Aside Posted on
October 16, 2013
by Claire Draycot
Educating autistic children can seem like a challenge. Indeed, it is often hard enough to educate children without ASD, but to engage and maintain the attention of a child with autism when trying to teach them about something in which they have no interest can seem, at times, nigh on impossible. Kids with ASD may require very specialized teaching methods in order to combat sensory issues, difficulties in focusing on things which have no real interest for them, communication problems, and possibly attention deficiency. These problems may lead many to believe that the child is stupid or unskilled, and a lack of socially interactive skills on the part of the autistic child does nothing to help this illusion. The perception is that children who cannot get along with school cannot get along in the real world. As everyone who has witnessed the wonderful work of The Art of Autism know, this perception is entirely unfair. Autistic children are not unskilled – it is merely that their skills manifest in different ways to those of other children, and they are often not easily induced to demonstrate them. This can be frustrating for parents who want to ensure that their child gets the best possible education and best possible start in life. However, a little patience, understanding, and creativity when it comes to education can work wonders. The use of art as a teaching tool can have unparalleled effects in opening up an avenue of communication between student and teacher, and in engaging the interest of the pupil.
Physical and emotional benefits
Art lessons have benefits both practical and emotional. Some young autistic children may struggle with their fine motor skills, for which the simple act of guiding crayons over paper can render a huge improvement. However, as well as honing their motor skills, making drawings allows autistic children to communicate thoughts and feelings they may otherwise struggle to express. Viewing a child’s drawing opens a window into interests, preoccupations and emotions which may go unregarded in a child with ASD, who does not communicate these things in a conventional manner. This can provide the teacher with a greater understanding of the child, which is of enormous benefit when it comes to teaching them.
Painting is a fun activity for Molly
Adaptation and control
Many autistic children struggle in conventional classrooms because the methods utilized do not suit their own particular way of doing things. The idea of adapting their personal methods can be upsetting. Art gives them a degree of control over their learning experience which many greatly appreciate. A child shown a map and told the names of the countries on it may become bored or frustrated, let their attention wander, or simply refuse to participate in the lesson. A child asked to draw their own map, and make it as accurate as possible, immediately has much more control over their learning experience. They are more likely to become engaged in the task, actively seeking out the information they need on their own terms. Crucially, they are able to conduct themselves in a manner which they prefer while at the same time taking in essential information. Furthermore, the tangible end of a drawing assignment provides a sense of focus which may be lacking in other lesson formats – the ultimate end of gaining knowledge being nebulous and non-immediate.
Visual aids are often very useful for those teaching austistic children. Those who provide resources for the teaching of autistic children recommend the use of visual aids to help clarify concepts which may be confusing for someone with ASD. Autistic children are less likely than other children to meekly accept the word of their teacher when the reasoning behind an action or concept seems incomprehensible. Visual aids help to illustrate these concepts, making them seem instantly much more reasonable. This principle can be carried through into the classroom as well. TEACCH – a specialized system of teaching autistic pupils – recommend the use of a highly visually defined teaching area to help children get into a ‘learning’ mindset, and to make it perfectly clear that one cannot act in this space as one would act at home. Many autistic children appreciate clear boundaries and definitions, and there is no more effective way of defining a boundary than through clear visual markers.
People with ASD can respond in surprising ways to creative teaching methods. Music, in particular, has been found to elicit amazing responses from children with ASD. Many autistic children respond far more enthusiastically to a lesson framed musically or rhythmically than they would to a more conventional lesson. Some ASD children like the patterns and rhythms of music or chants, and these can benefit from, for example, math lessons phrased in rhyme, or chanted. Others like the opportunity music gives for them to engage with others through clearly defined parameters. Making music or singing a song with the rest of the class gives the autistic child a part to play which is predictable and easy to complete yet simultaneously creative, expressive, and inclusive. Making them feel included is one of the greatest ways a teacher can ensure that the mind of an autistic pupil is ‘in the moment’, so to speak, that their attention is on the lesson and, crucially, that they are enjoying the lesson. See the Art of Autism story on the importance of music by Jacqui Callis.
Molly drumming at Hidden Wings
Learning through personal expression
Creative methods of teaching can thus provide an unparalleled way of communicating and engaging with autistic pupils. Framing lessons which may otherwise seem dull or pointless within a creative context lends a sense of focus to a lesson, and gives the child a measure of control over their learning experience which helps to ease frustrations and make their education more enjoyable. This will allow them to develop their skills, and to demonstrate to their peers that, although they may not engage with lessons in quite the same way as others, they are in no way intellectually deficient!
- The Importance of Music and Creativity in the Autism Community
- Kimberly Gerry-Tucker’s journey – poetry, art, aspergers
- The top eleven blogs on the art of autism – the power of love
- Communicating Through Art – Family Understanding Fostered through Creative Projects for Children with Autism
- Special Education is not about funding. It’s about the people.
- Best Approaches and Therapies for Autism Treatment (helpthemshine.wordpress.com)
- Best Therapies for Autism (anjalipanwar1991.wordpress.com)
Summer is coming. At the very least a summer attitude has been around for a while now: shorts, flip flops, and warm weather. By now many families on the Spectrum have had their annual CSE meetings to plan for the summer and next year. A funny thing happened; we had our meeting for Mike at our district’s Special Ed office. For the last few previous years when Mike was attending Nassau BOCES Rosemary Kennedy School, we went there and participated via phone conference at a table where his teachers and service providers sat. Those teachers and providers were all very much on the ball; having sent us copies of new goals and objectives to review before the meeting actually took place. Smooth as silk.
This year, not so much. Maybe it was the break in routines for both us and the district CSE, who hadn’t physically seen us in for at least 3 years. Everything was going really well as the teachers and service providers from Island Trees Memorial Middle School reviewed Mike’s progress this year, his first at the school. The district’s psychology chairman who was running our meeting suddenly realized that Mike was 14 this year, and started the discussion about pre-pre-planning his transition from middle school to high school and (presumably) beyond. He spoke glowingly about how much progress Mike had made both behaviorally and academically, and that maybe (!) Mike would make that transition back into district, since the district Special Ed programs and curricula had itself grown and expanded.
Blah, blah, blah…
As my wife and I looked at each other, we knew we had the same thought process simultaneously: no effing way in hell is Mike ever, ever, ever going back to district schools. Ever. He was what we termed their ‘guinea pig’ many years before as the district essentially began their fledgling, rudderless, eternally-incompetent start to their Special Education program; subjecting him to different, often divergent methodologies of teaching and addressing autistic behavior.
Ummm, no. Hell no.
Well, this started an avalanche of unforseen and unintended discussion, so much so that it wasn’t until we got back home that we realized that we were derailed, and did not go over any of next year’s goals and objectives. The good thing was that we never signed any documents at the end of the meeting indicating that we agreed with all that was discussed during the CSE. As we learned many years ago, never sign anything at a CSE other than an attendance sheet. As embarrassing as it was for 2 parents who consider themselves relatively ‘on top of things’ to forget to review our son’s goals, it was not an irrevocable faux pas.
My wife promptly called the district CSE, informed them of the oversight, and was able to have a copy of next year’s goals mailed to us for review. After the goals came in the mail, she went over each of the goals with the parent trainer who visits almost weekly, and was able to break down the goals, or tweak them. She scheduled a telephone conference with Island Trees’ teachers and providers and went through what changes we (she) wanted implemented in the goals. She then told them to make the changes or we would unfortunately need to schedule another CSE meeting before this school year ends.
Did I mention that my wife rocks? She is ‘Autism Warrior Mom’ personified.
Summer is coming. That means day camp, swimming, ice cream and all that good stuff. I hope all your kids’ goals and objectives have been addressed to your satisfaction, so that you can enjoy summer with them.
NEW YORK — A week after their “rumble” in Washington, Jon Stewart invited Bill O’Reilly back on stage in New York, this time to debate MSNBC‘s liberal host Chris Matthews — while both inhaled helium from red and blue balloons.
“Sounds like me,” quipped a squeaky-voiced Matthews to CNN’s John King, the brief debate’s moderator, who instructed O’Reilly, “You inhale, they decide.”
This time, the cause was Stewart’s fourth Night of Too Many Stars benefit, supporting autistic children and teens with education and training programs. The event, taped Saturday night at the Beacon Theater, will air Oct. 21 on Comedy Central, with celebrities manning phone banks for call-in donations live at The Daily Show studio. Three previous efforts (the last in 2010) have raised $14 million.
Like O’Reilly and Matthews’ appearance, celebrity participants were loosely organized around unlikely pairings of “rivals” or opposites you’d never expect to share the spotlight, “who will appear together on this stage for this cause,” said Stewart, the evening’s omnipresent emcee.
Alongside event supporter Tommy Hilfiger, Ben Stiller showed up as Derek Zoolander — the preening, clueless model from his 2001 film — to hawk a phony benefit item, the 2013 “End of Syphilisation” calendar. (“It’s the last year of the Maya Rudolph calendar; the acropolis is coming,” he warned.)
Others included Stephen Colbert and a costumed “liberal” bear; Carly Rae Jepsen and actor Harvey Keitel, who alternated on her hit Call Me Maybe (she sang her verses, while he offered hilariously spoken verses); and a stick of butter (later revealed as Kevin Bacon) vying for the affection of Paula Deen with a stalk of broccoli (Liev Schreiber). “I saw her deep-fry a Sara Lee cheesecake while it was still in the box,” Bacon said.
An emotional highlight was a duet of Firework performed by Katy Perry and Jodi DiPiazza, a pre-teen autistic girl from Rochelle Park, N.J. (who also played piano), which left Stewart and audience members choked up.
And among, um, unique experiences auctioned off to the Beacon audience were Al Pacino, for an appearance in a family’s holiday-card photo; Seth Rogen, to pee alongside in the Beacon restroom as a camera crew followed (“we can share a urinal if you bid high”); and Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, to be best friends with the winning bidders for the evening. (“Remember, this is a night that’s going to last an hour!” exulted Stewart.)
Comedians Louis CK, JB Smoove and Hannibal Buress were among other participants, and Fred Armisen, Jimmy Kimmel, Julianne Moore, Jerry Seinfeld and Matthew Broderick are scheduled to man the phones for live TV wrap-arounds next weekend.
But not before O’Reillly and Matthews got off some scripted zingers: “You, Bill, give everyone’s crazy uncle something to say on Thanksgiving,” Matthews said. O’Reilly, who called Matthews the product “if Dennis the Menace and Alex Skarsgard had a child,” said, “You constantly sound like a man falling down the stairs,” and “someone who takes the pressure off his guests, by doing all the talking.”
The mother of a child on the autism spectrum wants you to read this story and ask yourself why did her daughter’s school district make the changes it did.
This is the story of five year old Devyn and her service dog Hannah. Devyn has “Angelmans Syndrome” — a combination of autism and epilepsy.
Hannah rarely leaves Devyn’s side. She can alert Devyn’s mom if Devyn is about to have a seizure and just by licking her face, Hannah can interrupt the seizure and help Devyn to start breathing again.
The handle on her harness helps Devyn walk around independently.
So Devyn needs Hannah, especially at school. But just weeks before Devyn goes into kindergarten in the Gates Chili School District there are problems. For a while, the district said the dog couldn’t come. Now they say Hannah can come to school and Devyn can get her one-on-one aid. But the district refuses to train the aid on how to handle the dog.
Devyn’s mom can’t understand it and she wants you to know about it.
“It would help me to have the community understand where we’re at right now and maybe get their support to put a little pressure on the school as to why they’re not communicating with me because there’s been a break down somewhere and I can’t really figure out why we are where we are right now,” Heather Pereira, Devyn’s mother said.
Here’s where the breakdown started
In March, Devyn had an individualized education plan, or IEP. It said Devyn would get a one-on -one aid and a service dog. (See picture above)
But in June, the same IEP made no mention of the dog or the fact that three doctors prescribed it for Devyn. (See the picture above)
So how does that happen?
Heather says she got a notice from the district in the spring asking her to sign a form to correct the IEP. If she signed it they wouldn’t have to have a meeting. She had done it before, so she signed it this time.
But, Heather says the the district told her they were only correcting “clerical errors.” There was nothing about the dog. But when she gets the revised IEP in June, all reference to the dog was gone.
The Gates-Chili School District Statement
“The District has never denied a properly documented accommodation for any student, including a service dog. Furthermore, the District has never unilaterally changed an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for any child.”