#5: “Knowledge Is the Key to Success” – Identifying & Digging Into My Issue/Story

Knowledge is power; knowledge is the key to success. Now I’m not saying that if you’re “smart” you are going to be successful; I don’t mean that if you get all A’s in school, you are going to have a happy life. I mean knowledge gives us the power to make a change.

At Middlebury College, there is a sexual assault bystander intervention program called Green Dot. Recently, Green Dot’s Founder, Dorthy Edwards, came and gave a talk at the college. She said she has a poster with Martin Luther King on it, and behind him are the 250,000 people that marched on Washington. All of those people made a choice to be there, she said, all of those people were the reason that this became such a historic event. Without those 250,000 people no one would have been there to hear what some believe was one of the greatest speeches of all time. Sure, Martin Luther King was a leader, and he was an amazing leader, but he would not have accomplished anything without the help of those 250,000 people.

No one person can make a change. One person can be a leader, but it takes many people to actually make a change. So what every leader needs to learn is: What unites people? What can bring them together to make a change? Knowledge. If no one knows about a problem, how will they be able to help? If no one really knows how the problem effects people, why will they want to help? Knowledge about the problem and the solution will help people come together to make a change.


“Special Needs” is such a weird phrase. We think of the word “special” as something good until it’s put into this context. Why? People with autism are not stupid, they are not dumb, and they are not defined by a “disorder”. As I said in my previous blog post, there is a mom with a son who has autism that perfectly described autistic people as “hair-dryer brains in a toaster-brained world“. Toasters and hair-dryers are both very helpful, but for different reasons. Society values the abilities of toaster-brained people more than the abilities of hair-dryer-brained people. So despite the fact that hair-dryer-brains are better at doing some things than toaster-brains, those talents are not as valuable in our society.

Because of this, people with autism tend to need different things in schools than kids without autism. A lot of autistic people go to public schools, but some go to “special needs schools”. So the question is: What’s better? Sure, all people with autism have very different needs because a) autism is a spectrum and b) they are all individual people. So there’s not a clear-cut answer. I suppose my problem really is: How can everyone get the best possible educational opportunity? There are obviously some advantages to a “special needs school” because they are designed specifically for hair-dryer brains. How these schools are different, I’m not sure. My hope is to investigate and even visit some of these schools to find out.

Even though these schools are specifically designed for people with autism, public schools have their advantages as well. In the blog, MOM-NOS, a mother of a boy on the autism spectrum said “that [his friends] are really, really important to Bud. He doesn’t always show friendship the way other people do, but…[they] are important to him.. He tells me all about his buddies. And he loves having buddies” (MOM-NOS). Public schools offer this community that private schools don’t, and while that atmosphere may not work for some, it’s really helpful for others. Public schools also have ways to help autistic people navigate through school, but not in the same way that the other schools do. My hope is that I can figure out what makes these schools “special”, what makes them different and helps some people? How can we use that information to help public schools be more suited for all types of brains? For some, private schools are not an option because of money or location, so no one should have to “settle” for public school. Because after all, everyone should get the best possible educational opportunity.

Note: I put quotations around the words “special needs” and “special needs schools” because as I said before that sounds almost wrong to me. I have not yet decided the language I am going to use, but until then I will continue to do this.


Feature Image Credit: Richard-G


Edwards, Dorthy. “Power of the Bystander.” Power of the Bystander. Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont. 28 Sept. 2016. Speech.

MOM-NOS. “A Hair-dryer Kid in a Toaster-brained World.” Web log post.Momnos.blogspot. Blogger, 13 Mar. 2010. Web. 9 Oct. 2016.

Emily Pecsok

One Response to “#5: “Knowledge Is the Key to Success” – Identifying & Digging Into My Issue/Story

  • Emily,

    I hope that the ride to Mt. Philo was bearable given the messiness of my car!

    Along with knowledge, which is great to recognize, how do you think motivation to fulfill a human need moves people to “join a cause?” I think about this a great deal and it’s something that might be worth considering as you progress with your work.

    You may have already heard of Temple Grandin, but she is a very interesting person to consider in your work. I believe there are some classes at MUHS that read her memoir, but I am not sure if all classes use this book. She is a very neat woman, I heard her speak a few years ago at UVM, whose work is profound to the beef farming industry.



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