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.

Friday, 26 July 2019

What I'll be doing in Cardiff next week and why it might inform activities for autistic children

Next week, I shall be gathering in one of the libraries at Cardiff University along with a group of other academics interested in making sense of what classics means, and could mean – for children. This will include a morning session where each of us shares an object that in some way deals with an aspect of the classical world. It might be a book retelling classical myth say, or a mini-figure, or a board game.

When we held a similar event last year, in the Roehampton University library, things took a personal turn, when some of us – myself included – brought along things from our own childhoods.
The reason that I man mentioning the event in this blog is as follows. I have been wondering whether a comparable activity might be worth planning – to tie in with the activities for autistic children that I am designing. In thinking this, I am reflecting on a comment that Katarzyna Marciniak made at an Our Mythical Childhood workshop in Warsaw in May of this year – while participates were busy colouring in Choice of Hercules drawings.
I was talking there about one goal of the activities, which is to reflect on, understand and manage emotions, including what makes us happy, what makes us apprehensive and what makes us afraid. Katarzyna’s idea was that children could bring along something that has made them feel happy. It could be a picture from a holiday perhaps, which they could then talk about. So, in relation to this, I am wondering about whether to include a show and tell element in the activities for autistic children. 
Next week’s event might provide useful in letting me think about how and why this might work.
Also, I am wondering how far it will be worth adding a specifically classically-inspired dimension to what is shown and told. What will happen during the afternoon session in Cardiff could especially help with this. After sharing during the morning what we ourselves have brought, we will then have the opportunity to look at items from the archives, pick one and show and tell that.
This might form a model for a session for autistic children where, first they bring along something that, say, makes them feel happy, or some other emotion. Then, after that, they can be introduced to a set of Hercules-related artefacts. They go on to pick one of these and talk about it.
I shall have a better idea after the Cardiff event whether this can go anywhere – but I went form thinking that I would write very briefly on this when I started the present posting to feeling a strong sense, which grew while I was writing the posting, that there is potential here.
There is more information about the Cardiff Show and Tell, and last year’s event, here, on the Roehampton Classics blog. From this blog posting,  you will also see link a to Karen Pierce’s own blog where she reflects on what happened at the Roehampton event.


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