, plans and formulas that show his reliance on visuals to make sense of his world.  Joyce recommends this book for high school students and also emphasized that adults will enjoy it as well.

Another successful component of Joyce’s seminar was her invitation to share our experiences with people on the autism spectrum.  Thank you Joyce, Jessica and Erin, for sharing your experiences and insights.  Because autism is characterized by a spectrum of severity, I find that the more I hear about the different ways this disease effects people the better prepared I feel for my certain work with autistic students.

Joyce, thank you for choosing this topic and raising our awareness about this prevalent disease. 

-Sarah

 

 

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