Changing the World

In a separate lesson this week James was asked to think about how the Reverend Martin Luther King used words and images to change the world. They watched the powerful images of Dr. King addressing the massive crowd on the National Mall and giving his “I Have a Dream” speech. James was asked to imagine that he was a film consultant making a film about RPM. He is supposed to interview people for the project and tell the story of RPM.  This is what he wrote.

I WOULD LOVE TO CREATE A DOCUMENTARY ON COMMUNICATION USING RPM. I WOULD GATHER INFORMATION USING SURVEYS. I WOULD SURVEY ALL PEOPLE WHO ARE INVOLVED IN THE RPM COMMUNITY. THIS WOULD INCLUDE NONSPEAKING PEOPLE WITH AUTISM,  PARENTS AND FAMILY MEMBERS, TEACHERS OF RPM, AND OF COURSE SOMA. I WOULD ASK ABOUT HOW THEY PERCEIVE PEOPLE WITH AUTISM. HUGE AMOUNT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT THEIR BELIEFS REGARDING THE BEST WAY TO EDUCATE PEOPLE WITH AUTISM. THEN I WOULD GO THROUGH ALL THE RESPONSES AND FIND THE COMMON THEMES. I WOULD TAKE THESE THEMES AND RUN WITH THEM. I WOULD MATCH THE THEMES TO FACES OF PEOPLE WITH AUTISM. I WOULD ARRANGE THESE IMAGES IN A COLLAGE AND PUT THE COLLAGE ON HUGE BILLBOARDS IN EVERY MAJOR CITY IN THE WORLD. UNLESS WE ACCEPT PEOPLE WITH AUTISM NOTHING IS GOING TO CHANGE IN THE AUTISM AND EDUCATION COMMUNITIES.

What themes do you expect to find in your work? I EXPECT TO FIND THAT VERY FEW EDUCATORS BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE WITH AUTISM ARE SMART. I EXPECT TO FIND THAT PARENTS ARE CAUTIOUS. I EXPECT TO FIND THE RPM TEACHERS ARE ENTHUSIASTIC AND OPTIMISTIC. I EXPECT THE PEOPLE WITH AUTISM TO BE ECSTATIC TO FINALLY HAVE A WAY TO COMMUNICATE.

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Renaissance Thinkers

One of the things I love most about RPM (and its approach to helping people with autism communicate) is that there is a big emphasis on academics and encouraging the students to think. Gone are the days of rote answers and being rewarded for retrieving the “right answer” from the filing cabinet in the brain. RPM is about real communication from the heart and mind of the student.  One way our SLP gets James to think is to give him meaningful quotes from some of the great men and women of history and have him tell us what he thinks about the quote.  Since our homeschool unit is the Renaissance there are a lot of great quotes to reflect upon.  Here is a smattering of them and James’ responses.

“The King’s good servant, but God’s first.” -Thomas More

HE SERVED HIS KING MOST OF HIS LIFE. HOWEVER AFTER HE STOOD UP AGAINST HIM OVER A PEACE TALK THE KING KILLED HIM. HIS TRUE LOYALTY WAS TO GOD.

“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.” -Joan of Arc

WE MUST CHOOSE WHO TO BE AND WHAT TO BELIEVE IN. TO LIVE FOR OTHERS (what they say matters) CAN BE COMPARED TO LIFE WITHOUT A SOUL. A FATE WORSE THAN DEATH. HAVE A LIFE WORTH LIVING.  DEATH ISNT TO BE ANOTHER FORM OF TORTURE, BUT PEACE AFTER A QUALITY LIFE.  EACH DAY SHOULD BE MEANINGFUL. CARE FOR LOVED ONES AS IF IT WERE THEIR LAST DAY. AND LOVE WHO YOU ARE OR CHANGE TO WHO YOU WANT TO BE.

“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” – Erasmus

THAT SOME PEOPLE ARE DREAMERS WHEREAS OTHERS ARE REALISTS. THEY BOTH  HAVE FLAWS BUT TO TURN YOUR DREAMS INTO A REALITY YOU CAN LIVE A BETTER LIFFE. I DREAM OF BEING AN ARTIST. HOW CAN I BE? MY REALITY IS A LOT MORE LIMITED THAN MY DREAMS. I WORK DAILY TO EXPAND MY REALITY TO FIT MY DREAMS.

“Perspective is to painting what the bridle is to the horse, the rudder to a ship.” -Leonardo da Vinci

PERSPECTIVE IS WHAT GIVES A PAINTING DIRECTION. IT PULLS THE EYES TO THE FOCAL POINT. THE PAINTER STEERS THE OBSERVER ACROSS THEIR VISION.

 

A Monument

We live very near Washington, DC  which of course is filled with beautiful monuments to our founding fathers, various presidents and the many Americans who sacrificed their lives for our country here and in foreign lands. James in any given week sees quite a few monuments from just driving places and riding on the metro with his Dad. So it is probably not surprising that he had some solid ideas about building a monument when given this creative writing assignment. True confession here from his mother, I think his monument plan is wonderful but I don’t agree with “celebrating autism”.  I celebrate James and all the others who work everyday to overcome but I will always believe that autism is preventable, treatable and curable and we should be doing all that we can to stop it in its tracks.  No one should have to live with being non-verbal if it is preventable and I believe with all my heart that it is.  But listen to James who has learned to accept and deal with it courageously everyday.

CREATIVE WRITING:  Imagine you are an architect charged with building a monument in your hometown. What steps would you take to build a safe, strong monument that family and friends throughout the community could enjoy for years to come?  Why is  your work important to the community; both present and future?
I WOULD LIKE TO BUILD A MONUMENT CELEBRATING PEOPLE WITH AUTISM IN ARLINGTON.  THE MONUMENT WOULD BE ON A WALL ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF ARLINGTON NEAR MY HOUSE. THE WALL WOULD HAVE THE NAMES OF ALL THE PEOPLE IN ARLINGTON WHO HAVE AUTISM.  THE MONUMENT WOULD BE PLACED IN A PARK SO KIDS COULD PLAY ON IT.  THE MONUMENT IS NOT MEANT TO MAKE PEOPLE FEEL SAD ABOUT PEOPLE WITH AUTISM.  IT IS ABOUT CELEBRATING UNDERSTANDING OF AUTISM AND AS A DIFFERENCE NOT A DISEASE.  AUTISM IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE.  IT IS MY LIFE BUT I DON’T WANT SYMPATHY.  I WANT UNDERSTANDING OF MY SITUATION.  I WANT UNDERSTANDING OF MY WAY OF COMMUNICATING.  I WANT UNDERSTANDING OF MY INTELLIGENCE.  TO ACHIEVE THESE GOALS, I WOULD CREATE THIS MONUMENT DEDICATED TO ALL PEOPLE WITH AUTISM.

 

Humanism and a Manifesto for today

James continues his study of the Renaissance with a lesson on Humanism and as always his speech therapist draws from wonderful material that gets him thinking and writing on his letter board. She did an overview of the basics of Humanism and then asked him to discuss it with her as well as write a manifesto or a written declaration of intentions about something he would want the world to know.


HUMANISM
RENAISSANCE RELIGION
Humanism refers to any philosophical, moral, political, artistic or scientific system with a human, not religious, frame of reference.  In humanism, some believe that the ideals of human existence can be fulfilled without regard to religion. The Humanist Manifesto took the position that the universe was “self-created;” that mankind was a part of nature.  A manifesto is a written or verbal declaration of intentions, motives or views of the author.
  • Name two systems that humanism refers to.  PHILOSOPHY….ART
  • What is a manifesto? DOCUMENT STATING IDEAS AND BELIEFS
  • Why would a manifesto be helpful to talk about a controversial topic? OUR HEADS NEED TO WRAP AROUND NEW IDEAS TO TALK ABOUT THEM
Renaissance humanism refers to a revival of classical literature and philosophy that began at the end of the Middle Ages, or middle of the 14th century.  Renaissance humanism features several important intellectual figures, including Nicolaus Copernicus and Leonardo daVinci. Nicolaus Copernicus was a mathematician, economist and astronomer who declared that the earth orbited around the sun.  Though Copernicus wrote “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Sphere” several decades earlier, it was not published until his death in 1543 as his theory was in direct conflict with teachings of the Catholic Church.  Leonardo daVinci worked as an artist, musician, architect, inventor, engineer, anatomist and geometer.  In his drawing Vitruvian Man, daVinci superimposed two views of a nude man in a circle to illustrate mathematical proportions of the human body as described by Roman architect Vitruvius.  Vitruvian Man was said to reconcile the main two parts of our being; the physical and the intellectual.
  • Tell me something you learned about Copernicus.  SOLVING RIDICULOUS NOTION THAT THE SUN REVOLVES AROUND THE EARTH
  • What was one of Leonardo daVinci’s occupations?  ARTIST
  • What was one of daVinci’s contributions to humanism? HIS VITRUVIAN MAN
  • What was significant about Vitruvian Man?  DEPICTED BODY AND MIND
  • I showed James the image of Vitruvian Man and asked what stood out to him.  THE SYMMETRY

 

The difference between humanist and religious theories are their understanding of what constitutes truth. The humanist regards truth as something constantly evolving.  Religious theory identifies a static, unchanging revelation from God as truth. A humanist is generally skeptical and open minded.  Religious theorists are often unwavering and live according to theological dogma.  Dogma is a principle or set of principles provided by any authority as incontrovertibly true.
What is a difference between humanism and religious theory?  HUMANISTS BELIEVE THAT THE WORLD CAN BE EXPLAINED BY SCIENCE.  RELIGIOUS THINKERS BELIEVE THAT GOD IS THE CREATOR OF ALL THINGS.  What is your position?  I THINK THERE IS ROOM FOR GOD AND SCIENCE.
Creative Writing: The basic difference between humanism and religious theories is weather something can change or evolve over time.  In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue to prove that the world was not flat.  In 1543, Copernicus declared that the earth revolved around the sun; the planets did not revolve around our round world.  Each declaration required education, hypotheses, experiment and declaration to be introduced to an apprehensive audience.
  1. Define a topic that you know a lot about.
  2. Do you have a hypothesis or “new take” on that topic?
  3. Given the chance, how would you research or experiment to determine if your hypothesis is correct?
  4. In the event that your experiment yields proof of a breakthrough or new perspective, can you think of an audience that would be apprehensive about your findings?
I KNOW A LOT ABOUT AUTISM AND BEING UNABLE TO TALK.  I HAVE A HYPOTHESIS THAT PEOPLE WITH NONVERBAL AUTISM ARE JUST AS SMART AS PEOPLE WHO DON’T HAVE AUTISM.  I WOULD PROVE THIS BY TEACHING ALL NONVERBAL PEOPLE TO USE THE LETTER BOARD TO COMMUNICATE.  I BELIEVE THIS WOULD SHOW THE WORLD THAT JUST BECAUSE ONE DOES NOT TALK DOES NOT MEAN ONE IS NOT SMART.  I WOULD ASK LOTS OF REALLY HARD QUESTIONS TO THE NONVERBAL PEOPLE SO THAT PEOPLE COULD REALLY SEE HOW SMAET THE NONVERBAL PEOPLE ARE.  
 
THE AUDIENCE THAT WOULD BE THE MOST SKEPTICAL WOULD BE THE SO CALLED EXPERTS IN AUTISM.  IT WOULD DELIGHT ME TO NO END TO SHOW THE AUTISM EXPERTS HOW WRONG THEY HAVE BEEN ABOUT US.  THE END
 
Now, based upon your findings, formulate a manifesto with a title.
 
POWER TO THE NONVERBAL PEOPLE
 
DEMAND THE RIGHT TO BE HEARD
LETTERBOARDS FOR EVERY NONVERBAL PERSON
WE HAVE A RIGHT TO LEARN

 

 

Leadership

James’ new homeschool unit is the Renaissance and the first social studies assignment was good old Machiavelli! When I heard that was going to be the subject I definitely was looking forward to hearing what James had to say. Below is part of the lesson and his summary of how he would “lead” if it were up to him.
Lesson:  Political philosophy generates ideas on how good community is achieved through legal and economic values. With The Prince, Machiavelli introduced aggression into political philosophy. Leaders were not encouraged to live up to high philosophical or religious standards. Instead, Machiavelli wrote about the necessity “for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it.” While it was not necessary for a ruler to have good qualities, Machiavelli wrote “It is very necessary to appear to have them… to appear merciful, faithful, human, religious, upright…. but with a mind so framed… that you may be able to know how to change to the opposite.”
Tell me one value involved in political philosophy. ECONOMICS
What does the word aggression mean in terms of Machiavellian politics? FORCEFUL LEADERSHIP
Can you think of a time when a world leader appeared compassionate, but enacted laws or policies that were harmful to their citizens? HITLER STARTED OUT AS SEEMING TO CARE BUT WAS SO WICKED
The Prince influenced northern European politics in the 16th century. To counter Machiavellian political philosophy, a French politician named Innocent Gentillet published Discours contre Machievel in 1576.  Gentillet was exiled for condemning Machiavellian politics.  Gentillet believed government wealth was a product of its satisfied citizens and population, not infighting and bad laws.
What time period does the 16th century refer to? 1500s
What does the word condemn mean? STATE THAT IT IS NOT VALID
Are you familiar with any activities or citizen that has been ridiculed or exiled for condemning a law or policy? YES, NELSON MANDELA FOR SPEAKING OUT ON APARTHEID
James, how do you know about Hitler and Nelson Mandella and apartheid.  These are not topics that we have covered in school this year.  I KNOW ABOUT THESE THINGS FROM YEARS OF LISTENING AND ABSORBING EVERYTHING AROUND ME.  I CERTAINLY DID NOT LEARN IT AT SCHOOL.
Machiavellianism is a term that some now use to describe a persons tendency to be unemotional, able to detach from conventional morality and hence deceive and manipulate others.  Because Machiavelli’s political thinking is based on how people in power really behave, he is considered the father of modern political science.
What does it mean to describe someone as Machiavellian?  SOMEONE WHO IS RUTHLESS AND MANIPULATIVE
Why is Machiavelli considered to be the father of modern political science?  HE CONTRIBUTED TO THE FIELD OF POLITICAL SCIENCE WITH THE PRINCE AND HIS PHILOSOPHIES ON LEADERSHIP.
Creative Writing:  Now that you have learned about Nicolo Machiavelli, contemplate his political philosophy.  What do you think of his philosophy? Imagine that you are the leader of your own country.  In your country you have to make tough decisions that may not please every person 100% of the time.  How can you balance the needs of your country with the desire to please your citizens?
MACHIAVELLI’S PHILOSOPHY ON POLITICS IS PRETTY CUT THROAT.  MACHIAVELLI WAS PROBABLY REALISTIC ABOUT MOST POLITICIANS.
IF I WERE A LEADER OF A COUNTRY, I WOULD STRIVE TO LEAD MY PEOPLE IN THE MOST HONEST WAY POSSIBLE.  NO ONE WOULD AGREE WITH ME ONE HUNDRED PERCENT SO THAT WOULD NOT BE MY GOAL. INSTEAD MY GOAL WOULD BE TO GOVERN MY PEOPLE AS HONESTLY AS I COULD.  THE BEST INTERESTS OF MY COUNTRY AND NOT MY OWN INTERESTS IS WHAT WOULD SHAPE MY POLICIES.  I WOULD LIKE TO THINK THAT I COULD MAINTAIN MY INTEGRITY AND STILL BE AN EFFECTIVE LEADER. I KNOW THIS MAY SOUND NAIVE BUT I WOULD STRIVE TO BE A LEADER WITH MORALS.  THE END.