Take this for example – what would you do if you saw a sign at a bakery that says, “free cookies”? Would you take only one cookie, or would you take more than one? Catch that assumption you have in your head, and let’s pause and think. How did you know what is acceptable? Were you ever told specifically what acceptable and unacceptable social behaviour is? If you caught yourself thinking, “Everybody knows…,” “common sense tells us…,” then there you go – that’s the hidden curriculum.
For an individual with autism, the hidden curriculum can have a lifetime impact as it changes with age and circumstances, such as the social group that we are with. Hence, it is important that the hidden curriculum is the core of what we teach a person with autism, as it allows the individual to fit in more comfortably in social groups.
At WeCAN EIP, many of the hidden rules in the classrooms are explicitly taught to our students. These may span across social skills, communication skills, as well as daily living skills. These are skills which are often expected to be learnt implicitly. At our term 1 Parents’ Communication Night, we took the opportunity to have a group learning activity to share the importance of teaching the hidden curriculum with our parents.
At the end of the session, our parents took home these messages about hidden curriculum:
- Know what hidden curriculum is – unspoken expectations
- Know how people with autism learn these unspoken expectations differently
- Know that social expectations have to be explicitly taught and practiced