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‘Why I Sent My “Typical” Kids To A Preschool For Autistic Children’

WBUR
April 25th, 2014 by 
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In a recent article for WBUR’s Cognoscenti,  Leah Hager Cohen, critically acclaimed nonfiction writer and novelist, and the Jenks Chair of Contemporary American Letters at the College of the Holy Cross, shares her reasons and experience with sending her children to a preschool for autistic children.

Having attended an “integrated preschool” herself, Cohen writes, “To grow up among those whom society deems ‘other,’ and to begin that exposure at an early age, before having absorbed and assimilated such distinctions, before having developed the capacity to see the world in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’ — what greater openness could I wish upon my children?”

Cohen calls the years her three children attended The May, “pretty blissful” and filled with activities characteristic of any preschool: “The kids learned about shapes and letters and weather, how to hold scissors and how to share crayons. They sang silly songs, played with soap bubbles and once a year put on a show for the families.” Now teenagers, Cohen’s children recall their formative experiences at The May with little mention of anything specifically relating to autism and an openness about the unimportance of the label.

With the intensity and perceptiveness characteristic of her work, Cohen concludes that, “diagnoses can be useful tools, capable of delivering hope and relief. But they can also limit our ability to perceive all the complexities and variations within the individual who exists beyond the label.” She writes, “While we seek information, looking for ways to cure or break through, we do well to remember there’s value not only in getting answers, but also in the state of not knowing.”

Cohen’s latest novel “No Book but the World” was released on April 3, 2014 by Riverhead Books.

Read the full article on WBUR’s website

This is “Holy Cross in the New” item by Evangelia Stefanakos ’14.

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