My recent post on autism has apparently sparked some interest (hello Trinity students!), which I’m not altogether surprised at: autism is a hot topic these days, and for good reason. It’s especially a matter of concern for teachers, who are now faced with a greater likelihood of having a student on the spectrum mainstreamed into one of their classes.
Well, besides all of the nice comments that the last article sparked (despite the fact that it was mostly about my own personal dealings with autism as the parent of an autistic child and not really about education in general), I happened to get a message through facebook from a former classmate of mine who student taught and graduated at the same time as I did back in the spring. This message, however, was not about teaching and ASD but instead about teaching with ASD.
In the message, my classmate mentioned that she had struggled with teaching somewhat during the course of the education program we were in and decided (very wisely) to seek out counseling if student teaching did not proceed well because she seemed to have the content and pedagogical competence as well as the motivation to succeed. When student teaching did not proceed well, she followed through, and within a few sessions, the counselor had suggested Asperger’s syndrome. I think, in a way, her experience is somewhat similar to my own except that her concern was more significant given that it was a detriment to her chosen profession of teaching: she wanted to find an answer for why things weren’t working, and according to her, hearing this even without an official diagnosis was a relief.
But when I discussed this issue with her, my thought was not about my own desires for an answer being vindicated. She recalled hearing one of our professors talk about a former candidate who was unable to pursue teaching because of Asperger’s, which made me think, How many potential teachers are out there that are unable to follow through on their desire to become educators simply because of the obstacles of having some form of ASD?
And then immediately after: And are there any teachers out there who do manage to teach with ASD? If so, what obstacles do/did they face, and how do/did they overcome them?
It’s a fascinating question to me, and I’m afraid that I can’t find anything on it after the brief amount of research that I’ve done. Still, I have a hard time believing that teachers like this don’t exist out there, and I think that maybe their experiences could benefit individuals like my former classmate who have the passion and desire to teach but don’t know how to adapt their own unique neurological wiring to the needs of their own students in the classroom.
If you are an active (or former) teacher living with some form of ASD or if you know an active or former teacher who is open about their ASD and would like to share their experiences, please contact me at docereestdiscere AT gmail DOTcom. I would love to hear about how teachers deal with this so that it can be used to help others who might be able to join us in this noble profession with the knowledge of strategies and techniques that will be effective and useful. And if you know of any research on this subject, contact me as well!