Thursday, August 30, 2012


I was thinking last night about some of the stories I heard during my tour in April and it got me thinking. What was it? First let me ask this; would a baseball player start a game without his mitt? Would a race car driver hurdle around in a car at speeds over 200mph without a helmet? Would an actor star in a play without knowing the script? All of those things may have made you laugh because it is just so ridiculous to think of any of those things happening because having the right equipment is vital to doing one's job. Am I right?

Okay, so I am right (aren't I always? Ha! I thought that was funny.) but then why are there areas of society that have not been equipped with the awareness needed to handle a situation with the autism spectrum correctly? There are still teachers who have not received any training down to the simplistic thing of even knowing what the autism spectrum is.

Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of good and a lot of momentum for the autism spectrum right now. However, I don't think this is good enough. In vital roles, such as teachers and police officers (the Saint Louis area police departments have done an amazing job on this front. I know I've spoken to about, if not more than, 1,000 officers in the area) the need for them being equipped is 100%. 99.9% just isn't good enough.

I'll go back to the start of this post. It is silly to think of a professional going out to perform their job without their equipment. Why then is it acceptable for some professions to go out without being fully equipped for their job? How can we expect a teacher that doesn't know a single thing about Asperger Syndrome to be able to do a stellar job? I know some can do this because several teachers I had were amazing and I did not have my diagnosis at the time. But there are cases not like mine where the whole ordeal is a disaster for all parties involved and it quite simply doesn't need to be this way. The equipment, with equipment being things such as books or speakers, is out there and there is no reason why we shouldn't be able to get the parties that need it equipped.

As I said, I was thinking back to some of the stories I heard and the negative impact that ill-equipped people had on their child. I also heard stories of those that were equipped and the positive impact that those had. When it comes to teachers it shouldn't be a matter luck if the teacher has been equipped. The impacts of a negative situation can have a lifelong effect. I say again, we would laugh if a pro fisherman showed up to a tourney without a rod or reel or we would laugh at the hockey player who skates an entire game without a stick. While those are sporting examples and the ramifications of sports is minimal to the impact of society, the consequences of not being equipped with the right autism knowledge can have a profound lifelong effect. Someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, we will be at the 100% level and everyone who should be is equipped with the knowledge needed to be able to teach, help, and support the person they come across who is on the autism spectrum.

1 comment:

  1. This is so true. I was a teacher until I left the profession to home educate my son, and have taught people with Asperger's with success in the past. However, although I had a little knowledge at the time about people with AS taking things literally and not liking change, that's as far as it went, really. The total amount of my teacher training course dedicated to ASD was about two hours. The rest was instinct and, with hindsight, the informal training I had with having a son with AS. We didn't know til I had given up teaching to home educate him that he does in fact have AS. The psychologist said it was because we had done such a good job of subconsciously catering to his needs (eg learning never to shout, knowing when he was being naughty and when he was just overwhelmed, not insisting he ate food with strong textures etc)that he wasn't diagnosed til he was 13. By this point he had refused to attend school properly for nearly 3 years. I had absolutely NO CLUE when teaching kids with AS before of the difficulties they and their families faced all day, every day. My experience as the mother of a son with ASD is the best training I could have to be the best teacher of students with ASD. I also have recognised that I have many of the traits myself, and this could be why I have been so understanding of the difficulties faced by my students even without formal training. If I ever do return to teaching, it will be as a teacher of kids with ASD as the 16 years 'training' I've received by parenting my son is invaluable. Nothing compels someone to pick up books by Tony Attwood, Temple Grandin and yourself as much as living with someone with AS!
    The damage done by the teachers who didn't think he might have had additional needs is criminal and tragic. For 3 miserable years we were treated as if we were bad parents and it was our fault he wouldn't go to school - they wouldn't believe he just COULDN'T go. It has taken 6 months of unschooling to get my happy son back and he is starting a couple of courses at the local college in September - we're lucky that one of the teachers is my friend and knows how to teach Joe, and the other will be getting a huge list of what to do and not to do when teaching a teen with AS! The college have also offered the help of an experienced learning support team if he needs it. Even in the last three years tremendous progress has been made.