How do you know when the vision of personalized learning is advancing? Well, believe it or not, recent news coverage in USA Today and eSchoolNews about Autism is one indication. At this point, you might be saying, “Huh, not sure I follow you.” It’s not that anyone’s excited about the increase in Autism diagnosis rates – not at all. But as you dig deeper, you find greater public awareness for children with unique learning needs, an increased sophistication in the diagnostic methods for identification of unique learning needs, a strong desire to discover the neurobiology nuances that serve as contributing factors, and creative solutions that focus on the child’s unique learning needs. All of these are solid, common threads within learning science research that help us identify the unique needs of each child and increase our sophistication with personalizing learning.
I have some firsthand experience with this. My oldest son was formally diagnosed by the TEACCH program in North Carolina when he was four. In fact, we noticed unique traits in him when he was only a few months old. Most parents are left in the dark because of a lack of awareness and sensitivity to those unique traits. Parents don’t know enough to trust their instincts, and often their family members and even their pediatricians downplay their concerns because of a lack of awareness. You’re told “not to worry about it”, “Kids develop at different rates”, and “He’ll be fine; let’s just wait until the next visit.” Fortunately for my wife and me, we had family members and a pediatrician with an awareness and sensitivity to signs of Autism and encouraged us to seek formal diagnosis. Even more fortunately, our son is thriving in school because of the personalized learning approaches he’s received over the past ten years. So I know, firsthand, the benefits of identifying the unique learning needs of a child and personalizing his learning to maximize his growth. That’s why I’m encouraged by the attention given to Autism. I see the possibilities. I foresee how this attention and the success of Autism research will spill over into an increased desire to personalize learning for every child, regardless of his unique needs.