3/13/16

Loving and Teaching Children with Autism: Part 2 #12

Anyone who cares for or is teaching children with autism needs to listen to this interview. There are so many helpful tips, stories and suggestions from this lovely Australian family.

You can listen to this episode above, listen to it on iTunes or Stitcher, or read the transcript below.

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Links from this post

Brad and Jenn's website
Sensory Tools: providers of courses and products regarding sensory issues (this is not an affiliate link)

Summary of Part 1
Hello. I’m Liz, the host of the Early Childhood Research Podcast. We’re so glad you’ve joined us today. This is episode 12, and it’s a follow on from last week’s interview about loving and educating children with autism. This interview is with Jenn and Brad Ratcliffe who have 2 boys, aged 15 and 12, who both have moderate to severe autism. They have also both worked in education.

We’ve talked about their experiences leading up to diagnosis, the many, many classes and therapies they’ve tried, and the difficulties special needs can put on the family, particularly if there’s long-term denial.

On the teaching side, we’ve talked about how we can develop relationships with non-communicative children, how to help our neuro-typical children understand and be supportive of their autistic friend, and how to communicate with parents of special needs students to give them confidence and to develop an open and trusting dialogue.
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Let’s move on to the next part of our interview!
Teaching children with autism: strategies for mainstream teachers
LIZ: If you could choose 3 strategies or priorities for a mainstream teacher to incorporate into their inclusive classroom, what would they be?
Strategy 1: Visual supports
JEN: Definitely the first thing that I think all children on the spectrum as well as others can benefit from, is visual supports.

Using visual support for the timetable is important because a lot of kids on the spectrum can have anxiety around what’s going to be happening next. So supporting the day, and the next activity that’s coming, and using timers and verbal prompting.

Giving advanced notice of any changes that are going to take place, especially in a mainstream school. Sometimes it can be, ‘we can’t go to the library today, so we have to go tomorrow.’ Well, that might be enough to put someone on the spectrum into a meltdown. So we have to be able to advise them of that and supporting that visually as well is going to help the whole day for everybody.
Strategy 2: Calming strategies
The second thing would be to have calming strategies. Some children on the spectrum actually listen better while they’re fiddling with something or they’ve got a sensory toy to hold on to. It’s interesting because you think, ‘they must not be paying attention because they’re fiddling with something.’ We teachers would tell them to put everything out of their hands.

So being aware, and allowing that to take place, knowing that it’s going to benefit that child is another good strategy. If the other children in the class say, ‘why is he allowed to hold on to the spikey ball,’ or whatever he’s got, the squeezy ball, then if the teacher can implement a strategy like The Sixth Sense II that explains how all of this is helping Little Johnny to be calm and to listen, and that other children don’t need that. Who knows, there are probably a lot of children out there who are undiagnosed and could do with some support.

It’s not going to hurt them to have some things in place anyway, like the visual supports that will probably benefit the whole classroom.

LIZ: I think a lot of teachers do that now. They’ll have a place where you can go and find a squeezy ball or something like that.


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