I am trying to put together a form of workbook that teachers are able to use within mainstream classrooms to help hetter understand children that are on the spectrum.
I find that too often children labelled as autistic are viewed only by their "disorder" and people forget this is a unique individual.
I understand there is a wide spectrum of needs, but I think a focus on positive interactions will help break down the barriers labels create.
Thanks for your time
I was extremely quiet at school, I specifically remember being described as "reticent" in my school report. I was comfortable with speaking to very specific teachers (I struggled more with other children my age) and would speak to freely if we were discussing something around my interest. I wasn't officially diagnosed with ASD until my early twenties, but the school had noticed I was struggling but I think they could not work out what was going on. I think because I was intelligent in some area, but less able in others I just baffled them. I wish I could tell those teachers how much I appreciated somebody taking an interest in me and being able to talk about something I actually knew about (at the time it was football).
I was sometimes embarrassed in front of the class because I was too slow in completing a task, or picked on during lessons because my hand wasn't up to answer a question and I hadn't spoken for the whole lesson. I wish they had known how much anxiety that caused and how much it overwhelmed me and that I would lock myself in the toilet afterwards and cry. I think removing expectations and pressure from the classroom would be helpful. Most of the time I tried to listen, but I just wasn't able to take part in the same way as the others. A belief from teachers that the pupil is likely trying their very best given the environment, but might need support to stay on task.
I also once went through an entire lesson without doing any work or writing in my exercise book. I had been listening to the song "Spaceman" by The Killers on my way to school that day and this was on repeat in my head. I was totally distracted by it and had literally forgotten to do my lesson or even that I was in school. I had drawn a Spaceman and Planet Earth in my book.To the teacher it looked as though I had been deliberately not trying, and that my attitude was poor. She questioned me on it after the lesson but I wasn't completely sure what had happened either. It was during the time they were beginning to realise how much I was struggling so I don't think she punished me as much as she might have, which was good. And because I was usually very honest I think she knew that something had just gone wrong but I wasn't sure what.
At the moment I am working with a mental health support worker who has given me a list of feelings so I can more accurately describe how I'm feeling instead of saying a word that I think might be right. I feel as though that would have been really helpful at school as well, especially when speaking is too difficult.
During my whole time at school, I never ever deliberately misbehaved or tried to do anything wrong. I always wanted to do the correct things but I didn't always know what the correct thing was. Sometimes school was too loud, or confusing or there was group work, or expectations to speak. Break times were also tricky and just highlighted to me that I didn't have any friends and reinforced what other pupils had said about me being weird and a loner.
I'm not sure if these are the sort of things you were hoping for but I hope it gives you a bit of an insight :)
I think it is definitely worth something to try and help with emotion recognition. But also that the educators that may be less experienced with ASC should be aware that some will find it more difficult than others and shouldn't become another demand.
Yes expressing what they need is a huge one. I have known they intelligent ASC children who struggled to even say they needed the toilet. I personally find asking for help incredibly difficult even at 29.
Again I think it is amazing what you are trying to do. I would be very interested in seeing the end result.
Thank you for sharing. It's interesting you were so quiet during school. The children I've worked with tend to be loud (usually verbal stims) as they find the environment difficult.
I have found that teachers still don't always take the time to encourage social interaction. They talk about it, about how the child appears to have no friends, but they don't often do anything to support that child in building social skills and finding friends.
Interests are a massive thing. They are usually logical and make sense. Sometimes they can be extended a bit beyond the interest, ie: the child I currently work with loves dinosaurs, I managed to extend it a little to also include things like countries and weather, as we were able to find out where dinosaurs had been found and what weather they lived in.
For the list of feelings, would a description of the feeling help (like the physiological signs of that emotion).
Also do you think cartoons are able to be generalised to your life or does it need to be more realistic
It's such a contrast in teaching styles. I'm training to be a full teacher next year, after years of studying psychology and working as an educational assistant.
I'm so over hearing the negative from people all the time, even other aides.
The amount of times I've said to an aide not to talk like that in front of the child is astounding. All it does is reinforce what the child already feels about themselves but for some reason the aide or the teacher just doesn't see that. Like they think "oh he struggles with work, he must be stupid" but that isn't the case. All children have some ability, it's finding it and relating it to other subjects that helps a lot. For wee man it is dinosaurs, so to engage him in mathematics we went outside and measured dinosaurs on chalk then drew them (also good art lesson there) then o encouraged him to give spelling their name a go (good phonics practice and he became more interested in spelling after that so he could connect it to his dinosaur interest).
One that really annoyed me was a teacher laughing when a child suggested she might like to be a doctor one day. Totally squashed her dream before she even had a chance to work towards it. She may never have achieved that Dream or her interest may have changed as she was only 8 at the time, but by laughing at her, the teacher was telling her it wasn't safe to share her dreams and she wasn't capable so why bother trying.
It is so saddening that people can't see how their comments affect children. And that just putting in that little more effort to personalise education can make so much difference.
My stims generlly come out much more physically than verbally, for example I would sprint between the different buildings at school and loved the pressure it put in my muscles when compared to walking. I experience an urge to move for almost the whole day, including when I try to sleep and have done for as long as I can remember. The only time I don't is when I am focused on doing something I like. It's a bit like when I am concentrating hard on something interesting my brain is using up the energy I would otherwise use to jump/run/flap. I have been working with support workers who have made the effort to understand me and build a strong relationship which has led to more verbal stimming recently (mostly clicking) so I don't know whether trust might be a really important thing- it's the first time I've ever felt completely comfortable around someone so I feel like it might be significant. At school I felt frozen because I was constantly overwhelmed and would spend a lot of time in the toilet crying. Girls and boys are very different in how they present with autism and I was told by my assessor that it is common for girls to mask and then breakdown in private.
It is correct that teachers don't always take the time to help with social interactions. I was given a 'buddy' and had chats with the learning support lady (not sure of their official job title) but could never really act on what I'd been told. I have had workshops with an autism charity to help recognise different rules of conversation- the script I have learnt is "do you like [interest 1]?..." "do you like [interest 2]?" if the answers to these are both "no" then I can ask the other person what their interest is. I find scripts/role play helpful to be able to practice interactions that I know are going to happen (like appointments) and think I would have found this helpful at school.
Yes interests are logical and tend to have patterns/rules to them. My main interests are the universe and cars. For me learning how the universe or a car works is much easier to understand than how a person works. It sounds like you are doing a good job with extending the interests of the child your working with, and I think it's probably good to try this becasue I think I became a bit too engrossed with mine when I was at school and withdrew too much which possibly isolated me more.
My feelings list includes: "feelings"- e.g. frustration, sadness, anger, "thoughts"- e.g. I can't cope, I am losing control (I get confused with how feelings and thoughts are different), "physical sensation"- e.g. low energy, shaking, fidgety and "urges/action" e.g. can't sit still, seeking/checking, withdraw. I'm not sure whether all of these headings would be needed for school children but I find it easier to use when I am trying to explain what's bothering/exciting me.
I think a cartoon would need to reflect my interests a bit or be specific to me for me to fully understand and be engaged. I think if it was posible to include different interests for different children,especially common interests like dinosaurs/transport then they could be useful. But I did used to become very frustrated and sometimes frightened by cartoons as I understood them too literally so maybe be aware of that or don't make the message too complicated. Otherwise I think photographs would be good.
I hope that is helpful.
Thank you, that is helpful. I have mentioned to people that wee man only responds to logical questions and ones that don't make sense cause anxiety because he knows that you know the answer so he either forms a couple of simple dismissive responses or panics. For instance, when he is asked "what did you do at school today" there is too much information there, ie what does mum want to know about. So he says "cool stuff" and if she probes more he says "super cool stuff" but if you say to him "tell me something special about the writing you did today" he can recall the area that interested him about that subject.
I had put together a couple of things to help his transition into the next classroom, luckily I'm working with him again next year, but it's sad that there are a lot more children going through what he has gone through and not everyone is really putting in as much effort as they could to learn about them.
It's like they think they are so "abnormal"they can't understand. It's not true at all, just because they don't always show it doesn't mean they don't internalise it. The teachers wonder how I get so much success from the children in my care. It isn't that hard really. It's believing in them and changing how I work to reflect their needs.
You should consider doing training in schools. You explain how you work really well. And so many professionals would benefit from hearing it.
Thank you. I would like to be able to do something like that. I'm training in teaching as assistants are often looked down on as we don't hold teaching degrees. Doesn't seem to matter that I achieved post graduate in psychology and have three degrees to my name already.
I'm based in New Zealand but I think it's a global issue and needs perspective from adults that have had experience within classrooms.
Kids can't always tell what they need and it's the duty of the school to try and connect and recognise that need. Before it puts the child off learning.