Diversity is a problem for many persons. Why are we afraid of diversity? A couple of weeks ago was the international autism awareness day. Everybody talked about autism and politicians made nice speeches. The reality unfortunately is very hard for autistic persons. Or maybe we should talk about persons that have an autistic spectrum disorder. This concept is so large that it includes persons with exceptional intellectual capacities and persons that need care 24h a day. There is Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science, Albert Einstein would have been diagnosed autistic today, the same thing with Mozart. But the large majority of persons with autistic spectrum disorder are persons that have light or severe difficulties in their daily lives. They have difficulties in social interaction, because they don’t know how to interpret non-verbal information. They can’t decipher the facial expressions – often they don’t look directly in the face of the counterpart. They might have linguistic problems, motor skills etc.
Why do I write about autistic persons? Today I read an article about a 13-year old girl here in Northern Italy that happens to be autistic. Her class was supposed to make a trip abroad. Unfortunately none of her classmates wanted to share the room with her and also the parents had made comments about the girl in a Whatsapp group (the parents of the girl excluded from this chat). The incident has become public and now the Minister of Education has sent inspectors to the school to understand the story. According to me the worst is that school had shown the green light to the trip even though they knew about the bullying.
In Italian schools most of the students with difficulties are integrated in normal classes. There are special education teachers that work in the class to help the student with difficulties, but if necessary also other students. In more severe cases there might be also personal assistant to the student to help him/her to manage daily routines at school like eating, going to bathroom etc. According to me this is fantastic, because in this way students with difficulties are surrounded and stimulated by “normal” students and these “normal” students learn to accept also diversity – hopefully. Unfortunately bullying is a common phenomenon in Italian schools and autistic students are often an easy target due to their incomplete social skills.
Generally I would say that for persons that have an autistic spectrum disorder it is easier to live in a country like Italy than in many other countries. This due to the fact that Italians are tolerant to diversity – all the Italians are in some degree narcissistic and therefore the “normality frame” is quite flexible.
If you are not prepared to look at your pupils’ strengths, don’t touch their weaknesses.