Monday, December 10, 2007

ArcheTypes and Social Learning

Carol Gray's social stories have been widely acknowledged as successful. I don't really think anybody has stop and given them a critical look. After all it is helping autistic children how could anyone decent critique it? Nevertheless, I think it is prudent.

At first blush, it is simply brilliant. Parents, professionals create made up stories that deal with everyday life. These stories outline appropriate and inappropriate (all judged by our culture and the story writer)reactions to these made up situations. Children read them , learn them and refer back to them as necessary. It does what good piece of literature does expose the reader to novel situations and lets them see how the writers sees the characters deal with it, thereby we learn hopefully something about the world and ourselves.

The private nature of these stories is a big liability. The situations may be universal but professionals and parents will invariably draft different responses to the same situation, unless the story revolves around some trivial and if that is the case why bother with the story in the first place?
{Notes delinate more here}

A better and more sophisticated solutions is available. It is hinted at in this news story. Substitute Stereotype with symbol or archetype. There are traditional or archetypal roles for men and women. Perhaps if they saw it like that they could teach and add more sophisticated stereotypes for more abstract categories as they get older. A long time ago, I devoured books on Taoism and the I Ching. At the basis there is a similar idea that the ancient Greeks had of 4 base elements. In Asian thought, There are 5 elements. Earth, Metal, Fire,Water and Wood. I don't know if you remember the game called rock, paper, scissors. No one element is primary. It all depends on the relationship with others.
For example, Wood feeds fire. In ancient China the 5 elements were associated with emotions positive and negative. Like fire - negative rage water- positive calmness. Water quenches fire by the traditional diagram. So to handle rage become calm or symbolically throw water on the fire. I dont see why many autistic children couldn't be taught the "stereotypes" of fire (positive- passion, negative-rage,anger) or water etc. To provide them with more sophisticated tools to reason and adjust to novel situations. It would be better than highly specific social stories.

I like this quote(not) from frith tho:
Professor Frith said: "Autistic children's knowledge of race and gender stereotypes is astonishing given that they lack interest in people."
Is it really that astonishing? First autistics many not all *do* have an interest in people, they just don't understand the social structures (frith knows better too). These stereotypes that are learnt may merely mean autistic children are not dumb, just clueless to what others take for granted.

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