Why classical myth and autism?

Why classical myth and autism?

The idea for this project started to take shape at a meeting in 2008 with a special needs teacher, who mentioned that, in her experience and those of her colleagues, autistic children often enjoy classical myth. I began to wonder why this might be the case, and whether – as a classicist who researches, and loves, classical myth – there was anything I could contribute. I started this blog to report on my progress which was often sporadic until the launch of the Warsaw-based European Research Council-funded project Our Mythical Childhood (2016-21) to trace the role of classics in children’s culture.

My key contribution to the project is an exploration of classics in autistic children’s culture, above all by producing myth-themed activities for autistic children. This blog shares my progress, often along Herculean paths.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Classics in therapy

I've started with this image of the Hyde Park Wellesley (as?) Achilleus moument for two key reasons.  Firstly, I'm currently exploring the extent to which 'our' reception of classical culture has been shaped by the sculpture that tranformed civic, and also private, architecture in the 18th and 19th centuries, not least in London.  Secondly, it seems an apt illustration connected to a development which was reported on at an event I attended last month on Classical reception teaching.  Prof. Lorna Hardwick surveyed the range of developments in classical reception around the world, including at the US, where one area of increasing interest is the therapeutic role of classics, including the work with with war veterans pioneered by Jonathan Shay's Achilles in Vietman.  I'll find out who is working in this area - in the meantime, I'd welcome suggestions as to whom to contact!

I'll report soon concerning other recent experiences that bear on this blog.  I anticipate that this will include reflections upon how the mythological topics we choose to study are ones that 'speak' to our lives in complex ways - more that we might realise.  Linked with this, I've been discussing with colleagues how far they way we respond to myth can have useful therapeutic potential, from childhood experiences discovering the stories onwards.  One speaker at an event on classical mythology at the Open University earlier this year spoke about how one woman's engagement with the Demeter-Persephone story helped her deal with her experiences at a time when her daughter was leaving home.  There is one thing that concerns me, namely that this kind of engagement could be risky: the distance between ourselves and the material is broken, but there is no therapist to support us - unless we are in the safe space of, say, a dramatherapy session.