Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Blessed Fools

In my time as a teacher I encountered and worked with several mildly autistic children and many who now would be categorised as being "somewhere on the autistic spectrum". I also worked with teachers who found it difficult to work with those children who were "different" and a nuisance in the classroom.

I have no doubt that there are students in college who could be placed on this "spectrum" who may present certain challenges to their lecturers, tutors and peers. Many children will have passed through our education system without having their needs specifically diagnosed. Indeed many of us will know someone who is different. We may even suspect that we ourselves are different and do not see the world as others do.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen's work at Oxford is important and needs to be promoted. I wonder if similar materials will become available for adults.

William Allen has written an excellent article for Slate; The Autism Numbers, Why there's no epidemic. He points to a new book by Richard Grinker, to be released in this country in February. I've not read it so I can't comment upon it but I will be adding it to my wish list.

My attention was drawn to the phrases used in other cultures and times to describe autistic children; "green children, blessed fools, eternal children, marvelous children" are all so much more inclusive and wonderfully descriptive of these children and their needs than the medically precise labels provided by modern society.

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