Stop Forcing Autistics in the Neurotypical Hole: What about Cultural Anthropology?

There is a banner saying "Cultural Anthropology" at the bottom of the picture. A set of stairs going up a wall that has a beautiful wall painting of several faces on either side of the stairs.
There is a banner saying “Cultural Anthropology” at the bottom of the picture. A set of stairs going up a wall that has a beautiful wall painting of several faces on either side of the stairs.

However, before a typical child says his first word, he has developed a whole system of communicating through the nonverbal means of eye gaze, facial expressions, and gestures. These prelanguage skills are crucial for learning communication versus just learning to say words, yet these skills are often the most difficult ones for the child with autism to learn.

Crissey, Pat (2013-12-02). Teaching Communication Skills to Children with Autism (Kindle Locations 306-308). Attainment Company, Inc.. Kindle Edition.


I think it is important that I clarify one thing here.  I am not against teaching autistic people how neurotypical people act, think, socialize, etc.  What I am against is forcing autistic people to act like they are neurotypical.  Much of the language that came out of the textbooks that I read this summer were forceful.  They were not teaching autistic people about neurotypicals, they were trying to force autistic people into the neurotypical hole (and sawing off the excess parts of the autistic people so as to force them to fit).

This quote reminded me of that philosophy.  But, the question becomes: how would this look in a classroom?  How would teaching autistic people about neurotypicals while embracing the way the autistic people do things?  Well, I kind of have an idea on that: cultural anthropology

Teach autistic people about the culture of the neurotypical.  For example, teach them about the way the neurotypicals think about certain behaviors (i.e. facial expressions, body language, etc.).  However, just like in cultural anthropology, both the anthropologist’s culture and the culture the anthropologist is studying are valid.  And, just like in the cultural anthropologist’s life, they sometimes act in the way that is deemed appropriate by the culture they are in.

But the most important thing with this would be to do the same for neurotypicals.  What is the neurotypical culture (they probably know it, but didn’t realize it) and what is the autistic culture?

In this way, both the neurotypical and autistic cultures are appreciated as being equally valid ways of being in this world.

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