Early in my teaching career (beginning in 1969), I demanded eye contact from my students…. but only when confronting one about inappropriate behavior. Back then it seemed to me that kids were supposed to make eye contact to prove they were listening to you. That is false. Demanding eye contact is – and remains to this day – a power struggle between adult and child, teacher and pupil, employee and boss.

What I learned from my students was that many of them found it difficult, if not impossible, to avoid eye contact or they would not be able to focus on what I was saying… regardless of the nature of our interaction. After finally understanding this, why would I ever demand that ANY student look me in the eye.

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Remember Walter Cronkite, Howard K. Smith, Bob Shieffer, Eric Sevareid? You trusted them. If it wasn’t for Edward R. Murrow Joseph McCarthy might have destroyed our democracy. (see more  http://www.artofmanliness.com/2009/03/18/11-manliest-anchormen)

I believe the news media has a social obligation to inform, not merely report. It is a sad time for the news media. Instead of doing their homework, reporters spew fact and opinion equally as if they were synonymous. Where did these people study journalism?

People need transparency from their news sources. I think the FDA protect us from intellectual poisoning by requiring product labeling for news programming:
The tag “News” should be reserved for presentations that are reliable and responsible meaning checking resources, double-checking facts, provable, independently verifiable or even rational.
The tag “Commentary” should be given to all other presentations

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THIS POST IS IN PROGRESS.

 

Advocacy usually focuses on the negative aspects of autism: difficulties with communication, socialization, and impulse control.  While discussion of differences helps change mindsets and lead to improvements in our institutions, discussion of how we are the same changes hearts and leads to acceptance and true inclusion.

More advocates are attempting to change people’s hearts – not by soliciting sympathy but by helping people understand that they are already familiar with the creativity and beauty associated with autism –   Debra Hosseini not the capital “A”  Autism label, but the lower case “a” that describes individuals credited with some of the most significant contributions to culture, society and even world history.

WHAT HAS OCCURED?

HOW DO WE TELL PEOPLE ABOUT IT?

 

Between the Fall from Grace a

nd the Fall from Space much of our progress can be attributed to individuals who have may have been autistic.    who have

 profoundly affected the cou.  I don’t need to know Siddhartha as a man, to be affected by Buddhism.   I find odd is that some of these people were autistic. We know them from their contributions.  We may know something about them as people.   mean, there had to be some outrageously autism is part of the normal Human Spectrum.

 

I don’t intend to debate the classifications  .  Therefore, I find it odd that most people claim to have only have a passing understanding of autism.        – generally thinking of autism as an assortment of behe acknowledge the lives and work of many individuals who are or have been suspected of being on the autism Spectrum. aviors and difficulties with social settings, communication and stress. the road leading f and   difficulties and  and on’t understand that are universally ignorant about their society and culture -W What we do not do is It’s actually that they don’t equate autism with some of the  he most creative, dedicated, accomplished and angst-ridden countrymen whose contribution to for such a long time…. well, forever actually.  But that’s not the subject of today’s blog.My statement was that most societies don’t understand autism and I’ll prove it to you.  Pick a country, any country.  Look at your country. Good!  – Don’t show me!  I’m using ESP here. Let’s see…. does your country understand the special gifts and abilities bestowed by autism?  Hmmmmmm. No. They do not.  Am I right?… Am I right? Of course I’m right because your country has only a few people who know anything at all about autism.  Thats true of most countries.  The most important people – family, teachers and the medical community –  want to understand more but the general population is kind of fuzzy about why they need to understand autism better.  Aside from the U.S. only about 30 countries participate in the Global Autism Public Health (GAPH) Initiative to promote recognition, awareness and service delivery as governments or grass-roots organizations.  That doesn’t sound like a majority of societies attempting to serve their autistic people.  In fact, I’d wager money that in your country autistic people are kept home hidden behind curtains. No, my friend. Throughout most of history, other than isolated cases in which a culture embraced autistic members, autism has been misunderstood and under-appreciated. Until now! Now, for the first time, you too can now download a Mental App that will enable you to spot the autistic person in the room. Never again be flummoxed by wondering why that guy at the annual company picnic laughs too loud at your jokes. Get the inside scoop on why that guy at the Halloween party seemed so natural in the Chewbacca costume.   This App includes the entire X-Men series and Entertainment Tonight analysis of all of those fabulous, new television programs starring Aspie over-achievers. Anyone today can learn to recognize all the warning signs of autism.  Imagine enjoying a cup of java and a scone at the church social when – BAM!  You spot somebody flopping like a fish out of water…  and you just know that they are autistic….  and that they are not diseased (autism is not a disease… well it probably isn’t…  its just that sometimes….)…. You too can understand the terrible inconvenience it is to live with autism as so magnificently conveyed through Claire Danes’ and Julia Armond’s portrayals in the Temple Grandin Story – which also taught us that bullying was never the clean, simple fun we used to take it for.  (Boy, the news media. Bullying here. Bullying there. Then all bullying suddenly stopped at 8:57pm on July 4th, 2014 and never reared its ugly again again.  And they lived happily ever after.) And the App teaches us that – thank goodness  – those people are not being able to FEEL emotion like the rest of us. (But people with Asperger’s are called Aspies and they are smarter so when they get bullied they become mass murderers…… don’t they? So that must mean they really do have feelings too. Negative but what the Hey.  Hey! Whats up with these communication boards (isn’t technology just marvelous?).  That oughta take care of the communication problem, right?.  Don’t you listen to the news? Act today and be upgraded free.  Enjoy all 49 Star Trek episodes with Dr. Spock at no extra charge.   And, for being such a willing propaganda subject you are excused from reading my new book entitiled “The Human Spectrum – A history of how the Autistic perspective helped shape the world”. What’s my point? Autism is no longer the mystery is was in the past.  While we don’t know enough about autism, we do know enough about how to make their lives better right now – changes that could be made to improve educational options, medical treatment, financial and social support.  There is more about autism in the media.  But let’s not confuse quantity with quality. The rapid growth of the autistic population is forcing the issue but there is no easy fix for the problem of how to get society to integrate and provide meaningful employment for autistic people. How will we care for millions of autistic senior citizens? Advocacy’s most urgent concern is about finding ways to share this information where and with whom it belongs ASAP. So what’s the problem?  People are the problem. We are asking people with full and busy lives to inconvenience themselves by giving us their attention and precious time. We can’t lecture them. We are asking them to question their own belief systems. How can advocates entice people to drop their mental barriers? By using a more interesting, kinder and non-demanding approach. This is exactly what The Art of Inclusion project has been succeeding at for the past four years by challenging people to use art to voluntarily consider autism and respond … with a dash of creative thrown in.

Art – the medium is the message “Art provide(s) a means to express the imagination in non-grammatic (sic) ways that are not tied to the formality of spoken or written language. Unlike words, which come in sequences and each of which have a definite meaning, art provides a range of forms, symbols and ideas with meanings that are malleable.” (courtesy Wikipedia)   Art is concerned with the use of form, genre, style, skill, novelty and craft as a means of self-expression. Art is well suited for autistic people – especially those with limited      communication skills. For many autistic artists studio time is more than a time for self- expression, it is a positive personal challenge as well as a social experience. Spectrum artists are represented in every way and everywhere in art.  Of course, some are better than others. Some are excellent, (Debra Hosseini)   Great Art – the medium is the message  Blogger Jeff Goins makes an insightful observation: “Great art is transcendent. It points to something beyond itself and the one who made it. This is why the Greeks believed in essences and muses. They knew something that we’ve forgotten: (Great) Art describes the invisible world; it hints at the hidden story.” Autistic artists are capable of producing Great Art. Name 2-3: who and why their work is insightful   Beyond Great Art – the medium is the message Elegant symbols of a universal theme – Great Art touches you personally. Whether the connection is esthetic, emotional, intellectual, moral or political…  it mines a vein in your life. It may reinforce your belief system or open new doors for you. Either way, it is an outsider’s perspective of something within your personal world. In order to move beyond Great, Art must define a universal truth, be iconic, touch people’s lives, ask a significant question, make a thoughtful statement or provide others with a mirror to examine themselves.   Wouldn’t it be nice know how that perspective could benefit before you expend effort to understand it? Wouldn’t it be great if the process of learning turned out to be a pleasant one? To move beyond Great, Art must do all this plus engage you.   The Art Of Inclusion project – the creation of autism advocate artist Gee Vero – promotes tolerance, inclusion and acceptance of autistic people by asking public figures to contemplate autism by completing an image she has drawn for them. Since 2000, more than 100 celebrities and public figures have met the BareFace challenge. The growing body of co-artist work has drawn crowds to dozens of museum and galleries in Germany and Australia, stimulating observers to consider what life is like for autistic people and their families What is the value of this project? H The project has merit and is a wonderful alternative to the Puzzle Piece. BareFace is a statement of our need for sharing.  It challenges, but does not dictate.  It asks for your attention but does not criticize how well or how deeply you respond to that challenge.


Cloud-burst.tv is a new website dedicated to promoting tolerance, acceptance and inclusion of people with autism through the inspiration of Literature, The Arts, Music and Media. CBTV supports The Art Of Inclusion, a novel project challenging the public to contemplate autism by completing an unfinished work of art appropriately entitled BareFace. Over the past four years more than 100 celebrities and public figures have met the challenge  adding their own creativity to produce co-artist work that has drawn crowds to dozens of museum and galleries in Germany and Australia.  Recently BareFace was used by The Madison House Foundation – an influential organization providing support for young autistic adults – to promote a fundraising event and a month-long exhibition of 200 works by 40 spectrum artists. For information about how this project can help attract attention to your organization’s outreach events by contacting Michael Leventhal at InfoCloudBursttv@gmail.com or use the form below

Links:
Fox New coverage of the Madison House exhibit
Cloud-Burst.tv
Madison House
Artist Gee Vero

contemplating autism

contemplating autism


I loved to use video in school for a variety of reason. But I recommended its use because I believed  it held enormous potential for education.   Educators have grown tired of reading dense, dry reports and interpolating meaningless statistics. Videos were simple to create and offered so much useful information. Educators might actually bother to use them. 

I was so enthusiastic about video that I submitted it as evidence for NY State Alternate Assessment.  That was in 2004, the first year such evidence was authorized and, interestingly enough, I was the only teacher in the state to do so.   I also presented a program for implementing Video Resumes to the City Department of Special Education


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Submitting work samples and sequential photographs to document student performance serves no purpose. 

Non-testable students should be assessed for independence and their ability to participate in community life.   Video Resumes are a useful predictor of such success.

A Video Resume is a portfolio containing multiple clips capturing the performance of students exempted from standardized assessment.  Unlike other non-standardized tools that quantify specific competencies,  video clips paint a picture of how well students apply their skills and knowledge in multiple social settings – school, home and community.

The Resume captures intangibles  that other tools are blind to:

  • Character
  • Social skill
  • Emotional tone
  • Extraneous behaviors
  • Learning rate and style
  • Intellectual functioning

These “intangibles” help us understand how a student acquires, processes and uses information. They contribute to our understanding a student’s ability to focus, the ability to interact with others, attitude, and the need for prompts.  Intangibles also provide feedback on the effectiveness of instruction.

In addition to the above, video captures :

  • Performance of specific knowledge or skils
  • Student competency in isolation and while in various social milieu
  • The existance of concomitant skills and behaviors
  • Range and depth of general knowledge
  • Ability to self-mediate

VR impacts instruction by:

  • Improving the ability to estimate functional groupings and levels of support
  • Improving understanding of problem behaviors and their antecedents
  • Indicating program effectiveness
  • Being simpler and easier to use that statistics or reports
  • Enabling teacher to plan instruction sooner
  • Helping to establish more meaningful IEP goals
  • Providing a new tool to evaluate related-service progress

VR impacts assessment / review because it is:

  • Easy to record, save and review on a continuous basis
  • Portable and accessible – can’t be misplaced
  • Easily updated
  • Quicker and easier to understand than lengthy written reports and statistics
  • Clarifies information presented at parent-teacher conferences
  • A more detailed picture of the child – especially those who are non-communicative
  • Independent of verbal and processing skills
  • Provides evidence of student progress over time

VR impacts the student by providing:

  • Understandable feedback about themselves
  • A record of personal growth over time
  • Meaning for students with verbal processing problems
  • Motivation for students to demonstrate abilities
  • The ability for students to demonstrate themselves in the best possible light at any moment in time
  • Stimulation for metacognitive thought and language development

There is a glaring disconnect between what we understand about Autism and how we as a society apply this information to improve life.  So, how do we change the world? By sharing information… one project at a time.

Just as autism can be described by a spectrum of behaviors, so too can the autism community be described by the various agendas of many special interest groups. In this era of instant communication, their combined activity has increased our base of shared knowledge.

Knowledge alone is not enough to bring about significant change. Action is still required. In the United States and other countries possessing a sophisticated infrastructure, change is largely a matter of juggling financial and procedural hurdles.  Our growing understanding will continue to correct misconceptions, attitudes and ultimately our social systems.

However, elsewhere people are not sharing in this renaissance.  In fact, most people on the spectrum live in countries that do not recognize the humanity of autism.   Most do not provide education or support services for families.  Outcasts in their own countries, unable to obtain public services or afford private attention, families and advocates are desperate for even the most basic information.

Where there is a will….…  As a former teacher turned Internet reporter and editor of the online magazine The Omni Intelligencer , Kathleen Tehrani was acutely aware of the gravity of this problem.  She recognized that in these places even simple, practical information was almost impossible to get.  She envisioned a website that would connect people with knowledge and experience to connect directly with others who really needed it.

With crucial support from mutual friend Tom Schiff, Kathleen,Marc Brenner and I created AutismBrainstorm.org, a free online community designed to accomplish her dream. This website provides three key functions that enable people with questions to connect directly with people who have answers.

1 – ACCESS TO INFORMATION
The Human Spectrum Magazine – Monthly, multiple experts weigh-in on a common theme

2 – SHARING AND DISCUSSION
The World Cafe – An informal meeting place hosting chat and formal webinar rooms for special interest groups

Some of the voices heard on the aB site:  Dr. Stephen Shore, Craig Evans, John Elder Robison, Dr. Robert Naseef, Brian King, Ann Millan, Lars Perner, Keri Bowers, Dr. Stacy Goresko, Anita Lesko, Jane Ferris Richardson, Joanne Lara, Shelly Tzforfas, David Geslak, Michael Woods, Ann Roberts, Susan Diamond, Erik Estebrook, Donna Williams, Frank Louis Allen, Paul Issacs.

3 – IDENTIFYING VALUED PROJECTS
The Kindness Zone –  Identifying projects with immediate and long-term benefits that have a high probability for success.

… there is a way.   Eighteen months after launch and due entirely to Kathleen’s vision and determination, we can announce a milestone.  The Kindness Zone is now featuring two worthy projects for education.

The Ashish Foundation
In a culture that stigmatizes those with intellectual challenges, The Ashish Foundation (501-c) stands out as a voice of reason and compassion.  Since it’s 2007 opening with 7 children, it has grown to include critical training and therapies for 40 children with autism in the New Delhi area who would not otherwise attend school. Assuming the 2001 Indian Census estimate of autism incidence to be correct,  1 out of every 500 people calling New Delhi home is an autistic citizen… altogether more than 20,000 strong.

Their problem. In India, misinformation about mental disability, mental illness and physical impairment is rampant. Mental impaired is associated with diminished intellectual capacity, illiteracy, the inability to  satisfactorily performing valuable  work.. 71% of ‘mentally impaired’ females are illiterate.  And, because autism is NOT covered by the Disability Act of India, millions of people lack of support, diagnosis, and intervention services. Professional services are prohibitively expensive.

Their role.  Ashish fills an important need for affordable, qualified autism services to children as well as working with the community to help change hearts and minds.

Their goal.  $5000 to hire and train additional staff as well continuing their community outreach workers to work with families.

Learn more about the ASHISH FOUNDATION
View their fundraiser

The Caroline Wambui Mungai Foundation
Caroline Wambui Mungai born, Kenya attended Adelphi University in New York pursuing her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Her dream was to become a teacher and eventually desired to start a school to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds. What began in 2005 as an orphanage occupying a four bedroom house donated by the Mungai family has blossomed into a model K-12 school with residential facilities serving 40 children from five Kenyan provinces of Kenya and Tanzania.

Their problem. The Foundation, a 501(C)3  not-for-profit tax-exempt organization registered in New York and in Kenya, need funds to maintain a residence and school for 40 orphans and vulnerable children in Wangige, Kenya.

Their role.  Providing destitute, orphaned children with the help they need to become productive and responsible citizens.

Their goal.   $5000 to help subsidize academic grants for qualified and needy students  

Learn more about The Caroline Wambui Mungai Foundation
View their fundraiser 

Please support these worthy causes. By helping these foundations to achieve very modest goals, you will be insuring that invaluable services will continue to be received by those who need it most.

Please visit AutismBrainstorm to find other projects.  Meet people worldwide. Advise a family. Volunteer your time.   …….and don’t forget to pass this information along to others.


http://www.eyejot.com/flash/eyejot.swf

Andrew Benson Greene, is a long-time advocate for the more than 20,000 victims of the diamond wars.

His vision has been to enable those marginalized by amputation with IT skills that would enable them to participate productively in society.   Andrew’s project was awarded first prize in the recent International ITU (United Nations) Challenge in Geneva.   This project is replicable, scalable and could serve as a social and economic rolel model for other developing nations.

Andrew and I have discussed measures to create a self-funding, vocational/educational model that will not only teach students the essential technical and business skills that will make them competitive in the marketplace but will also benefit local community economies.

Individuals and companies interested in discussing this educational mode or in helping in the development of interactive training materials should contact me quickly at this address:  Leventhal.michael@gmail.com