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What’s Your Stage?

  • Posted on March 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Lawrence Kohlberg researched cognitive moral development across fifty or so countries in an attempt to discern the different ways people think about ethical issues. Based on this research, Kohlberg created a six-stage model of human moral development:

  1. Stage 1: Obedience and punishments are the main determinants of behavior.
  2. Stage 2: Satisfying one’s own needs regardless of the cost are the main determinants of behavior.
  3. Stage 3: Gaining social approval are the main determinants of behavior.
  4. Stage 4: Following established rules and supporting established authority are the main determinants of behavior.
  5. Stage 5: Principled thinking that transcends rules, authority figures, punishment, rewards, and social approval to seek after the welfare of your society are the main determinants of behavior.
  6. Stage 6: Principled thinking that transcends rules, authority figures, punishment, rewards, and social approval to seek after the welfare of all people are the main determinants of behavior.

I wanted to know if there was a test to assess your cognitive moral development. I found one, but I found that most of their choices were inconsistent with my reasoning, even if they reflected a portion of the action I would take. For example, one scenario involved stealing or not stealing a life-saving medicine; using creative problem-solving to create an ethical alternative means of accessing the medicine wasn’t an option. If you want to take the test, you do so at your own risk. Personally, I don’t put much stock in it.

Embracing the Chaos of Autism: A Signature Speech (in progress)

  • Posted on October 8, 2012 at 8:00 AM

As part of my author-career development process, I’m supposed to create a signature speech based on my book. Embracing the Chaos of Autism is the working title of this speech. The premise of the speech is to use stories to teach others the importance of individual-focused treatments, with empowerment and development (versus cure and normalcy) as the goals of those treatments.

Basically, as a society we’ve focused a lot on principles—principles of parenting, principles of education, principles of self-development—which suggest that a universal approach or structure works (or should work) for everyone. In raising my three children with autism, I have had to set aside most of these principles. Instead, I focus on my child, his needs, and the strategies and techniques that work for him—each of them require a different, individual focus.

My goal is not to get my child to a point where those “universal” principles can become successful. Instead, my goal is to empower my child—as he is, for who is he—to reach his unique, individual potential.

This individual focus seems so simple, and yet the difference is remarkable. There’s this belief that seems to hang around parent circles that the goal is to make a disabled child “indistinguishable” from his or her peers. Everybody should just be like everybody else, right? Yet, parents of typical children are often driven to make their child “distinguished.”

So, when does it end? Why are we so driven to make our children something they’re not, instead of helping them grow into the exceptional, wonderful, awesome people that they are?

We don’t have to accept the norms of parenting. We don’t have to strive to be normal. Autism isn’t normal, but there is a “normal” for each individual with autism. Maximizing that “normal” for the best benefit of the child makes for stronger children, stronger families, and stronger communities.

Thoughts?