Ian and Elizabeth discuss humanism



Although this blog is intended to promote Iris Johansson’s book A different childhood, I am again posting a transcript of Ian’s lessons with RPM instead because I want to spread the word about this wonderful  teaching method to everyone who has loved ones with autism. You and see more transcripts on my blog www.adifferentchildhood.com, as well as more information about the book, including reading a chapter from it. Here is the transcript of Ian’s lesson on Humanism. Elizabeth, the teacher is in italics, Ian in CAPS

Humanism refers to any philosophical, moral, political, artistic or scientific system with a human, not religious, frame of reference.  In humanism, some believe that the ideals of human existence can be fulfilled without regard to religion. The Humanist Manifesto of 1933 took the position that the universe was “self-created;” that mankind was a part of nature.  A manifesto is a written or verbal declaration of intentions, motives or views of the author.

  • Name two systems that humanism refers to. ART AND SCIENCE
  • What did the humanists believe?  BELIEVES SCIENCE NOT GOD DEFINES MAN
  • Why would a manifesto be helpful to talk about a controversial topic? ALLOWS A TOPIC TO BE CLEARLY DEFINED

Renaissance humanism refers to a revival of classical literature and philosophy that began at the end of the Middle Ages, or middle of the 14th century.  Renaissance humanism features several important intellectual figures, including Nicolaus Copernicus and Leonardo daVinci. Nicolaus Copernicus was a mathematician, economist and astronomer who declared that the earth orbited around the sun.  Though Copernicus wrote “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Sphere” several decades earlier, it was not published until his death in 1543 as his theory was in direct conflict with teachings of the Catholic Church.  Leonardo daVinci worked as an artist, musician, architect, inventor, engineer, anatomist and geometer.  In his drawing Vitruvian Man, daVinci superimposed two views of a nude man in a circle to illustrate mathematical proportions of the human body as described by Roman architect Vitruvius.  Vitruvian Man was said to reconcile the main two parts of our being; the physical and the intellectual.

  • What period of time does the 14th century refer to? 1500s (Ian used the number board to respond to this question)
  • Tell me one thing you learned about Copernicus.  HE HAD TROUBLE WITH THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
  • What was one of Leonardo daVinici’s occupations? PAINTER…..what is his famous painting?…MONA LISA
  • What was significant about the Vitruvian Man?  BLENDED BODY AND MIND
  • I showed Ian the picture (below) of the Vitruvian man and asked, “what impresses you about this picture?”….SYMMETRY OF THE BODY

The difference between humanist and religious theories are their understanding of what constitutes truth. The humanist regards truth as something constantly evolving.  Religious theory identifies a static, unchanging revelation from God as truth. A humanist is generally skeptical and open minded.  Religious theorists are often unwavering and live according to theological dogma.  Dogma is a principle or set of principles provided by any authority as incontrovertibly true.

  • What is the difference between humanism and religious theorists?  HUMANISTS DEFINE TRUTH VIA SCIENCE, RELIGIONISTS DEFINE TRUTH VIA GOD
  • Now that we have talked about both sides of the spectrum – where do you fall in terms of humanism and religious theory?  I CAN SEE MERIT IN BOTH SIDES

Creative Writing: The basic difference between humanism and religious theories is weather something can change or evolve over time.  In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue to prove that the world was not flat.  In 1543, Copernicus declared that the earth revolved around the sun; the planets did not revolve around our round world.  Each declaration required education, hypotheses, experiment and declaration to be introduced to an apprehensive audience.  

  1. Define a topic that you know a lot about.  
  2. Do you have a hypothesis or “new take” on that topic?  
  3. Given the chance, how would you research or experiment to determine if your hypothesis is correct?  
  4. In the event that your experiment yields proof of a breakthrough or new perspective, can you think of an audience that would be apprehensive about your findings? 


Ok, Ian, now you need to create a manifesto to go along with your findings.  Be sure to name your manifesto!









Accommodation and autonomy


In this video Iris is talking about accommodation. Accommodation in this case refers to conflict style, defined as follows by Mind Tools: 

Accommodating: This style indicates a willingness to meet the needs of others at the expense of the person’s own needs. The accommodator often knows when to give in to others, but can be persuaded to surrender a position even when it is not warranted. This person is not assertive but is highly cooperative. Accommodation is appropriate when the issues matter more to the other party, when peace is more valuable than winning, or when you want to be in a position to collect on this “favor” you gave. However people may not return favors, and overall this approach is unlikely to give the best outcomes.

Iris is talking about the case where an individual is somehow stuck in this as her life-style, i.e. to always be accommodating.

She describes the signs of being in this style: the state of basic  discontent which is always in need of something more or different to fill this need and therefore makes the individual prone to accommodate others so that they will provide this something which fills this need. But the satisfaction is only temporary because the need never goes away, and the same exchange is repeated. The key is that the accommodating individual gets something out of the exchange that she needs, and because she continually needs this she is continually accommodating. Typically what she needs is the approval of the other person. Iris uses the example of your friend asking you to bring her a glass of water. If you are in the accommodating style you comply, even if it was inconvenient for you just then, but you expect something in return. Maybe, in this case is just her appreciation. If you don’t get it you feel cheated out of something. If she uses it to water the flower pot, or says it tasted bad you feel insulted or rejected. On the other hand if you are in autonomy mode and she asks for the water, you look inside yourself and  ask: “am I doing something else now or can just as easily go and fetch the water, then OK I do it” and I don’t look for anything in return because I don’t need anything, I am already satisfied within myself. Then I don’t care what she does with the water, I have nothing vested in it. On the other hand  if I am getting a little tired of fetching water for her, because I don’t get out of it what I need, then I shift over into the mode of defiance; go and get your own water you demanding person. But this is not autonomy either, because my level of satisfaction is still determined by her.

Now, autonomy doesn’t have to mean I am totally self-sufficient. I may still find it more interesting and enjoyable to be in a togetherness with you but in a style of cooperation. Then we can both discuss something we are both interested in, like the theory of Dark Energy that those guys got the Nobel prize for. In our discussion, we share our ideas and understandings, and your thoughts get added to mine and I get the benefit of sharing my thoughts with you, and we are both enriched by it.

So how is this different  from the exchange involving the water glass? There you get the benefit of the water and I get the benefit of your appreciation. The difference is that in that case I had no interest in the water, I involved myself in it only to accommodate you. Furthermore, I still continue to have the need for you appreciation. In the other case we are both interested in dark energy and  get our satisfaction from exploring that topic, and sharing it is just a way to make it more interesting and enjoyable.


First post

In this blog I will be talking about the book  by Iris Johansson, and autistic woman in Sweden called En annorlunda barndom, which means A different childhood. I have a grandson, Ian, who is autistic and when I read this book in Swedish I was so impressed by it that I spent a year translating it to English so that Ian’s parent would be able to read it.What struck me at first was how closely Ms Johansson’s descriptions of herself as a child mirrored so much of Ian’s behavior patterns, but the thing that made me do the translation was the descriptions of her subjective experiences that lay behind her behaviors. It seemed almost like a dictionary of autism that I was sure would help Ian’s parents interpret his wordless expressions and needs. I am also convinced that there are many other parents out there, as well as other care givers and teachers who can gain valuable insights from this book. I also imagine that the detailed pictures Iris paints of her mental states during her childhood as she with the help of her father’s devoted and very creative efforts worked to break out of her communications prison can give researchers many hints about the brain mechanics of autism.