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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Do You Understand the Hidden Curriculum?

Many of our AAC users become competent communicators, but fewer become effective language users. There is a difference. To be a competent communicator means to be able to exchange messages with other persons.
But to use language effectively requires deeper understanding and use of the specific method of the exchange. While the two are often used interchangeably, they are different. Language is more the system used to communicate, with specific conventions, while communication alone means the transferring of a message from one person to another.

There is a much greater emphasis on social skills now than ever before, however, I don’t see sufficient attention paid to understanding the subtle cues in social interactions that are a part of the “hidden curriculum.”

The hidden curriculum has been broadly defined as “…. the lessons that are taught informally, and usually unintentionally, in a school system. These include behaviors, perspectives, and attitudes that students pick up while they're at school” (The Glossary of Education Reform)

Our social skills are the compilation of how we understand and navigate through the world of social engagement. For most of us neurotypicals these skills are automatically picked up and used without thought. But for many with Autism and some other disabilities or differing abilities the brain does not pick up this information and use it effectively. These individuals become confused and isolated when they “don’t get it” (Endow, 2010). In fact, Ms. Endow says that, growing up, she often felt an “alien.”
She further reflects that “Many times I never have a clue as to what I did, other than figuring out I must have committed yet another unforgivable social sin.”

Ms. Endow goes on to talk about how this curriculum is not taught directly to most students who need it, and yet without direct instruction they will not learn it.

Now think for a minute about those students who do not speak and need to communicate with AAC. We have not even reached the point where AAC users universally - or even nearly - are taught to be competent communicators, let alone are they additionally taught social language skills that help them access this hidden curriculum.

How can we expect that to happen when even neurotypical persons do not routinely use adequate social skills? I can point to countless examples in my own life even now where I uncover duplicitousness that I do not always understand, or discover other “mature adults” who cannot match their speech to their actions. If my well educated peers cannot use adequate social skills how do we expect it of our students?

Endow, Judy; (2010), Navigating the Social World; Autism Advocate

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