And now, a blast from the past

Charles Dickens on discovery learning

‘NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!’

When people turn to Dickens for a critique of educational practices, what they cite is almost always this opening passage from Hard Times. And, like all of Dickens’ parodies, its a great one, gaining momentum as it continues:

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Science prevails in another victory for a Pennsylvania school district

Just under two weeks ago, science won a small victory. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied the appeal of two parents suing the Lower Merion, PA school district for allegedly violating the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). At issue was whether the school had neglected to provide their son with a free and appropriate public education (known under the IDEA as FAPE). The parents alleged that the school failed to provide FAPE because it refused

1.    to allow their son to use, in academic settings, a form of facilitated communication known as Spelling to Communicate (S2C)

2.    to provide their son with a trained communication partner for communication via S2C

The James Byrne Courthouse, which houses the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
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Math problem of the week, revisited

A friend of mine recently shared with me a page of his son’s 9th grade honor’s geometry homework, and it was similar this one, except that the directions were less clear.

His son got half the problems wrong because he didn’t notice that they were asking him to reflect the shape across some axis other than y and/or x.

(His son uses the Common Core-based Illustrative Math, which, like all contemporary geometry texts, provides barely any practice doing proofs).

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The Washington Post gets autism (and facilitated communication) wrong–again

In a recent Washington Post commentary Clara Ferreira Margues, the parent of an autistic child, provides some much-needed critical commentary on new Korean courtroom drama.  As Margue rightly laments, the “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” is yet another show about a character with stereotypical autism superpowers. Yet another show, in other words, that fails to

show people with disabilities as they are. Rather, they are shown as audiences want them to be. In this case, awkward but pretty, academically high-achieving, notching up one professional triumph after another.

As Margues points out:

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“Hating history”–the power of telling stories and soliciting predictions

I see I used the word “story” in this re-post of part II of my “hating history” series. Nowadays, the buzzword is “narrative.”

But what I’ve come to think really matters is suspense. A good story can accomplish that, but so can a compelling question with no obvious, immediate answer: one posed at the beginning of class, with students hazarding guesses and with the clues to the answer slowly accumulating as class progresses.

And just as chronological presentations can help you remember things, so do predictions. Whether the answer confirms or contradicts your prediction, you’re more likely to remember it if something stoked your curiosity about it ahead of time and got you emotionally invested in what it would turn out to be.

Why do some history teachers hate history?, Part II

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Cutting-Edge Language and Literacy Tools for Students on the Autism Spectrum

This book has been out since late June–technically speaking–though it has only recently made it into warehouses. So I’m just now getting around to posting about it.

Cutting-Edge Language and Literacy Tools for Students on the Autism Spectrum covers the root causes of the language and learning challenges in autism, their consequences for language acquisition and literacy, and a variety of tools and strategies for addressing them, from teaching technologies to assistive technologies. Drawing on what the most current evidence shows about the nature of autism and which therapies and technologies are most successful, the book reviews the efficacy of existing language therapies, literacy strategies, and assistive technologies. Covering topics such as speech deficits, language learning, comprehension, and assistive communication tools, this reference work is ideal for clinicians, behavioral specialists, speech-language pathologists, special educators, researchers, academicians, practitioners, scholars, educators, and students.

And, of course, there is a chapter on facilitated communication and its latest variants. 

Is there a (socio) pragmatic language impairment in autism, or only a core language impairment?

 Cross-posted at

This piece, the latest in my series of posts on Morton Gernsbacher’s FC-friendly take on autism, critiques a 2012 article by Gernsbacher and Pripas-Kapit entitled “Who’s Missing the Point? A Commentary on Claims that Autistic Persons Have a Specific Deficit in Figurative Language.” This article takes issue with the common understanding that autism involves pragmatic language deficits.

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Real-world problems with real-world projects, revisited

I was reminded of this old post from Out In Left Field yesterday when LinkedIn’s algorithms suggested I connect with a former student of mine whom I’ve never forgotten. Many years ago, this student submitted two projects to me. The second project was a redo of the first. The problem with the first project was that it was based on a program for autistic students that, with just a bit of sleuthing, I was able to determine didn’t actually exist. The problem with the second project was that, while it was based on a program that did exist, it contained word-for-word replications of the interviews with the fictional teachers from the fictional program, with only their names changed.

Because the student was connected with people in high places, they (the student)1 were able to get their grade converted not just to a passing grade, but to a grade that, as I was told privately by someone higher up than me, I would rather not know the details of.

The student’s LinkedIn page is commensurately impressive2

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Why we should not presume competence and reframe facilitated communication

In all the excitement surrounding Twitter suspensions and blog shutdowns and disappearing comments on YouTube and questions about my son’s diagnosis by lay people who’ve never met him, and shadowy cult leaders in France who believe that “English spelling is human thought made visible as text,” I forgot to mention that I have a new publication on facilitated communication in Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention.

Here is the abstract:

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Do motor difficulties really explain speech/language difficulties in autism?

(Cross-posted at

This post is the fifth in a series of critiques of articles co-authored by Morton Gernsbacher. As I noted earlier, these articles collectively attempt to present evidence for the drastic redefinition of autism upon which the plausibility of FC depends: namely, the notion that autism is not (despite eight decades of research to the contrary) a socio-cognitive disorder, but rather a motor disorder. More specifically, autism is, purportedly, a disorder in which intentional motor movements, including speaking and pointing, are difficult or impossible to perform.

Today’s Gernsbacher article, “Infant and toddler oral- and manual-motor skills predict later speech fluency in autism,” relates more directly to the motor take on autism than the articles I have discussed already. 

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Twitter suspensions and their aftermath

Every so often my Twitter suspension comes up on social media, with various detractors of mine voicing different theories about why I was suspended from Twitter. 

  • FC/RPM/S2C proponents seem to think I was suspended for “bullying” remarks and/or “violent threats” against autistic individuals and/or autistic advocates.
  • Structured Word Inquiry proponents prefer to think I was suspended because I called SWI a “cult” run by a shadowy man in France with no formal linguistic credentials.
  • Progressive math proponents may think I was suspended for harassing them and finding fault with “social justice math.”

As for Twitter itself, once it suspends an account, it feeds such sundry impressions by one’s sundry detractors with canned messages about the account’s suspension that are automatically sent to anyone who “reported” the account for any reason.

People, naturally, report Twitter accounts for all sorts of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with Twitter’s rules. Some people, for example, prefer to eliminate their critics rather than debate them.

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