ASD Nest Program

Nice article from NPR about New York City’s ASD Nest program, which aims at taking autistic kids from kindergarten through high school with the goal of getting them into college. I have seen similar ideas floated through schools elsewhere, but this program is probably the most consistent I’ve seen since it carries individuals through various schools.  There are also links to other pieces as well.

NYC’s ASD Nest program

 

Hillary Clinton Talks Autism

I try to avoid posting anything political on this site, because that’s not what it is for. I do, however, discuss autism on here. At the bottom is a link to U.S Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s plan to address autism in the United States. A couple of things impressed me:

First, she is addressing the entire age spectrum; kids, teens, and adult populations. We often focus on early intervention, and that is important, but what services are there once these individuals turn 18? 25? 45?

Second, she is addressing the minority populations. I speak from experience when I say that the “brown” communities (Black and Hispanic, mainly) are highly under diagnosed when it comes to autism. Some of this is because of a lack of resources, some from a lack of awareness in the communities (I have heard some people say that “black people don’t get autism”), and some from a predisposition in the medical and educational fields to assume low intelligence rather than an exceptional mind.

Third, Clinton is calling for more funding in all areas of autism. Thus far, a vast majority of funding is aiming at research to identify the cause and “cure” for autism. Very little in comparison is focused on the programs and services that autistic individuals and their families need now.

At least for the United States, I think this is a good starting point. She’s addressing some of the very areas I’ve raised concerns about.  So…what do you guys think?

Hillary Clinton’s Autism Plan

PS: I want to keep the comments on the subject of autism and the autism plan itself, not Clinton. Is it a good starting point? Could it go further? How? Did it miss anything? What would you add/edit?

 

Figure Out How You Learn

This video is a great introduction to some of the issues my thesis, and the SPARC program, addresses. Howard Gardner is featured heavily in my thesis, and his theory is part of the backbone of the SPARC program. We are all different types of learners, and we all have a wide variety of gifts to share with the world. What are yours?

Updates

Hi everyone!

Quick update on where I am on everything:

I have now added “The SPARC Program” page and the “Staff” page. These will probably be fine-tuned even more in the coming weeks, but right now I’m just happy I figured out how to link everything! I will probably add a FAQ page once the blueprint for the program is formally written.

The thesis is now moving on to Final Edit check. After that, I plan to add it to ProQuest (which will make the thesis searchable) and start looking at journals for publishing.

I am starting to outline the entire SPARC program, including its format, questionaries, and variations. Right now, I’m also looking at creating supplement programs for parents, siblings, and even schools.

There will be a YouTube channel, so stay tuned for that!

There will also be a book, which I will start writing in July. The book will have a similar theme to the thesis and the program. I will be posting soon about a call for interviews.

So yes, lots going on right now, but I am super excited about all of it! There’s something amazing about doing what you feel called to do, and I want as many people as possible to know that feeling as well. I can’t wait to share all of this!

Does Our School System Encourage Creative/Spiritual Gifts?

For many people, the first automatic response to this question is a resounding “NO.”

My answer is actually a little different: it depends on where you are on the school pecking order.

Mind you, I am speaking of the U.S. public educational system only. I am not familiar with those outside of the United States (though I am starting to explore this more), and it is easier for me to speak on a system that I have navigated myself. I am aware that many private schools do indeed have programs and curriculums that encourage raw creative talent. For this post, I am focusing on the system that the majority of American children find themselves a part of…and it has changed a lot since I was a part of it.

When I was in elementary school, there were numerous creative outlets for kids. We had art classes, music classes, physical education, science fairs, art shows, and field days. Middle and high school life included drama classes, math clubs, yearbook and school newspapers, executive committees by grade, and competitions outside of the classroom across several different types of creative intelligence, from engineering to football. A lot of these are still in place, especially beyond the classroom, but what has happened to the classroom itself? I don’t think my 11-year-old nephew has ever done a science project, and these were a staple for me growing up. Oh, they are learning about the scientific method, but there is no room for the creative exploration of it because they have to get ready for the next round of testing.

Ah yes, the testing. This has become the bane of a public school student’s existence. Their fate, along with the fate of their school and even their district in many cases, rests on these tests. There are some kids who are excellent at taking tests, as this is a process that they happen to be gifted in. For them, the tests are somewhat easier. What about the kids whose abilities lie in something beyond the tests and the Core Curriculum?

I was not the best test taker, but I had very good grades because I took the Honors/Advanced Placement route in middle and high school and chose which classes I wanted. I love to write, so English and Social Studies all became AP classes. Here, I was challenged but also given the opportunity for my creativity to shine. Joining the school’s literary magazine helped that as well. When I took the writing competency test for my undergraduate college, I scored at grade level 17, which is the first year of graduate school. Even though I struggled in Honors Chemistry, I became a bit more fascinated with chemistry because of the cool experiments we did that weren’t done in the regular class. The same held true for Honors Biology.

I am not saying that this is the only route to take, far from it. It is not even a route, per se. It is a suggestion and a response to the post question. Can students sharpen their creative gifts in our school system? I believe it is possible, but it takes work and the willingness of both the parents and the student to seek out the opportunities. Adding back the art, music, and PE classes and science activities that were such a great part of my childhood would also be a wonderful place to start.

We focus so much on what our children cannot do; let’s start identifying and encouraging not just what they can do, but what they are really good at.