Sunday, July 22, 2012

Autistic Children and Learning

Today I attended an awesome course, the 2nd part of an amazing look into the world of autistic children and their families. It has been an immense privilege to hear from the parents and a wonderful special needs educator - I have learnt a lot (probably only a little really) about the pre-school life and times of an autistic child and the struggle that each family has endured to understand their child.

It was fascinating to hear some of the dads, particularly, talking so lovingly of their children but also hearing how puzzled they are by the responses and frustrations of an autistic mind. The mums were insightful when they recounted some of their earliest memories of their children and a sense that they did not seem quite the same as their friends' babies/toddlers.

It is an amazing glimpse into what our school life must look like to a child who sees all things literally. I remember well asking a 5 year old autistic student of mine to "Just hold on...give me a minute..." and then wondering what on earth he was doing holding on to my top and counting to 60!!!

There is a sense of awe and wonder in our special needs children that knows no boundaries or perameters. It should never cease to amaze us when they respond in wonderful and amusing ways to the silly things we say. One autistic student used to furrow his brow at me and looked horrified when I told him to go and clean up. "But nothing is dirty and that's the job that mums and dads do not kids!" he would always say. Unless I specifically sent him to pick up and put the rubbish in the bin, he would stand tapping his foot, exasperated.

I was concerned though today, when one of the mums was horrified that we, as mainstream teachers, were not 'taught' at Training College to understand or plan for any special needs children in our rooms. We (the teachers there) did a fair amount of explaining that this is the way things have always been and how fortunate we are to have suppportive parents to work with and wonderful schools who send us on courses as needed. It was a bitter pill for a parent to swallow - to know that we, as educators, in the large, have a very limited understanding of all of the syndromes, conditions, disorders and developmental impairments that could possibly be part of their child's chemical makeup.

But the ray of hope came from the course facilitator, who was one of the most realistic, down-to-earth and downright wonderful people I have ever met. She showed us an amazing 3 minute video which challenged us to find the 'true colours' of ALL of our children, especially our autistic children. They may be hard-wired to view the world through a black and white lens, but our challenge is to see their true colours, shining through...

No comments:

Post a Comment