I’ve just returned from the Philippines where I spoke at an early childhood education conference (“SuperKids 2012”) held in Manila, September 14-15, 2012, and sponsored by Potencia Inc., PrimeTrade Asia Inc, and Wyeth Philippines Inc. I did two 2 1/2 hour presentations. The first was entitled “Exemplars of Best Schools (Preschool through High School).” It focused on the importance of utilizing developmentally appropriate practices at all grade levels. I argued that schools have stopped being places for the education of whole human beings and become instead test-factories narrowly focused on reading, writing, math, and science. I highlighted best-school practices and had the opportunity to visit some of these best schools in Manila, which I’ll talk about in my next blog post.
My second presentation focused on multiple intelligences and the power of neurodiversity. In this talk, I spoke about the need for educators to honor neurological diversity in their students. After exploring Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and its connection to brain differences, I introduced the audience to the concept of neurodiversity, a movement that emerged from the autism community in the 1990’s, and which is expanding to include other disability categories. Neurodiversity suggests that we apply the same values and attitudes toward people with disabilities that we apply toward cultural diversity and biodiversity; that we celebrate those differences instead of pathologizing them. I spoke about the strengths of people with autism, learning disabilities, and ADHD, and introduced several practical steps educators can take to create positive niches for students in the classroom, including key learning strategies, positive role models, enriched human resources, affirmative career aspirations, assistive technologies, environmental modifications, and strengths awareness. The material I presented will be the subject of my forthcoming book entitled: Neurodiversity in the Classroom: Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Success in School and Life to be published by ASCD (the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) in early December of this year.
The conference also included presentations that discussed the successes of several Manila schools in working with progressive models of education (including the Bank Street School model), a presentation on the importance of understanding the new “digital learner” in the 21st century, and presentations on the use of appropriate assessment tools and learning strategies in working with children with special needs, and the importance of promoting innovation in our classrooms to make the world a better place in which to live. The conference took place at the SMX Convention Center in Manila, and was held in conjunction with the 33rd Manila International Book Fair. I was honored to be a part of this conference, and look forward to coming back again to the Philippines next year.