ED­U­CAT­ING GRAYSON

The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - EDITORIAL -

I would like to com­mend Guelph, Ont., mother Lisa Kahn for hav­ing the courage to go pub­lic with her autis­tic son’s story (Ed­u­cat­ing Grayson, Jan. 5).

She speaks for the many par­ents who might fear shame and judg­ment if they come for­ward. This, in turn, fu­els a cul­ture of si­lence and iso­la­tion for many af­fected fam­i­lies. Judg­ing from the fol­low-up ar­ti­cles and let­ters to the ed­i­tor, this is a se­ri­ous and ur­gent prob­lem which needs im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion. Let’s make sure the risk Ms. Kahn has taken in ex­pos­ing the enor­mous­ness of the prob­lem has not been in vain. Bar­bara Loose­more

Toronto

I take is­sue with a let­ter writer’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion classes as “much more about day­care than learn­ing” (Is It Fair To Put Kids With Com­plex Needs In A Reg­u­lar Class? Jan 8).

I teach in a self-con­tained class­room for stu­dents who have in­tel­lec­tual (de­vel­op­men­tal) dis­abil­i­ties at a high school. I work to­gether with my stu­dents to set their learn­ing goals. Stu­dents learn to take the bus, cook their own food, get jobs, com­mu­ni­cate their hopes and dreams for their fu­ture, and de­velop so­cial and self-reg­u­la­tion skills that serve them through their lives. We teach aca­demic skills, too.

Last Oc­to­ber, we ran a school­wide fundraiser and col­lected more than 1,000 pairs of socks, dis­tribut­ing them to lo­cal shel­ters. We run a pop­corn-sales busi­ness, and op­er­ate a cloth­ing closet serv­ing the stu­dent body. Ev­ery stu­dent, re­gard­less of their dis­abil­ity, can par­tic­i­pate in these ac­tiv­i­ties. We are an im­por­tant part of our school.

Please don’t as­sume that plac­ing stu­dents in a self-con­tained class­room “doesn’t do much for the dis­abled,” as the let­ter states. Heather Calder Elmira, Ont. As a re­tired high-school English teacher and spe­cial ed­u­ca­tor, I’ve worked with stu­dents with autism spec­trum dis­or­der (ASD) in both in­clu­sive and con­gre­gated school set­tings.

When I be­gan work­ing with ado­les­cent stu­dents with ASD I was sur­prised to dis­cover that my back­ground in learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties was well-suited to meet­ing the needs of my stu­dents who also learn dif­fer­ently. Tem­ple Grandin, a lead­ing ASD ex­pert who also has autism, chal­lenges ed­u­ca­tors to adopt a strength-based ap­proach to teach­ing. In her book, The Autis­tic Brain, she en­cour­ages us to “stop think­ing about what’s wrong [and] in­stead [think] of what could be bet­ter.”

My stu­dents taught me that a strength-based ap­proach can re­veal abil­i­ties and tal­ents pre­vi­ously hid­den or mis­un­der­stood; and as their strengths de­vel­oped their chal­leng­ing be­hav­iours re­ceded. Of course, chal­leng­ing be­hav­iours need to be ad­dressed and un­der­stood but as part of a strength-based ap­proach to teach­ing and learn­ing. Corinne Le­vitt

Toronto

Let­ters to the Ed­i­tor should be ex­clu­sive to The Globe and Mail. In­clude name, ad­dress and day­time phone num­ber. Keep let­ters un­der 150 words. Let­ters may be edited for length and clar­ity. E-mail: let­[email protected]­and­mail.com

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