As we kick off national autism awareness month, I'm out doing my part. I wrote a short essay for CNN's I Report that you can read here: http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-7427
I'm out there talking about autism, Asperger's, neurological differences, and making it in the world. I've got a bunch of speaking engagements in schools this month.
Some of the schools I visit focus on kids with neurological differences. Other time, I visit "regular" schools and talk about the diversity of the popuarion. With the prevelance of autism today, just about every kid knows someone on the spectrum.
This morning I spoke to the students at the Lower Pioneer Valley Education Collaborative http://www.lpvec.org/index.html in West Springfield.
LPVEC is a trade school; otherwise known as a vocational high school. Trade schools teach the skills we need to run the world . . . auto mechanics; carpentry; landscaping; hairdressing; retailing; and manufacturing. As our society has gotten more complex, it’s gotten more and more costly to teach these skills. As a result, fewer and fewer schools do it.
You regular blog readers know I’m a hands-on kind of guy, so this was my kind of school. I loved it.
Let me show you how they do things, in no particular order:
As an old-time computer hacker and geek, how could I miss the computer lab? We talked electronics, and I signed their server. "Geeks Rule the World!"
When I was going upstairs I saw this poster for a fundraiser they'd just done for the Flutie Foundation. I told them I'd just been at the Flutie Autism Conference, and I was proud to see them hard at work here.
Now, these guys are in a packaging design class. You can't see it real well, but they're standing in front of packaging they've made up for chocolates. The only thing was, being a school, it was imaginary chocolate. They did not feed me any. My only consolation was, they didn't get any chocolate either.
Here we have real-life toilet repair in the building maintenance classroom. You can see from the coloration that they have a real broken toilet there. Snicker all you want, but a good plumber can make an excellent living most anywhere.
This is the greenhouse. I'm sorry I don't have any students in the photo - they had just gone on lunch break and I was running loose, looting and pillaging.
And here we have a few more, sitting at their workstations.
This is a fashion design and retailing classroom. And we have future fashionistas in the picture. I'm not exactly sure what they are being trained to do here, but training of some sort was certainly going on, because the lights were off and a movie was playing when I walked in. And there was a teacher in there too, but she's not shown in the photo.
This is the automated machinery in the wood shop - it's a far cry from woodworking in my high school. Safer and cleaner too. Check out those floors.
And here we have the auto shop. This auto shop is cleaner and nicer than 99% of the commercial shops in my area.
This is the print shop, with two kids cleaning one of the presses
And here's an example of what they print - a calendar. The students did all the printing, and they too the pictures and did the layout. Very nice.
I like this shot. They have actually built a mockup two-story home in one of the big shops. Talk about full-scale teaching models!
One of the students, Rebecca, gave me two pages of questions to answer. . . . a written interview. I'll post her questions and my answers in my next blog post . . . stay tuned.
Causes John Robison Supports
I support Asperger and autism advocacy groups. I also support the University of Massachusetts