I, as well as my son’s teacher, am finding the resource teachers of his school very unwilling to work with the autistic children in the school because they claim to not know how to work with them. My question is are there any workshops available in the Huntington/Charleston or surrounding areas that I could suggest to the school board that these teachers attend. All I am looking for is the inclusion the freedom of education act entitles not only my son but the other children facing this problem. Any feedback would be welcome.
What exactly are you looking for in a workshop? Since autism has become so prevalent, there are many workshops and conferences throughout North America, but with different slants. There are workshops geared towards parents, some attended by medical researchers, some for educators and others that stress one particular type of therapy. Organizations such as Autism Today and Future Horizons generally list samplings of each.
As an example, the workshops I give are attended primarily by people in the education field. I cover such things as:
- Explanation of autism spectrum disorders including etiology, incidence and neurology
- Language difficulties and auditory processing
- Sensory sensitivities
- Triad of social impairments
- Learning styles
- Teaching strategies
- The importance of using visuals and routines
- What to do if it’s not working
- Hands-on practical work
In my experience, these are the things teachers, resource teachers, teacher aides and administrators want to know. You might want to find out which specific questions your school staff has and gear your workshop search to what they’ll find most relevant.
Sometimes, just by living with a person with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), we become used to some behaviors and learn how to help the child manage. What becomes second nature for parents can seem strange and confusing or even frightening for other people, educators included. And, the way your child may act at home may differ from what his teachers see since the demands in the two environments are very different.
Is your son showing some behaviors the school does not know how to handle? I find that once people understand what may be behind the behaviors they see, they look at such displays in a different way then can come up ways to help the child cope.
Although Resource Room teachers and special educators are trained in working with exceptional children, few will have received specific training in autism. A child with autism may present very differently than a child with a typical learning disability for instance.
Cognitive behavior strategies effective with many students may be ineffective on the behaviors a child with autism shows in a classroom unless you understand the sensory issues, the language weaknesses, the theory of mind deficits, etc. that may cause the child with autism to react in an atypical manner.
As parents, it’s easy to become frustrated with other people when they don’t understand autism or they may even shy away from your child. You’ve lived with your son for eleven years and gained a wealth of experience.
When you’re dealing with teachers, try to keep in mind those baffling first few years you probably went through. Encountering a child with autism who does not react in ways you’d expect of students can be hard on a teacher’s confidence. None of the typical strategies or methods may be working. The teacher has a child who is not progressing as he should be and he may also be disrupting the learning of his classmates.
With only so much time during a day, this can be a difficult situation for an educator. And, sometimes a teacher can feel defensive, believing that a parent demands they do more for that one child than they feel they are able, given all the demands of the classroom.
Part of this fear can stem from the belief that so many things must be done differently and specially for a child with autism. When the task seems overwhelming, it’s human to retreat or give up. Those of us in the autism or any other disability field may be partly to blame for this when we look upon our particular area is being the most important or special.
Educators hear that they must do certain things for a child with autism, certain things for a child with FAS, certain things for a child with ADHD, etc. and the task can seem too much. Rather than inundating educators with strategies effective for one specific disorder it can be more helpful to point out commonalities between disorders.
For instance, it’s a safe assumption that children with ASD, FAS, ADHD and learning disabilities will find structure and routines helpful. They’ll benefit from having material presented in a visual fashion. Social stories will be effective, as will scheduled body breaks. In fact, many of the things helpful for students with autism are just good teaching practices and not difficult to incorporate into a regular classroom day.
You may be able to learn about more workshops through some of the local resources:
Division TEACH at Chapel Hill, North Carolina (http://www.teacch.com/) states that their mission is to enable individuals with autism to function as meaningfully and independently as possible. Part of their web site is devoted to structured teaching methods and geared to specific questions.
The West Virginia Autism Training Center, a part of Marshall University College offers training and support to families and educators.
Southern Carolina has an Autism Division in their Department of Disabilities and Special Needs. It’s part of their mission to help individuals with autism reach their potential. They have a Parent-School Partnership program that may interest you, as well as annual conferences for professionals and families.
My province of Saskatchewan, Canada has a document for educators and parents titled, Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders that is practical-based. Alberta, Canada has similar document that incorporates the Saskatchewan one and adds to it: . Sevier County (US) has developed a technical manual for working with autistic children in schools.
If there are specific school-related concerns, would your son’s teacher or Resource Room, or Special Education teacher like to contact me?