Seeing The Spectrum

A. In the early years of the 20th century, children  who had autism, were often “dropped off at a mental institution, while parents were told to forget about their afflicted children”, according to the article Seeing the Spectrum, by Steven Shapin. Autism was not understood at the time, let alone treated. Mothers of children with autism were often blamed and shamed for “bad parenting”. Over the past 50 or so years, our understanding of the disease, has shifted towards understanding that autism is “a condition rooted in neurological and chemical processes”, and that parents aren’t too be blamed. We have learned that children with autism are still capable of learning, but just learn differently. As educators, it is important to understand this so that we can practice techniques that may help stimulate the children with autism so that they can learn in ways effective to them.

B. As someone who was once interested in the medical field, I can agree with the argument that the increased medicalization of our society, is a negative bi-product of the pharmaceutical companies. Too often it seems that it is easy enough for students to complain of a lack of attention span, in which the doctor writes a script for something like Adderall or Ritalin and simply sends the student out the door, with no regards to whether the medication is actually going to help the student or not. While I can agree that medication can and does help (because I have experienced it first hand), I can’t say that medication will help everyone. For some students, therapy sessions, or a healthy group sport or activity may be the cure that they need, and doctors are too quick to overlook these factors. Doctors want to treat the disorder, instead of cure it. I think it’s important to stimulate different students’ learning styles, and assess how they do with a learning style that may help them, instead of just writing a prescription for a dose of large energy that will be released throughout the day. While I do believe that medication does help certain students, I don’t think that it is the solution for all problems, and a greater understanding of mental illnesses is needed.

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