An Autism Anthropologist in Need of Help: Special Education and Autism
Jerry Webster is our newest columnist. Jerry will be serving as WP’s official Special Education expert. Here’s his first article:
I remember well the first time I heard the title of Oliver’s Sack’s book, An Anthropologist on Mars (1995.) I had seen the movie Awakening and read a couple stories from The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. I remember hearing that it was how a woman with autism described her experience in the neurotypical world. It was only later I discovered it was Dr. Temple Grandin.
It comes back frequently, as I am in my fifth year of teaching students on the Autism Spectrum, now in Las Vegas, Nevada. I find I spend a lot of time trying to understand how my middle school guys (all boys in my class) see and understand the world.
As well as post graduate education from Pennsylvania State University, I am also the online guide for Special Education at About.com, and read and review a lot of resources. Nevada is one of the few states that require an autism endorsement for teaching, and I have it. But I am also an anthropologist.
I’m clearly aware that the “Anthropologist on Mars” quote referred to Dr. Grandin’s experience of the neurotypical social world. She found it baffling. In interviews she did around the time of the release of Animals in Translation, I heard her say that she had no need for a primary “romantic” relationship.
I know that is not true for all people on the spectrum, especially young men on the higher functioning end of the spectrum as well as people diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. I was delighted to read the front page article