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Posts Tagged ‘Accommodation’

Call it Cheating or Call it Accommodating?

August 1, 2011 23 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a recent graduate of Seton Hall University. He started the club Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

I’ve heard this debate to death. Where do we draw the line? Do individuals with disabilities deserve extended time on tests and other accommodations or does it give those individuals an unfair advantage versus the individuals who do not receive these accommodations? The main stream debate seems to have been focused on the SAT/ACT and quite recently involving the GRE/GMAT/LSAT’s as well.  (Imagine someone with autism with these choices!)  Where do I stand on the question? To be honest I’m not a firm believer in the concept of timed tests at all.

The reason this came up for me quite recently was I was having a discussion with a peer about how individuals with autism may not deserve extended time but other learning disabled individuals may  after all some person’s with Aspergers are off the charts intellectually. It should come down to how does your autism affect your writing skills; how does autism affect your ability to read an exam; and how does autism affect your ability to focus on an exam? While many individuals judge autistic individuals within a certain stereotype of it being a communication/social interaction disability the argument was that maybe it should be focused on those who have a stronger deficit in one of those 3 primary areas previously mentioned more apparent for individuals with Learning Disabilities such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Dyslexia and/or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

In both high school and college I received extended time on tests as an accommodation (in fact, in high School we were given the opportunity to take as long as we wanted/needed with no time limit). In college it was very interesting to see the reaction of my peers when I would tell them that I had extra time that they didn’t. One individual even went to the lines of saying that I was “cheating”. The hope of leveling the playing field is clearly not a belief seen by all.

So where does my opinion lie in this debate? Easy. I think the education system is broken. This is one of the many problems that our education system in theUnited Statesis dealing with. More individuals with disabilities are going to college now than ever before which includes those with autism. Does our patriotic message of “equality all” tarnish with extended time? Yes and no. Autism is a wide spectrum filled with many different types of traits and characteristics that affect us educationally. That means some will deserve this accommodation and some won’t. The problem is when you give someone permission for extended time you are only seeing that they have a disability. All the characteristics mean nothing. You either give it to all who have autism or you don’t.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Are you pro extended time or con for individuals with Autism? Thanks everyone for reading!

This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to this post I can be reached at kerry.magro@autismspeaks.org or through my Fan Page here.

Accommodation

June 17, 2011 7 comments

This is a guest blog post from Autism Speaks Science Board member John Elder Robison, author of Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s and Be Different: Adventured of a Free-Range Aspergian.

Should we change, or should others change for us?  Should workplaces change for us?

We (by we, I mean anyone) must be able to present ourselves in such a way that the people we engage think we are nice/interesting/capable or whatever they need to continue the interaction.  If we fail to do that, we will not move forward in a relationship with that person.  That may mean we don’t make a friend, or we don’t get a job, or we don’t get admitted to a school. Whatever it is, it’s a lost opportunity.

Obviously no one can succeed with every engagement of another person, but each of us must look at our total tries, and our success rate.  If the success rate is low, we have to ask ourselves why.

In my last post, I talked briefly about Asperger people who fail to get jobs for whatever reason, and then allege discrimination.  Some neurodiversity voices ask for an end to that discrimination, and for greater acceptance.

I have asked for greater acceptance myself.  I think that is a noble goal, but not one we will see attained anytime soon.  When I look at how I was treated in childhood, how my 21-year old son grew up, and what I see today I see some change but not much.  It leads me to wonder how much acceptance and accommodation we might reasonably expect.

I think what happens is that the philosophical desire for more broadminded treatment flies in the face of evolutionary human development.  We have thousands of years of experience that tells us a person acting a certain way is a bad person; a threat.  We are conditioned to reject people who exhibit those behaviors.  What arethose behaviors, you ask?   There is no single, simple answer.  We just seem to be programmed to pick up certain unspoken cues and interpret them that way.

The problem folks like me have is that our Asperger’s causes us to exhibit innocent but non standard behaviors that get interpreted as bad.  I’ve written on this before, urging people to think twice when a person says or does something unexpected.  I think that works in some situations, especially with people who are exposed to kids with differences or AS in the family. For the great majority of people, though, the message does not get through or it gets ignored.

That’s why I say we are 1% of the population and we can’t expect the other 99% to change for us.  Laudable as the goal of change may be, they just don’t care.  Note than I am not saying the 99% are normal and we are abnormal. I understand the 99% have many issues of their own.  I’m just observing that the odds are stacked very heavily against us, when it comes to getting them to change in all their collective diversity, indifference, ignorance, and whatever else.
What about discrimination?  I won’t say there are not people who discriminate against autistic people.  I’m sure there are.  That said, when we fail to get a job or make a friend, I still maintain that failure usually stems from our behavior (unexpected or unacceptable), and not from arbitrary discrimination against the underlying cause (Asperger’s.)
I cannot control what other people think about “my kind.”  Prejudice or discrimination is something I cannot change, and frankly, I would not want to do it for my benefit through force of law.  Why?  Because if someone does not want me around, that is enough.  I am out of there.  I am not going to stay where I am not wanted.
I want to be in control of my life.  That means I work on changing my behavior as needed to fit in.  I have full control of my actions, so I know success is achievable for me by that route.  I don’t wait around for others to change, because that is frustrating and often unsuccessful.
What about accommodation for sensory issues?  Several people asked my thoughts on that.  Examples might be moving to a quieter work cubicle, or getting different lighting.  I think many sensory accommodations are reasonable and doable for employers.  I am absolutely in favor of any subtle changes in the workplace that make folks like us more comfortable.
At the same time, I recognize that kind of accommodation has its limits.  If the accommodation would require major changes in the workplace, and that same workplace is acceptable to everyone else, I’d get a different job.  But that’s just me.  Through my life I have chosen to vote with my feet in situations like that.  Others would fight for change and I can respect that, even though I would not do it myself.
In our society, we have chosen to let government dictate the tradeoffs by which some people are inconvenienced for the benefit of people with disabilities.  An example of that would be handicap parking spaces.  By having those spaces we allow those who need them to access facilities they could not otherwise visit. But the non-handicapped person who needs a space pays a price for that accommodation even as it sits unused and he has nowhere to park.
Disability rights advocates fight those battles on many fronts.  I applaud their efforts and successes, but I do not wait for such accommodations to improve my own life.  Since I want action now, I make my own way as best I can.  That is the sometimes hard reality we all face, every day.  We can hope and work for societal change, but we still have the chance to make the best of the life we have today, because today will never come again and I don’t want to spend it waiting.  I want to be acting.
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