Thirteen/WNET, the flagship public television station in New York, has recently published an article on Temple Grandin, a well-known autism advocate. Grandin,
who has Asperger's syndrome, talks about what she believes schools can do to better educate children like her.
Autism is a disorder characterized by repetitive behavior and impaired social interaction and communication; Asperger's syndrome is a milder form. Grandin became well-known when she was featured in Oliver Sacks' book An Anthropologist on Mars. Grandin has also written her own book, Thinking In Pictures.
“Teachers tend to focus on the disability,” Grandin said. Ironically, the autism diagnosis which forms a basis for special attention and assistance may further distance the autistic child from his or peer group and create more isolation and alienation...
...She is concerned today that the American education system often works to the disadvantage of children with mild forms of autism, in ways that are not at all obvious.
For example, according to Grandin, requiring children to wear uniforms would benefit autistic children, who invariably dress out of fashion and are ridiculed by other kids. She’s observed first-hand that even in poorer countries, such as the Philippines, the uniform requirement really helps autistic kids.
Edited: a reader contacted me to say that Grandin does not have Asperger's syndrome, but autism. Though the WNET piece says that she has Asperger's, this synopsis of another of Grandin's books--Emergence:Labeled Autistic--leads me to believe autism is the characterization Grandin uses for herself.