Are Grading Trends Hurting Socially Awkward Kids?

Children have long been graded not just for academics, but also for elements of "character" -- particularly behavior and emotional maturity. However, in the last few decades, socially eccentric children have seen their awkwardness or aloofness factored into their grades in math, language arts, and social studies. Ironically, this trend has coincided with a rise in diagnoses of autistic spectrum disorders.

For children on the autism spectrum, new social studies curricula pose a particular challenge. Once restricted to readings, worksheets, and essays on history, government, and politics, the subject increasingly requires students to reflect on their connections within their local communities. They are asked to present projects to their classmates (even in primary school), spend much of class time working in groups, and evaluate scenarios such as this one, from a worksheet for 3rd graders:

Fulfilling this assignment means reading the characters' faces, deducing the social dynamics, and assuming multiple perspectives -- tasks that amount to an informal screening test for the core social deficit of autistic spectrum disorders. Fail this assignment, and chances are you're somewhere on the spectrum.