Susan's Blog

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Let Your Flap Flag Fly

What’s flap got to do, got to do with it?
What’s flap but a single-handed motion?
–Tina Turner and me

A friend put a comment on my blog asking if she should ask her ABA therapist to ease up on the anti-flapping. My answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

My question right now is, “What’s Flap Got to Do With It?” Why should anyone care so much about what someone else is doing, if no pain or illegal matters are involved? Why can’t we all just stay focused on what we need to do and leave the flappers alone? Or the sillytalkers or the rockers and spinners? Once again, Voltaire had it right. Our own gardens, man, our own gardens. Get weeding and stop looking at my flapping boy.

This reminds me of the Standards Movement in education. The Standards Folks believe basically that if my Natty boy fulfills his I.E.P., works long years to understand and master typing, placing a phone call, alphabetizing, conversation, basic math, purchasing, and then Nat gets a diploma — the same diploma as your typically-developing, A student — then that diploma is de-valued. Even if it took Nat much, much, more effort and brainpower to get from his own Point A to Point B then it took for A. Student to get from his 88% to his 99%. Whose achievements were greater? Who decides that A. Student’s 99% in Calculus and American History are so much more important to the World Out There, then Nat learning how to exist mostly on his own as an adult? What is an education for, really? Is it to learn more science and math than the Chinese, or is it to create a generation of adults who can reason, think things through, act safe in the world, find a job, and contribute their little bit to society?

Diplomas should measure mastery and effort, but with respect to each individual’s abilities. My Nat’s diploma does not devalue A. Student’s. But most of my state Board of Ed believe it does and Nat will be denied a bona fide diploma when he graduates, or actually, when he leaves school at 22. Technically in Massachusetts Nat will not “graduate;” he will finish school with a nice ceremony. This is true in most of the country as well. Standardized, exit exams decide graduation, rather than years of effort and IEPs. The Standards Folks have taken the stuffing out of the primacy of the IEP. What kind of standard is that?

The ABA-ists apply their standard of “normal behavior,” or “appropriate behavior” to autistic people. Sure, we NTs all know what is normal and what is not. Or do we? There I go picking at my forehead zit again and again, twirling my hair, jouncing my knees under the table, singing as I cook. There Ned goes endlessly tapping his fingers or clicking his teeth to a song. There goes Beastie humming a Mario tune. There goes my mom clearing her throat while she reads. Or Dad with his perpetually raised eyebrows. There you go surreptitiously picking your nose, especially when you are driving.

Nat does his thing, gloriously un-self-consciously. Vibrant, voracious, sillytalk and fastwalking back and forth. Who the F cares? He’s getting excercise, he’s declaring his happiness.

Is it that we NTs are secretly jealous of the Auties who just freely let their flap flag fly?


Thanks for the mental hug. I know the list could go on forever..just like I could stand at the store checkout and let my body rock and sway in an infinite maternal trance. -Tina

— added by Anonymous on Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 11:56 am

I say, let people flap or rock or hum if they want to.

We have a jumping, dancing, silly-talking household around here and everyone is pretty darn happy.

— added by Mom to JBG on Monday, December 3, 2007 at 10:16 pm

I’m all for being flap-friendly – our kids have so much to give and we have so much to learn from them.

But what does the diploma mean? Does it stand for the proving of certain academic skills? We can certainly all argue about what those skills should be, but ultimately the workforce, universities, etc. have to depend on that diploma meaning something concrete.

What about a different type of “degree” from high school? I absolutely agree the schools should be recognizing the effort of our kids, even celebrating them, but does that mean a “diploma”?

— added by Steve on Thursday, December 6, 2007 at 12:44 am

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