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A Critical Examination of Pedagogy and Ways of Knowing of People with Autism

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A Critical Examination of Pedagogy and Ways of Knowing of People with Autism

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Title: A Critical Examination of Pedagogy and Ways of Knowing of People with Autism
Author: Kibedi, Daniela
Abstract: Traditionally, autism has been treated as a disability in that individuals with autism have been thought to have deficits that need to be remedied. This notion has been perpetuated by the definition of autism provided by the medical model, as well as notions of the “norm.” “Environmental thinking,” as defined by the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES), allows for the examination of autism outside of this predominant common sense view that pathologizes it. From a critical disabilities perspective, the hegemonic view of autism serves to oppress individuals with autism and other so-called disabilities. Alternatively, the social model of disability proposes that the environment is what enables or disables individuals. One important environment is the pedagogical environment. Given the prevalence of autism and the high costs associated with providing the necessary support, education has become a social and political issue. Pedagogical approaches currently used can be controversial. The fields of critical pedagogy and critical special education offer insights that could serve to inform and improve educational practices. These critical fields suggest the alternative perspective that people with autism have a different way of knowing that is different from predominant western ways of knowing, but is equally valid. This study is guided by several questions that emerge from this notion, including questions about the ways in which people with autism “know” the world, as well as the appropriateness of certain pedagogical approaches. In addition, this inquiry is structured around themes from critical disability studies including: honoring the experience of “disability,” inclusion versus exclusion, visibility versus invisibility, and “disability” as a political and social issue. These themes serve to highlight some of the current issues facing people with autism, their parents, and educators. The qualitative study, which is part of this work, provides important first-hand information from these different groups. This study concludes that as individuals with autism comprise a heterogeneous population, there is no single best pedagogical approach. Rather, the method should be tailored to address the needs of the individual. In addition, it is suggested that there are problems with current conceptions of the “norm,” intelligence, and pedagogical approaches as these can be too narrow and often serve to exclude individuals with autism as well as those with other exceptionalities. A broader definition of intelligence is needed, such as the one proposed by Dr. Howard Gardner’s concept of multiple intelligences, which recognizes different abilities and respects multiple ways of knowing. Furthermore, pedagogues should be mindful of the hidden curriculum as this is universally difficult for children with autism to grasp. Ultimately, through the challenging of current hegemonic notions of autism, it is possible to envision a world where the common sense will be shifted to see autism as an opportunity for individuals to live out a unique way of being, and for society to learn from their gifts and experiences.
Type: Other
Rights: http://www.yorku.ca/fes/research/students/outstanding/index.htm
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/14263
Published: Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University
Series: 13;8
Citation: A Critical Examination of Pedagogy and Ways of Knowing of People with Autism
ISSN: 1702-3458
Date: 2007-11-30

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