Learning differently

The school environment and teaching methods should be in accordance with the educational goals of schools and should take the needs of all children into account; so it should be for those with autism as well. We are ethically and, in many communities, legally obligated to guarantee children with mental handicaps access to education tailored to their special needs.

Almost all autism characteristics cause children on the spectrum to learn differently; think of limitations in the imagination, the difficulties in distinguishing primary from secondary issues (Central Coherence) and several executive function difficulties. On the other hand, a substantial number of people on the spectrum have exceptional talents, often in math or physics and also in language or music. Such talents are the other side of the ‘handicap coin’ as is argued by Baron-Cohen et al.

Learning ‘differently’ is often taken to mean ‘difficult’ learning, which more or less implies the student, not the method, is the problem. Schools, however, are obliged to adopt methods and integrate best practices designed to offset a student’s particular constraints and limitations so they may attain their ‘personal best’ at their own tempo. Within the built environment, careful consideration of the arrangement of the class is an important means to integrate these necessary best practices.

For a personal account of unrecognized learning impediments, see this post by Rod Wintour.

Baron-Cohen and more...

Baron-Cohen, Simon, Emma Ashwin, Chris Ashwin, Teresa Tavassoli and Bhismadev Chakrabarti, ‘Talent in autism: hyper-systemizing, hyper-attention to detail and sensory hypersensitivity’, In: Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society. Biological Sciences (2009) (July), 364, 1377–1383. PDF