My answer to this prompt is a no-brainer – I would chose my students (past ad present) to narrate my blog. After all, they are the inspiration for most of what I have done, let alone wrote, since the conception of this blog. I also have a feeling that they may add a little bit more to some of my posts, which would make listening to them more fun.
We all want our students and own children to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge in order for them to do well in life. In schools and at home, clever kids are praised whenever they achieve and/ or complete a task, like their home works. Often, these children’s parents and teachers exclaim ‘well done! You are really smart!’. While noticing and praising children’s achievements isa good thing, I would argue that praising their intelligence levels is not a good thing.
Some people, mostly in Western countries hold the belief that we are either born smart or dull, and that our levels of intelligence are fixed throughout our lives (Willingham, 2009). In turn, these people may instil this belief onto their children and as a result, we will have a generation of people who believe that they cannot do anything about their intelligence. This is dangerous as children may think that success will come easy if you are smart. Conversely, if you are working hard, it means that you are not smart enough. If this belief is reinforced in the classroom, students may believe that if they do not understand a concept or fail an exam, it automatically means that they are dumb.
There are a number of research findings including that of Dickens (2008), which strongly suggests that genetics play a huge role in general intelligence. I too, believe that our intelligence levels are different from one another, but I strongly believe that intelligence can be sustained or changed through hard work. This is the basis of my main argument presented earlier.
Changing our Beliefs
We must understand that intelligence levels are not constant and they change constantly throughout our lives. Our beliefs about intelligence matters immensely. Just imagine for a minute that you have been given a job as a teacher and that you can select your own students. You can either have students who believe that intelligence is fixed and are all concerned about whether they appear intelligent or not. This group will always choose the easy tasks to appear intelligent, and would make excuses why they cannot (or do not want to) do harder ones. The other group on the other hand, believes that intelligence is malleable and results depend on hard work. They all choose more challenging tasks, try to overcome failures and persist through hard tasks. It is easy to imagine that you would rather have a room full of students from the second group than the first one.
Children come with their own sets of beliefs about intelligence and effort, and it is quite exhausting to explain all the factors that influence their beliefs (I may write about them in the future). But one of the most significant factors is the way children are praised.
What can we do instead?
I argue that an effective way of praising children is to notice and praise children’s efforts. Effort is a lot easier to understand compared to intelligence levels. It is easier to show them what hard work looks like. One may argue that there are concrete examples of people displaying high levels of intelligence, but a closer look would reveal that intelligence alone cannot sustain success. Hard work and perseverance on the other hand, can.
Emphasise that working hard and trying their best is very important. This gives room for improvement as they will realise – through your explanations – that they may have achieved a reasonably high mark this time, but this is due to their effort levels. Conversely, if they have not done well, it is also due to their lack of effort, which could be changed. It gives them the sense of control that they may not have if they are given praise based on their intelligence.
A study conducted by Mueller and Dweck (1998) has shown that methods of praise have short-term effects on students’ beliefs about intelligence. They asked fifth graders to complete a set of problems- first of which is easy enough for all of them to get it right. All of the participants were told, ‘Wow, your did very well on these problems. You got (number of problems) right! That’s a really high score.’ Next, the participants were split into two groups. One was told, ‘You must be smart at these problems’, whilst the other was told, ‘You must have worked hard at these problems’. It was found that those in the second group were more likely to describe intelligence as malleable. This suggests that even a minor difference in methods of praise can have a short-term effect on children’s views about intelligence.
Copying the above style of praising in the classroom allows us to tell the children that their successes are due to what they do (hard work) and not because of who they are (level of intelligence).
Dickens, W. T. (2008). Cognitive ability. In S. Durlauf & L. E. Blume (Eds.). The new Palgrave dictionary of economics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. A brief and understandable overview of how to reconcile apparently large genetic effects and large environmental effects on intelligence.
Mueller, C. M. & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 33-52.
Willingham, D. T. (2008). Why don’t students like school? San Francisco: Wiley.
I have just bought this book from Waterstones today.The Reason I Jump: One Boy’s Voice from the Silence of Autism is a book written by Japanese writer Naoki Higashida, who himself has been diagnosed with Autism. Naoki wrote this book in 2005 when he was 13, and was only published last year. I have read the reviews which seem to be mixed. On the one hand, it is being praised as it shows the positive side of having Autism and the book is in-line with parents’ hopes for their children who are on the Autism Spectrum. However, some are critical as they argue that Naoki does not speak for all of those who have Autism.
I have not yet read it, but I am very excited to start. No need to ask me what my weekend plans will be!!
Today’s Daily Prompt asked: You just inherited $1,000,000 from an aunt you didn’t even know existed. What’s the first thing you buy (or otherwise use the money for)?
$1,000,000 can go a long way. I would use most of it to build an inclusive primary school in the Philippines – the country where I was born. The school will cater for students of all abilities, socio-economic status, religion, gender, etc. It will not discriminate. It will show other schools how it should be done. We will provide a high quality education and will also provide training for parents of children with various needs. I would employ staff that have an open mind, great character and superb knack for teaching. The facilities will be able to cater for kids with disabilities.
One may ask why I would not buy a house, car or whatever for myself. I thought about it, but kids back home would need this school much more than I need those material things. Plus, helping them would make me happy!!
Close to 90% of individuals in the Autism Spectrum have atypical responses and obsessions/ fixations with sensory stimuli. For example, some may enjoy looking at bright lights while some may actively avoid the sound of people scratching their skin. Previous studies have observed these patterns of responses in neurotypical siblings of individuals with Autism, but not in their parents- until recently.
In a research published in Molecular Autism on 3 April 2014, Uljarevic et al. set out to investigate whether parents (specifically, the mothers) of children and adolescents in the Autism Spectrum have unusual reactions to sensory stimuli. The researchers asked fifty mothers to complete the Adolescent and Adult Sensory Profile (AASP) which is a measure of people’s hypo-sensitivity, hyper-sensitivity, sensation-seeking and sensory-avoiding tendencies.
The study’s findings are as follows:
- 31 out of 50 participants (62%) recognize stimuli slower or weaker than the average population
- 22 (44%) were found to be hyper-sensitive but were able to tolerate unpleasant stimuli
- 24 (48%) actively avoid unbearable stimuli
- Only 2% of the mothers scored within the ‘average-range‘, i.e. showed ‘normal’ responses to stimuli
Treat these findings with caution
As with every scientific finding, it is important not to get carried away with these findings. They need to be interpreted with caution. Despite having similar patterns of responses to their children with Autism, the participants’ atypical sensory reactions could be due to anxiety. In addition, since this is the first study to investigate the subject in this population with such a small sample size (very few participants), more studies need to be conducted to fully support the findings. Lastly, genetic studies are needed to investigate whether or not genes play a role in atypical sensory reactions in Autism.
Tell us about one thing (or more) that you promised yourself you’d accomplish by the end of the year. How would you feel once you do? What if you don’t
– Daily Post
Here are my goals for this year:
1. Get on the Educational Psychology doctorate programme – my long-time dream and passion
2. Change my lifestyle – better diet and nutrition, and a sustainable exercise regime.
3. Develop and maintain a healthy work/study/play balance
4. Maintain a positive outlook in life
5. Make at least three people smile everyday
How am I doing so far and how am I feeling?
1. I got in, therefore I am happy. Although I believe that this opportunity comes with a ton of responsibilities.
2. I have lost weight and developed a great health plan. I just need to maintain it althroughout my life.
3. This is the holy grail for most people, right? I’m still working on tweaking a thing or two but I’m confident that I’ll get there.
4. I’m mostly happy. Being mindful of what I am doing and feeling certainly helps. Also, having a great support network around me definitely helps a lot!
5. This can be challenging, but making people smile has one of the best rewards- satisfaction and good feeling deep within.
More Great Expectations:
Not a punkrocker
The wandering poet
Dreams of a phoenix
Fiction in flashes
Under the monkey tree
All things cute and beautiful
On the ninth episode of the Autism Hangout, we discussed Autism and Employment. SOME people with special educational needs and/ or disablities often struggle with finding and maintaining work, particularly those with Autism. Due to their rigidity of thoughts, preferences for routines and familiar places and the different ways in which they communicate and socialize may not be understood by employers. This could then lead to a conflict between the employers and employees.
There are however, several steps that could be taken in order to avoid such conflicts from arising. Here are some of them:
- Train and educate employers and recruiters about Autism and its effects on individuals. Negativity towards people with Autism usually comes from people’s ignorance of Autism. Stereotypes are not always true- particulary the negative ones. By training employers and recruiters about Autism, understanding and acceptance could be increased.
- Train and educate people with Autism about job application process, particularly interviews both at home and in schools. Filling out application forms and writing CVs are hard enough even for people without any learning difficulties. Be even more patient and teach those with Autism and other learning difficulties. Provide mock interviews way before young adults leave school to allow them to practise body language, appropriate responses and dress codes.
- Companies should allow candidates to visit the job sites prior to applying for any post. In this way, any prospective applicant could observe and experience the work environment, talk to current employees, have a real sense of the job’s requirements (physical, mental and emotional). Also, carers and/ or family members should be allowed to accompany those who require assistance.
- Prospective job applicants should be aware of the Equality Act 2010 which should be adhered to by all companies.
Companies should also take the following advice into consideration:
- When placing an advertisement for any jobs, companies should explicitly emphasise specific needs for social and communication skills. This will help individuals with Autism tease-out the jobs that they could do. In addition, it avoids an unwelcomed surprise on an individual’s first day.
- When it comes to the interview stage, interviewers should be made aware of individuals’ diagnoses and the interviewer should also be someone who has experience with communicating with people with Autism.
- Interviewers should ask ‘closed’ questions (those that can be answered with a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’), and should avoid asking hypothetical questions as this may be difficult for people with Autism (particularly who are on the severe end of the spectrum) to answer. It should be noted that one of the characteristics of people with Autism is their limited (or atypical) imagination. Some find it difficult to imagine a hypothetical situation, and prefer only to think of concrete examples that have actually happened to them.
- Interviewers should also be aware that some people wth Autism may exhibit body language that may seem unusual. Interviewers are encouraged to look past these body language and focus on what the individual’s skills as a potential employee.
- It is also important to give the potential employee a lot of support before and during their employment. Give them time to think about your question (during an interview), give them specific and clear instructions, avoid metaphors, give them direct but sensitive feedback and give them a timetable.
- Most importantly, give them a chance to prove that they can actually do the job in question. Look past the Autism and I promise you, you will be amazed!
For more information and support regarding Autism and employment, visit the National Autistic Society’s website: www.autism.org.uk