Do you remember the subject that you were worst at in School?
The one you dreaded
For me, it was Chemistry
When High school ended, it was such a relief to know that never again would I encounter Chemistry
I could move on to the things I was good at
Things I enjoyed
When I chose my career – I chose a career where my strengths were myadvantage
And so, even though , I am not a person of great gifts or any brilliance
I play from my strength and I do pretty okay
However there are people who will be evaluated on their weaknesses all their lives
These are our auties
They are continually evaluated on verbal strength – frequently their great weaknesses
( Think about it - even when its unintentional - the game of life is verbal. For most of the ways in which we measure Intelligence – are tests that areadministered verbally, require the child to think verbally and often answer verbally. What a huge disadvantage this puts on a person that may think inpictures not words )
I would argue that our entire school curriculum is created for the verbal thinker
Auties are continuously coached on social skills
If you think about it, they spend all their day doing things they are bad in
The curriculum and life that has been created for Auties is what my life would be – if the world centred around chemistry ( shudder!!! )
It seems we go one step further – we take their gifts and find a way to disparage them
We call them Splinter skills
One more symptom of a disorder
“So what if he can read at 3 … everybody can read eventually “ we say sadly
( never thinking that the same argument is also true of speaking )
Parents of auties hold “becoming indistinguishable” as the highest goal
“Just like everyone else" we sigh
What if we changed our mindset ?
What if we became okay with them looking odd and different ?
What if we taught them enough social skills to navigate the world, but did not make it the fulcrum of their success and the core of their curriculum?
What If we focused on their strengths?
And help them build a life around that strength
“Don’t try to de-geek the geek “ says Dr Temple Grandin
For degeeking the geek is not only impossible, its ultimately cruel
No no no, I am not getting into the debate of autism being a good thing or a bad thing
Some of you may think Autism is simply a different way of being and some of you may think it’s a crippling disability
But whether we think the former or the latter – all I am saying is that –we can think of our child in terms of how they can build a life around strength
Rather than building a life around deficit compensation
We can find creative ways to harness their passion and turn it into a career.
"I always sold my work, not myself"- says Dr Grandin in a conference I went to recently, "I always got in through the back door... I never passed an interview in my life "
When the game and rules of that game are so obviously loaded against thedeficits of the children we love so deeply
Then there is only one thing to do
Instead of just focusing on changing the child
We need to change the game