Tuesday, February 19, 2013

High Functioning Autism & College - The Experiment - thanks to The memories of a Product Manager

I like a number of the posts on this blog, esp. about High Performance Computing/High Throughput Computing.
But this article?  It also makes me wonder if I know any other HFAs?...
Connie "Part of the 2-Engineering Parents Experiment" O'Dell

This blog entry is a follow up to the many articles  in this blog about Highly Functional Autistic (HFA) employment and the project Dandelion.  See Silicon Valley and Autism. A creative approach. and Outsourcing to the Autistic Rather Than to India

 Ahronovitz eyes robotic future - Rocklin  from August 2012, mentioned that David,  my HFA son and  a Whitney High grad will attend Sierra College's Mechatronics Program. He did attend the mainstream classes of professor Steven Gillette.

In December 2012, he did not pass the final exam. We treat this first semester as an experiment. The definition of an experiment, according to Wikipedia
An experiment is a methodical procedure carried out with the goal of verifying, falsifying, or establishing the validity of a hypothesis. Experiments provide insight into cause-and-effect by demonstrating what outcome occurs when a particular factor is manipulated. 
The experiment proved that without any special assistance, most HFAs can not graduate from college. The famous myth of "Einstein was Genius with a delay development"  is not proven by facts. Just read the Einstein Biography by Walter Isaacson . The great majority of HFAs are not geniuses, as the great majority of mainstream people are not geniuses either.

Professor Steven Gillette keen and sensitive spirit of observation
“David clearly has intellectual and social abilities that lend themselves to academic and to employment opportunities. He displayed a strong desire to work independently, particularly with the programming. He was able to work with other students, and seemed to enjoy his interactions with them. I believe that David can succeed in academic and technology endeavors, with sufficient levels of support. Academically, that support must provide him with focus on timely submittal of labs and quizzes. I found I had to directly request his lab reports and quizzes. Without direct oversight he did not submit the assignments required by the class.
There is only one problem: Shadows (1x1) support for HFAs are not available  (yet) in colleges. As a national premiere , Alta California approved the funding for a student to work with David as a shadow when he repeats the same class in the first half of 2013.
A Mechatronics Lab
The Mechatronics course is not easy. Just browse through the textbook Industrial Automated Systems: Instrumentation and Motion Control  at Amazon.The course is in a lab, with specialized equipment costing perhaps as much as $100,000. The graduates from this class will have special set of skills that will make them employable for life. Automated and computerized systems are everywhere.

Most great discoveries start with failed experiments. So we start now phase 2 of the experiment.  A success here will be huge. We will learn what additional services are needed to educate HFAs in mainstream colleges together withmainstream students to acquire for life employable skills in great demand.  The next step will be to create a pilot program and get funded for five to ten HFAs students - which we identify as suitable for Robotics classes.

This is the main difference between project Dandelion, and other similar projects, like Specialisterne from Denmark: the Danish organization wants to train directly the HFA candidates for employment. This does not scale, the payoff is very slow.

We want to create an easy to scale solution, whereby we enable the Colleges and Universities in the United States and Canada, -  among the finest in the world. - to prepare HFAs people to get skilled jobs, just like anybody else.

How? I hope our experiment will give us more answers, as we pivot towards a solution

Acknowledgements Professor Steven Gillette and Mark Kwoka,  from Sierra College;  David Rydquist and Denise St. Clair from Alta California Regional Center. Dr. Marjorie Solomon, and Susan Bacalman  from UC Davis MIND Institute who seeded the idea of Dandelion. Special thanks to Wolfgang Gentzsch who knows David since he was a child was a constant source of positive energy over the years

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