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.

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Preparing Historians at Work for future professions via remote placements between Roehampton, Warsaw and Bar-Ilan

What a few weeks... The panel I mentioned in my previous posting took place last week - and the potential for follow-up is huge. I should even be able, I think, to share the link to the recording. For now, though, I'm blogging to share what's coming up next autism and myth-wise...

Next week, Roehampton University's 2021 Festival of Learning and Teaching takes place - in an earlier posting, I mentioned what I'd be doing during the festival. This was after the news arrived that the session I'd proposed had been accepted. 

The two-day festival includes, on day one (Wednesday 16 June), so a week today, the session in question:

"Preparing Historians at Work for future professions via remote placements between Roehampton, Warsaw and Bar-Ilan"

The session bears on the main theme for this year's festival, namely: "preparing our students for their future professions." I shall be presenting along with two current students, Erika Ruminaite and Adam Soyler, the "Historians at Work" of the title of the presentation and of this posting.

What follows are the session aims and abstract as submitted to the Learning and Teaching Unit at the university, along with other details, photos too, starting with the following two. Both show activities which took place at Warsaw, in a cafe staffed by autistic workers. The reason for the location, along with what's being coloured in, will become clear during the session - and to an extent during this posting...



First, and in large part quoting the proposal submitted to the event organisers, here are its aims:

  1. To present work of by second-year Humanities students in placements at Roehampton/Warsaw/Bar-Ilan for a European Research Council-funded project: Our Mythical Childhood.
  2. To consider the roles and experiences of the students including organising an online event and interviewing practitioners working with autistic students.
  3. To explore the impact of the placement on students’ learning experience.
  4. To reflect on the impact of the placement on the project, including the development of materials relating to lessons for autistic children.
  5. To map the experiences on the placements on Roehampton Enabling Strategies, QAA PDP recommendations, and Case Studies in Pegg et al. 2021. 
Here's the 'official' Our Mythical Childhood image of Erika:


And here's the same for Adam:

Here, now, is the abstract: 

This presentation will share, and reflect on, the work done in spring 2021 by second-year Humanities students on the Historian at Work module in placements at Roehampton, Warsaw and Bar-Ilan Universities for the European Research Council-funded project, Our Mythical Childhood… The Reception of Classical Antiquity in Children’s and Young Adults’ Culture in Response to Regional and Global Challenges.

The presenters will outline the roles and experiences of the students as “mythical trainees” in tandem with students from the University of Bologna. As will be discussed, these roles included, for one student, organising and promoting an online event for practitioners working with autistic children in the UK, Poland, Italy and Israel. Meanwhile, the roles of another student included interviewing members of the network ACCLAIM: Autism Connecting with CLAssically-Inspired Mythology about their work using classical topics with autistic students.

The impact on the students’ learning experience will be explored, as will the impact of the students’ activities during their placements on the project, including the development of new materials relating to lessons for autistic children. As well as reflecting on their experiences, the presenters will map their experiences on the placements onto the University of Roehampton Enabling Strategies 2019-2025, especially 6, to: “embed research and knowledge exchange across the University.” Meanwhile, the role of the reflective assessment for the module will be discussed in relation to the QAA (2009) recommendation to use PDP to enable students to “plan, integrate and take responsibility for their personal, career and academic development.”

The presenters will, also, consider the potential benefits of placements by mapping their experiences in relation to Pegg et al (2021,) including in relation to aim 3 of the Redesign of the Learning Experience initiative at Birmingham City University concerning “embedding the ‘real world’ in the curriculum with work experience [and] placements;” and in relation to the PALANTINE project at Lancaster University’s study of “work placements and work-based learning” to “ensure real-world experience.”

And now for more photos! The first shows ACCLAIM as it was being launched, in Warsaw in 2019 (at one of the three universities listed in our presentation's title) by myself (from Roehampton - another of the universities in our title) and by Lisa Maurice (from Bar-Ilan, the third university mentioned)



Here's the initial ACCLAIM poster, on display during the conference where we launched the Network


And, next, here we are at the launch again, at the White Villa of the Faculty of Artes Liberales at the University of Warsaw. Note the inscription on the wall above the windows, in Polish, Latin and English. Anyone recognise the source of the quotation?!


The first set of photos in this posting were taken during the same conference where ACCLAIM was launched. Here, participants at the Warsaw event are taking part in activities designed for autistic children.

Here are two remaining sections of the application:

Which conference theme/s will be addressed?

  • preparing our students for their future professions
  • preparing for work placements and internships (virtual or face to face)  
  • participatory and reflective learning
  • redesign of current modules /programmes to enhance employability (see Pegg et al, 2021)

5 key references that relate to the chosen topic:

ACCLAIM: Autism Connecting with CLAssically-Inspired Mythology Network http://www.omc.obta.al.uw.edu.pl/acclaim

Our Mythical Childhood… The Reception of Classical Antiquity in Children’s and Young Adults’ Culture in Response to Regional and Global Challenges http://omc.obta.al.uw.edu.pl/

Pegg et al (2021) ‘Pedagogy for Employability’ http://oro.open.ac.uk/30792/1/Pedagogy_for_employability_170212_1724.pdf 

QAA (2009) Personal Development Planning – Guidance for Institutional Polcy and Practice in Higher Education http://www.recordingachievement.org/images/pdfs/pdpguide2009.pdf

Concluding now... We have just between 14.20 and 14.45 for our presentation, and I think that the 15 minutes we have - to follow a pecha kucha format - includes discussion time. So a challenge will be to cover the key ground in a "talk less, show more" manner. Now I think of it, I might structure the presentation around the pictures included above, along with some others such as, perhaps, these ones, also from the cafe in Warsaw staffed by autistic people:




I'll report back on how the session goes...

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