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"A Land We Can Share"

"A Land We Can Share" Teaching Literacy to Students with Autism
By Paula Kluth and Kelly Chandler-Olcott (2008)

The idea is simple, but the implications are far-reaching.  It is not just about skills of making autistic students read and write.  There is a belief behind: the belief that every student, irrespective of the labels they are given, should be respected and appreciated as those without labels, and be given the same access to education.  Just let every one participate and work out his/ her full potentials!  Neither is it an empty slogan advocating for autistic students' rights, nor is it just a gesture of cheap sympathy.  The work is very well researched, based on a lot of case studies and theoretical reflections.  The authors asked teachers and all of us to embrace a more inclusive conception about literacy based on two very fundamental ideas: (1) presuming competence (difficulties in performance doesn't presume disabilities in intellect and hence are no ground for excluding or denying education opportunities) and (2) multiple literacies (literacy is about the practice of meaning construction through a wide range of signs not just restricted to the ability to read and write).  And this simple yet fundamental change of perspectives and attitudes can revolutionize the way how mainstream people, including educators, think about teaching autistic students literacy.  Difficulties or even disabilities in language have long been seen as a defining feature of autism.  But the authors argued that autistic students are also literate!  It's a matter of whether we can take a more embracing view about literacy and make efforts to understand their own literacies and include them in mainstream learning.  It's what education is all about!  We should look more at students' potentials (what they can do but not what they can't do) and appreciate the uniqueness of each of them.  Each of them has a particular ways of seeing, feeling and expressing themselves and the world around.  This book is well-researched and full of insights and what's more valuable, practical pedagogical strategies.  A must read.  I just love it!  (Elites may not!)

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