This is a post that a long time, I was thinking about to publish. Not only is it an important issue in the field of Education, but also personal one. Some of us (teachers, mothers, friends and on) have known good and bad stories about: “Teaching children with special needs”. However, some of us (teachers) have faced difficulties in our classroom to deal with this particular issue, principally Autism.
When I was at University, I attended Psycology discipline, and I have to say that I didn’t remember anything about Autism. That time, it was not as popular as today, (I am talking about 12 years ago in Brazil ). The years passed by and I had to teach a special child whom taught me many things, and the most important of all was HOW TO TRUST.
However, he was diagnosed with PDD (Pervaise Developmental Disorder), he was kind and very smart. At First, I thought that, it would be my biggest challenge in my short “teaching career” but I have to say that I learned a lot with this boy.
To deal with autistic children, most of the time are demanding, principally because the Autism Spectrum disorder, in which is not possible to measure; some children do not like to be touch or do not want to touch, do not have eye contact, withdraw from other children and do not respond the skills. That is why, it is considered a puzzuling disorder, that affect the behavior response and also the learning development. Thus, Autistic Children must be more exposed in cognitive process than others. Otherwise, they will not learn at all.
Nonetheless, I had to learn how to prepare lesson plans with this up-and-down behavior and how it would be apply on an Autistic child . Sure, he was my “teaching experimental”. I can assert that my objective was helping him breaking free from the Autism barrier.
Here, I will describe step-by-step of the learning process of my student:
1- Get to know who is your student:
He was 8-years old, verbal and clever. That time, He was studying in bilingual institution where it was necessary a mediator, in fact an english teacher mediator. I met him in an english institution where I used to teach. Afterwards, his parents asked me to teach and help him with his english tasks. Meanwhile, I discovered that my youngest son LUCAS was autistic and my journey has just started. I learned how to respect his moments, however he needed to know about mine. So, we set up some rules.
2- Looking for Resources: Teaching Development
Okay, I had some tools in my hands, creativity ideas were pop-up from my head but I need some specialized help about teaching and dealing with a different context. After, some conversation with my son psycologist and researches about techniques to improve his cognitive habilities, I was introduced to it: some specialists called as a methodology and others approach: TEACCH (Training and Educational of Autistic and other Communication Handicapped Children), which help me a lot until today!
Here is a video explaining a little bit about TEACCH:
*If you need more information about TEACCH, There are some specialized centers in USA, UK, Spain and Brazil ( in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte) where you can attend some training courses for Teacher.
3- Design materials:
In this case, my student was verbal, he was in a regular school with an english teacher as mediator (which it is so common for children with special needs to have a mediator, who can be a teacher or psycologist to help them out during the classes or out of it). Thus, it is necessary for these children to create their own adapted material, because of the improvement of their autonomy and knowledge; therefore whether there is no adaptation the learning process will be a disaster. It is necessary work in partnership within the school curriculum, where the children will be assessed for their own effort though.
4- Have fun with them:
They are so clever, some of them will be your best friend for ever. So, DO NOT forget that we are dealing with humans and they are not machines, even though they do not express their emotion as usual; after all they are KIDS: Love to play with video games, tablets, dinosaurs, stones and on. USE ludics activities to ENGAGE THEM TO HAVE FUN: make them LAUGH and LIVE!!
Thus, as a teacher and as a mother, it is a singular world, and a special one too!! They can take you beyond the barriers of knowledge, they can make you special and as I said they will trust you always whether you lead them to an amazing journey of learning and discoveries!
Teaching children with autism: Strategies for initiating positive interactions and improving learning opportunities. Koegel, Robert L. (Ed); Koegel, Lynn Kern (Ed) Baltimore, MD, US: Paul H Brookes Publishing. of Autism and Development Disorders, January 2010, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 74-88.