"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Friday, April 4, 2014

When We Try to Fit Everyone in a Box....


There was a Tagalog poem which I read when I was in college, "Ako ang Daigdig" ("I am the world") by Alejandro G. Abadilla. The poem impressed me not just with its content, but so much more with its style. It was different and in so many ways, was a real strong and proud proclamation of one's uniqueness. This month is "Autism Awareness Month". The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States have recently released the following data:

Above image and caption from
Ten Things to Know About New Autism Data
The number 1 in 68 is just one of the ten things the CDC wants us to know about their most recent data on autism. Another one of those things is that almost half of the children identified with autism had average or above average intellectual ability. Autism is a spectrum. I have had two opportunities to observe a social skills class for young children at a Jewish community center in Fairfax, Virginia. In a class of a dozen children, each individual is unique. It is like reading twelve different poems, twelve different worlds. The following are several paragraphs from an article written by Tom Kershaw:


Every self is a universe, surrounded by other selves, all of whom are moving through a world of their own construction that exists in a vast, maybe infinite, physical universe.

This is the dichotomy of the physical/psychosocial reality. 
Can We Categorize?  
Confronted with a reality of such scope and magnitude, it’s natural to want to make sense of it somehow, to put things in boxes, to file phenomena into one category or another. It may be the only way we are not paralyzed by confusion and perceived chaos, stuck in wide-eyed wonderment. But is it worth it to even try and understand?
People are dynamic, multi-dimensional, multi-layered creatures. No two are alike. It would be impossible to try to say that everyone fits into one of, say, seven categories. But we are all still people, confronted with the same physical reality and instilled with the survival instinct, the biological imperative, the desire for acceptance and fulfillment, and the will and ability to affect our own reality.
Pieces of us can and do fit into boxes. 
One Box of Many 
I am ending the quote with the title of the next section, "One Box of Many". What is that "One Box of Many"? That classroom in that Jewish community center is an example of one box. In so many ways, we are all the same. Yet, we are really all different. It is with this understanding that we must now realize what a teacher may be facing inside his or her classroom. The kids are all different.

Autism is showing that brilliant minds think differently and we need to open up our eyes and see what they see to truly understand that. (68 Things to Know About Autism)
Here is the poem by Alejandro G. Abadilla that I have translated into English:

I am the World ("Ako Ang Daigdig")

I
am the world
I
am the poem
I
am the world
of the poem
the poem 
of the world
I
am the innocent me
the without an end me
the poem of the world


I
am the world of the poem
I
am the poem of the world
I am the free me
faithful to oneself
to my world
of the poem
I
am the poem
in the world
I
am the world
of the poem
I


I
am the emotion
that is free
am the image
of life
I
am the life
that is everlasting
I
am the emotion
the image
the life
emotion
image
life
poem
I


I
am the world
in a poem
I
am the poem
in the world
I
am the world
I
am the poem
world
poem
I….


"I am an Autistic adult but also the parent of an Autistic child.   I know the realities of autism.  What I don’t know are things like “grief” and “sorrow” and “despair”.  I have never felt that way about myself or about my amazing Autistic child." 




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