The Embodied Nature of Autistic Learning: Implications for Physical Education
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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and learning difficulties are difficult to separate in clinic manifestations and diagnoses. By taking learning as being-in-the-world, this article considers the embodied nature of autistic learning and urges its importance for understanding the phenomenological core of ASD. We begin by arguing that three mainstream contemporary ASD theories are inherently limited in offering an adequate account of autistic learning due to the disembodied ontology inscribed within them. Then, we provide an understanding of learning guided by the subjective dynamics of experience. Instead of having a disembodied and individualistic point of view, we suggest that autistic learning has an embodied nature. The “inappropriate” or “abnormal” affections and behaviors in the autistic experience of learning may actually be inherently meaningful for individuals with ASD. They strive to make sense of some basic disturbances and re-establish some form of coherence with the world, though this may only be possible in the form of delusions or autistic withdrawals. Finally, we explore the relationship between autistic learning and physical education and suggest in particular how spontaneous imitation can boost the development of children with ASD. We conclude that the application of implicit learning strategies in playful settings and the reduction of explicit strategies based upon intellectual reasoning rather than bodily reciprocity should be encouraged in the process of autistic learning.
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