Diversity

diversity.jpgDiversity 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.
autism2.pngWhy 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.

autism3.jpgIn 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.

autism4.jpgGenerally 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.

Reuven Feuerstein

 

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The power of social media

Nowadays social media is an important part of our life. In the morning we check the Facebook news, check new tweets, admire new Instagram pictures. From Pinterest we look up new ideas for kitchen renovation. This all we can do before eating the breakfast and it’s great. But like in all things there is also the dark side in the social media.

 

Like I wrote in my last blog Foreigners and sexual harassment social media has power. Without Twitter and Facebook we would have read about these incidents next day and in the evening news there would have been a report from Cologne. However now we were able to read online news from twitter and Facebook posts. The message was stronger, because there were normal persons that wrote about these incidents, some of them were victims. Afterwards newspapers started to publish news and articles about refugees, Muslims, Islam etc. Suddenly we didn’t know what to believe – how could a reader know what the truth was. Also journalists have their opinions and it is almost impossible to be totally objective. The problem is that sometimes, especially yellow papers, publish news without checking the facts and even if the news are denied later the harm is already done, because probably somebody has already made a tweet and posted on Facebook and suddenly thousands or millions persons have read the news. Sadly usually nobody posts the correction to a distorted news.

 

An other sad phenomenon is the bullism. I believe that bullism exists in every country and culture. As a mother of two teens I am especially concerned about bullism at schools. Just a couple of days ago a 12-year old girl here in Italy tried to make a suicide, because she had been bullied at school. In this case I haven’t read that any social media was directly used, telephone yes. Unfortunately there are cases that social media is used as a mean of bullism. Researchers call this phenomenon cyberbullying. The cyberbullying is not only a teen phenomenon, as an active Facebook user I have heard about persons that bully other adult persons and for some more sensitive persons this can be very disturbing and scary. A young teen, still in the search of the inner self is extremely vulnerable to cyberbullying. It is enough that one person posts a lie and other friends see it and suddenly the victim is bombarded with hate messages. Or on Instagram young girls post rather courageous pictures. Then others start to insult the picture, this can destroy totally the self esteem.

On the other hand social media can save lives. There have been posts that somewhere is needed some rare type of blood and after posting it on to Facebook a suitable donator has been found. By Twitter people can get a warning in real time about a danger, like a warning about a shooting or robbery or hurricane. The social media gives power, but we have to know how to use it.

“The power to question is the basis of all human progress.”
Indira Gandhi