Saturday, September 13, 2014

Learning & Autism


I'll never forget the time when I tried to pull away from the bank's drive thru window in my father's Volvo, which weighed a ton. And oh yeah, it was a stick shift. 

In case you don't know, a Volvo doesn't move with just a tap of the gas pedal as you ease off the clutch. It's pop the clutch and punch the gas with lightning speed, but if you can't do this, you sit in a parking lot all day. 

Which is what happened in my case, with more than a few cars waiting behind me. I was mortified. Convinced I couldn't learn to drive. Convinced I was a failure. 

My father, on the other hand, wasn't convinced and he ordered me, above my yelling, to try to put the car in gear one more time. Well I did, and finally got that tank of his to move at least a few feet away from the drive thru before stalling out again. 

What's the point of this story? It's that my dad knew then what Sal Khan knows now. Basically, he (my dad) understood that human intelligence is not fixed. People are capable of learning all the time. Literally. Unfortunately not all people agree on this point, and for those in this camp who have autistic kids, they severely diminish their child's capacity to live a richer and fuller life in years to come. 

By the way, within a few days, I was able to drive that car. It's kind of an important point because I've met parents of autistic kids who refuse to even allow their very capable children to bike ride let alone drive. At some point, I do hope people can realize that there's a difference between keeping a person alive versus letting her live.

Disability does not have to mean intellectual death. Perhaps a great deal more effort has to go into the process, but autistic people can and will learn if they are taught. Please make every effort to teach your children and to teach them well. 

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