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Jul 17

Forget Twitchspeed & Twitter; Confronting “Boys’ Crisis” via Dance & Motion

I’m a proud as heck of these two students, my thesis supervisees,  whose excellent MEd research is featured in this article in the local paper. Jennifer Swan-Rogers (pictured here) and Tannis Tate (whose abstract is below) undertook case studies of autistic boys in their classes at an alternative school in Kamloops. Diagnoses on the autism spectrum have increased 20-fold in the last decade by some estimates. Computer technology (particularly gaming) has been touted as both the cause of and solution to the enormous challenges that these kids face. However, what is clear from the literature is that these kids need to be engaged socially and to be taken away from sedentary engagement typical of both classroom and computer interaction.Here’s the gist of the studies, as captured in T. Tate’s abstract:

This thesis is a narrative ethnographic case study that follows the experiences of an autistic boy who is given opportunities to learn curriculum through movement and dance in my Grade 5 class. The number of young boys who, like my subject, diagnosed on the autism spectrum in the early school years, has recently skyrocketed, creating what some have called a “boy crisis.” This study begins with a detailed, historical profile of the subject’s life both at home and at school. This profile uses data collected from a variety of sources, including official records, interviews with stakeholders, video recordings and observation. This data is used to produce multi-layered, thick descriptions of the subject in both conventional classroom settings and in contexts where he is learning standardized curriculum, but through collaborative movement and dance. Careful explication of these descriptions clearly show the manifold challenges facing the subject in undertaking conventional writing and organizational tasks at his desk. However, these descriptions also make clear that the subject is readily able to focus, demonstrate his learning and collaborate with peers when working with the curriculum through movement and dance. This is situated in the context of other, longer-term developments that are evident from official records. The thesis concludes by highlighting the promise presented by treatment of elementary school curricula through movement and dance, both for students diagnosed with autism and for young learners generally, and recommends directions for the substantiation of this promise through further research.