From Dr. Tom’s perspective
In my many interactions with parents, teachers and providers of all types, I am most often asked two questions: “What is it about your school that works so well?” and “How did your school come to be called Humanex?” The truth is that, in a very significant way, the answer to both questions is really the same. The school’s name refers to our belief in the importance of recognizing the Human Experience in education (thus Human-Ex); and that philosophy also informs our entire curriculum, which is the reason I believe we are so effective.
The Human Experience is the foundation of our program and the most critical part of facilitating growth and development in the students we serve. We begin with the understanding that one cannot discover who one is or what one can do in the world, if every challenge faced is approached from a defensive position. Focusing on “not doing things wrong” rather than actual learning does not help the autistic student. Unfortunately though, after years of feeling different, being teased, and continuously corrected and coached on how to do things better, many of them have adopted this defensive approach to the world. And while it may feel better to simply avoid any chance of rejection that does not foster the kind of trial-and-error experimentation and exploration necessary if real growth is to occur.
For this reason, we believe our job as teachers and professionals is to step away from a focus on deficit remediation, and first recognize and celebrate the individual student and their uniqueness. The Human Experience is what makes us special – both the students and the school – and in the case of a population burdened with so many labels, it transforms a set of “presenting characteristics” back into a person with their own dreams, desires, and experiences.
Humanex is about appreciating those differences and avoiding the trap of using others’ performance as benchmarks for success. We challenge ourselves and the developing adolescents to look past their clinical diagnosis and take in the whole picture of who they are, as well as the vast possibilities of what they can be. We want to engage them in a way that is relevant to their lives and encourages them to take pride in their personal identity.
It’s all right there in the name.
Our working philosophy:
• Teaching and supporting adolescents requires a thoughtful approach – one based on their specific needs, strengths, readiness, and dreams.
• An approach based exclusively on fixing or remediating deficits often ignores the needs of the individual.
• An effective plan for next steps cannot be developed in crisis or from a perspective based on the needs of a broad diagnostic category.
• Ask those questions is needed to gain a greater understanding for the Human Experience. Basing next steps on this understanding.