Monthly Archives: March 2015

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What if the child with autism could ‘fast forward’ school?

What if the child with autism could ‘fast forward’ school?

What if we gave the child with autism a magic remote control?

 

Buttons would allow them to have control of their school day. They could ‘fast forward’, ‘pause’ and change the volume at will. No one would question them.

 

Would they ‘fast forward’ that time before registration, when it is too noisy, unstructured and socially confusing?

 

Would they ‘fast forward’ registration all together? Is it fun?

 

What about Maths, Story time, Spelling, Handwriting, P.E? Would any of these subjects escape that button?

 

What about lunchtime – the noisy canteen, the disgusting smells, the noise?

 

Never mind ‘fast forward’ – would the child with autism just press the ‘skip day’ button and be back at home, safe in their comfort zone?

 

What if you had a magic remote?

 

Imagine stepping onto a crowed underground train and being able to fast forward the journey. Bliss!

 

 

Make journeys faster.

 

Inventors are always trying to make transport faster, smoother and more comfortable, but until they develop teleportation for commuters we must spend time getting from ‘a’ to ‘b’.

 

Most commuters are not looking out of the window admiring the views or engaging in social chat. Their attention is fixed on their mobile phone, their laptop or newspaper. Or maybe they are taking the time to catch up on sleep. Distraction helps the journey go faster…

 

On the underground we use a visual map to count down the stops. Knowing where we are headed – where we are ‘now’ and where we will be ‘next’ is comforting. The map helps us to prepare so that we can get off at the right stop. We can mentally prepare our walk to the door, pressing the button, getting passed obstacles. The knowing and preparing eases our anxieties.

 

That map helps us stay on the train until we reach our destination. The destination (even if it is work) is our motivator.

 

Underground maps have a similar function to the child’s schedule.

 

The child’s schedule helps them get things right, eases anxiety and helps them stay on track.

 

Underground maps also visually depict the time between stops. The length of the line between stops correlates with the distance and time between stops. This helps us gage our journey and work out how long we have left.

 

Timetable line

 

Time

 

Timers provide a visual for how much longer a favourable or unfavourable activity will last.

 

Sometimes timers can bear the brunt of frustration. They may even be broken in attempts to thwart time.

 

By adding visual time symbols to the schedule, which link with timers we give the child additional information. We show ‘goodbye’ will be ten minutes, but lunch will be half an hour.

 

Each orange sand timer represents ten minutes

A time timer and ‘Now’ and ‘Next’ schedule with time timer symbols

 

Knowing helps the child feel less anxious.

 

Knowing helps the child prepare.

 

Knowing breaks the school day journey down, making it all seem less interminable.

 

Lost in technology

 

Oh and when the child with autism tries to lose themselves in technology to help their school day pass quicker, think back to those commuters.

 

Making a ‘no tech’ rule on trains would be impossible and unfair. The way to get commuters looking out the window is to provide an exciting view. The way to get them communicating is to provide them with a good reason and motivation.

 

We cannot provide that magic remote, but we CAN provide the visual structures to make school days seem more manageable.

 

Once we relate to why the school day can be challenging, we see why having good visual supports is such a necessity.

 

Note: Symbols, schedules and timer symbols are all included in the resource CD that comes with ‘Colour Coding for Learners with Autism: A Resource Book for Creating Meaning Through Colour at Home and School’ published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2014. http://www.jkp.com/uk/colour-coding-for-learners-with-autism.html


Speak up to help unlock non verbal prisons.

 

Imagine being placed in a prison system where there were no choices at all.

 

Meals were served ‘like it or not’ fashion.

 

There was an eating window of five minutes (even if the food was still painfully hot).

 

Do you want to wear the scratchy top or the sweaty, uncomfortable one?

 

Imagine having no phone calls, no texts, no emails, no conversation, no contact…

 

Visits

 

Relatives may see you and talk to you, but you could never voice an opinion or talk about what is actually happening or how you feel.

 

Emotions

 

Imagine not being able to communicate frustrations, hopes or dreams with other ‘inmates’ or prison officers.

 

There is no way to express real feelings.

 

 

There are prisons like this, but what crimes have the inmates committed?

 

What have they done to deserve such treatment?

 

Are they the monsters, the paedophiles the scum of our society?

 

No.

 

The people placed in these incomprehensible, non communicative prisons have done NOTHING wrong.

 

Maybe they were born with a disability like Cerebral Palsy or Autism, which limits their communication. Maybe they lost the ability to speak through accident or illness.

 

These people have brilliant thoughts, creative imaginations and deep feelings, but no means to communicate.

 

They are innocent, but our society has left them in prison.

 

Technology and education is the key.

 

There have been amazing advances in the last decade. We now have Apps, with a never ending bank of symbols to scroll through, enabling those without speech to communicate choices and feelings. For those, who cannot physically operate a touch screen we have Eye Gaze technology. People can use their eyes to operate communication software, to send emails, go on social networks to interact with the whole world.

 

Special needs schools are equipped with specially trained staff and an array of switches, Apps, Eye Gaze and sound beams.

If a child can potentially communicate we will find a way.

 

But what about adults, who were already in homes, institutionalised and never accessed this technology?

Unless they have tech savvy families fighting for them, their education is unfairly and unjustly finished.

Their chance is lost.

 

But these are real people, with real thoughts and every day we wait is an extra prison day.

 

They are silently counting every hour, every minute, every second…

 

Scrap ‘missing boats’ and ‘slipping nets’. We are talking about PEOPLE.

 

Amazing, wonderful people imprisoned in the worst way, without having committed any crime.

 

I implore everyone to speak up…

 

SHOUT for people in residential care to have access to education and assistive technology…

 

SHOUT for those without a voice, who should have further education and access to life changing technological advances.

 

We are so incredibly lucky that we CAN!

 

 

To the Mum of the child with autism, who did not dress up for book day.

This morning I saw a few Harry Potter’s, a Red Riding Hood, a bear, a tiger and a teacher and head teacher dressed up as ‘Where’s Wally’. It’s Book Day and EVERYONE is getting in the spirit.

 

I also saw a few children, who were not dressed up. There was the Granny saying loudly, “Oh Mummy must have forgotten”. There’s a few guilty Mum’s who have a zillion other things to think of, who will rush home, turn the house upside down and return, red faced with a costume.

 

Other Mum’s may judge the non dressed up. Did they forget? Do they not care? Or maybe they are just thinking (like me) ‘Thank goodness I remembered.’

 

But then there is the Mum walking into school holding hands with her child, who NEVER does dress up days. The child who hates these different days… The child who struggles with a ‘normal’ school day and today fills him with anxiety and dread.

 

This Mum has tried EVERYTHING! This Mum is actually really pleased her son will wear the uniform and she really hates these days too. This Mum knows how her son is feeling. She feels it with him. This Mum and this son are actually being incredibly brave.

 

They say ‘Never judge a book by the cover’.

 

Maybe the child, who did not dress up is an original, a non conformer.

 

Maybe the child, who did not dress up is the one with the potential to make our world better.

 

To that Mum of that child, who did not dress up for book day I’d like to say…

 

I think YOU are doing the most amazing job and in the scheme of things dressing up and silly judgements don’t matter.

 

Be proud of yourself.

 

Be proud of your child.

 

Walk tall.

 

You may not have taken Harry Potter to school this morning, but you may just have dropped off the bravest and most magical child in the whole school.