Good Work: Meeting Special Needs

Autism Enigma (source: Nature)

This Sunday series explores the complicated and personal subject of finding and living mission-related work.  Today I simply want to recognize and thank parents and teachers that work with students with special needs.  I don’t have much experience on this topic, I just deeply appreciate people that chose or have been chosen for this difficult work.
I was pleased to (belatedly) find that Nature devoted a full issue to autism. “Everything about autism spectrum disorder conspires to make it hard to understand,” said Nature. “It takes diverse forms, from profound communication and behavioural problems to social difficulties coupled with normal language and even precocious talents.”
The Nature article on diagnosis suggests that most of the rise in identified cases can be attributed to awareness but there may be a set of environmental factors that is also contributing “and scientists urgently need to find them.”
An article on changing perceptions suggests, “By emphasizing the abilities and strengths of people with autism, deciphering how autistics learn and succeed in natural settings, and avoiding language that frames autism as a defect to be corrected, they can help shape the entire discussion.”
I appreciate groups like Aspiritech, an Illinois non-profit, working to place people who have autism in jobs—in their case it’s a specific focus on software testing. I appreciate groups like RethinkAutism who are building new tools and resources.  I appreciate groups like SESI that run schools for students with special needs.  But I most appreciate the parents and teachers that care for students with special needs.
We’d love to hear from you if you see a promising or innovative practice in meeting special needs or if you just want to say thank you to someone special.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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