Support a new Middle School project in New York! (from a site offering funding for teacher proposals)
Graphic Novels Motivate Readers With Asperger Syndrome
My ten students are middle-schoolers who have Asperger Syndrome.
Students in my classroom have difficulty understanding people, so it’s not surprising that they also struggle to infer characters’ motives and purpose in books. Nonfiction, full of facts? No problem! But fiction? The majority of my students with Asperger Syndrome could leave it completely.
They like to follow rules – but they make a lot of their own. They like to be right, so they hate to admit when they don’t know something, and they avoid things that are difficult. Tough concepts, like characterization, theme and tone in a novel, make them feel uncomfortable – so they’d rather not read fiction. And, as educators know, the only thing that really improves reading once the school day ends, is more reading. Then I found the novel, The Inventions of Hugo Cabret. We only have one copy – I borrowed it from our library, and they want it back! But the students were riveted. Not only were they fascinated by the format of the book – half graphic novel, half traditional – but they understood Hugo’s emotions, portrayed as they were with matching drawings, moving incrementally forward! Experiments with other graphic novels are also proving successful, but we don’t have a lot of them to go around.
I am requesting class sets of popular graphic novels for my self-contained English class of students with Asperger Syndrome (and High-Functioning Autism.) The novels I request will be taught in the same manner as traditional literature, and I will compare each work with a traditional novel, which we will also read. This will help my students be on equal footing with their peers, because they will have more insight into concepts about characterization (as well as plot, theme, tone, etc.) when they rejoin their peers in high school reading more traditional works. I hope that, ultimately, these graphic novels lead them to enjoy literature in a way that many people without autism do – for the love of the story and the characters we would otherwise not know.
I was a MAD Magazine addict and a sucker for cats and rabbits dressed in charming clothing.
Please help me bridge the “understanding gap” for my students, who are so smart and fun and have so much potential. Help them understand literature by opening the door, using pictures with the text, and engendering a level of understanding that their disability would otherwise prevents them from obtaining. Thank you so much for reading my proposal.
Remember when all childhood schoolbooks had plenty of beautiful illustrations – stylized but realistic (not infantilized and deformed neotenic blobs) FOR ALL CHILDREN? Maybe our “old-fashioned” predecessors in publishing and education knew a lot more than we do about visual thinking being basic to the human ability to learn…