Who is Iris Westhoff?
My name is Iris Westhoff. In 2009 I received my Master of Science degree in cognitive psychology from Leiden University. In 2012 I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. I recognise and acknowledge the problems autistis students are struggling with on a daily basis, because I experienced these myself. Unlike myself when I was a high school student, a lot of students nowadays are aware of their autism from a young age. This should be an advantage. However, it often seems to be more of a disadvantage. A diagnosis should give you insight into your own functioning and an increased understanding of the interaction between yourself and the social world around you. An individual with autism, whether it’s core autism, asperger’s syndrome or pdd-nos, develops himself or herself for their entire life, just like any other human being. Autism is not a static condition. If you’re unable to do something today, it doesn’t mean you will never be able to do it. Unfortunately, autism to this day is still seen as a static condition by many. It’s seen as a handicap. I believe this is a missed opportunity. Not just for mental health care professionals, not just for the schools, not just for society at large but first and foremost for the individuals living with a form of autism. People with autism think and act differently from those without autism. Different. Not less. Not dumber. Just different. The education system is geared towards the thinking and acting of average people. I cannot change the school system. What I can do, is support the student with autism to deal with the system as it is and get the most out of it.
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