Last night was our first class of the semester. Like most first classes, ours was occupied largely with requirements and details, all of which are explained on the course syllabus. If you have questions or concerns about the reading schedule, blogging requirement, literature circle assignment, or anything else on the syllabus, please email me or make an appointment with me during office hours (M 3-5).
Of course, we also spent some time raising questions about the course and its specific focus of Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. As I mentioned in class, my 11-year-old son was diagnosed with high-functioning ASD five years ago, so my interest in this topic is of course, very personal. You’ll probably hear more about him as the semester goes along. I am also writing a book on the literacy practices of adolescents on the spectrum, and I’ve published a couple of articles that you’ll read as part of the class. In any case, I think ASD is a worthwhile topic to examine through the lens of fiction, and I hope that after our introduction last night, you think so too.
We began with a quick writing response to the following prompt: 1) What do you already know about ASD? 2) What would you like to know? The answers to the first question were far-ranging: some of you have or friends or even siblings who have been diagnosed; others of you know only what you have heard from politicians and popular culture. Here is a screenshot of those responses (paper responses not included).
In the answers to question two, I see a lot of interest in learning more about ASD, and I think fiction is a good way to do it (though we’ll read some non-fiction, too). Our first piece of fiction was Rain Man, the 1988 film that won four Oscars and kind of put Autism on the map. As we watched the first 90 minutes of the film last night, we thought about three major questions:
- Why is Rain Man an important film?
- How does Rain Man define Autism Spectrum Disorder?
- How does Rain Man define neurotypicality?
In the last five minutes of class, we had a brief discussion of these three questions–one that we will pick up again two weeks from now, when we reconvene.