'No Pressure Learning' by Jenny Lockwood continued

HorseBoyPrimeNumbers

Let me give you an example. Rowan has recently been learning about prime numbers. He took on board very quickly the concept of a prime number and we played games and did activities around identifying prime numbers. But when a friend asked him directly whether 5 was a prime number he couldn’t answer. Even though earlier that day we had discovered together that 5 was a prime number and he was excited about it and confident in that knowledge.
For this reason when we teach children with autism we always introduce a new topic or concept slowly without, at first, expecting any feedback from the child at all. Instead we simply talk about the concept in the presence of the child whilst also partaking in an activity that the child enjoys. When the child feels ready they will voluntarily begin to take a more active role in the conversation.
We also never directly test the child. Direct testing automatically puts pressure on someone. Rowan’s fear of failure is so strong that rather than risk getting the answer wrong he shuts down. Sometimes he even says ‘I’m not answering that.’
So how do we ensure that the child has taken something on board without eliciting this response?
We either wait for the child to voluntarily confirm that they know something by talking about it or do what we call stealth testing. Let’s go back to the prime number example. Instead of asking Rowan directly what a prime number is or whether a certain number is a prime number I invented a game which involved cardboard cut outs of his favorite cartoon characters so that he was motivated to take part in it. Each of the cartoon characters was assigned a different number and together we separated them into two piles, one for the prime number characters and the other for the composite number characters. I then ‘ruined’ his numbers by mixing the piles up and when he sorted them back out correctly I knew he had gotten it.
We call this technique ‘drop it, do it, confirm it’ and have found that if we follow these rules and tailor everything we are doing to the child’s interest then we can teach everything from letters and numbers to advanced topics such as learning equations and cell structure. To find out more please visit our website at www.horseboyworld.com or email jenny@horseboyworld.com.

'No Pressure Learning' by Jenny Lockwood

Caroline’s Commentary: Here is another approach to teaching children with autism without pressure from Jenny Lockwood from the New Trails School in Texas.

As I haven’t written anything for this blog for a while I thought I would start by reintroducing myself. My name is Jenny Lockwood and I am the education director of an organization called The Horse Boy Foundation. The Horse Boy Foundation was founded by Rupert Isaacson, an autism dad, whose son Rowan learned to communicate on the back of a horse. The book and movie of this story, both entitled ‘The Horse Boy’, are readily available on Netflix and Amazon. Rupert began inviting other autism families out to spend time with his horses and soon discovered that what worked for Rowan seemed to work for other kids on the spectrum as well. We now work with children all over the world and train other horse practitioners in the methods that Rupert discovered. We also train parents, teachers and schools to work more effectively with children with autism in the home or classroom by setting up an autism friendly environment (preferably outside in nature), allowing the child to move and tailoring everything to the child’s passions and interests.

One of the cornerstones of our method is to never put pressure on a child. Research shows that if a person feels under too much pressure this can cause stress and the production of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is released by the amygdala in response to threat and it causes one of three reactions in the body: flight, fight or freeze. Children on the autism spectrum have an overactive amygdala which means that their bodies are often flooded with cortisol in response to seemingly benign situations that they have identified as a threat. It therefore follows suit that children with autism are also much more likely to produce cortisol when under pressure and it is this that causes them to shut down in response to that pressure. Exactly the opposite of what we are trying to achieve.

HorseBoycortisol

Part 2 of No Pressure Learning coming…
To find out more please visit our website at www.horseboyworld.com or email jenny@horseboyworld.com.

Autism Angel, Carly Fleischmann

Caroline’s commentary:

This is an inspirational story of Carly Fleischmann, who with the dedication and perseverance of her parents and therapists, eventually over time came out of her shell.
Never give up on your child with autism. You just never know when or how they will start communicating with the world. You have to do whatever it takes to reach them.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34xoYwLNpvw

In Every Child there is a Spark

Caroline’s Commentary:

I would like to introduce, Carla O’Neill, as my administrative assistant. You may have been receiving emails and phone calls from her.

Carla, has two children aged 21 and 15, one who is on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. She runs an Autism Network System here in the Muskoka Region. Carla has been a great advocate for her son, Sean. They have lived in the Muskoka Region for 17 years.

If you need to contact her you can via email at carla@mcilroyinsurance.com

Here is an article Carla came across that she would like to share with you:

“Hi Everyone

I thought this attached article would be inspirational.  This article touched me as I myself truly believe that our children are capable of whatever they set their mind too and I believe that we should always focus on what they can accomplish and not on what they can’t.  Not all will major in physics but they all have their own personal strengths.

My thought for the day!”

Thanks.
Carla

 httpv://www.theloop.ca/news/ctvnews/article/-/a/2442441/Teen%20with%20higher%20IQ%20than%20Einstein%20once%20told%20he%20had%20no%20future

'The Autism Project' in the Toronto Star this week November 10 – 18th

Caroline’s commentary:

This week The Toronto Star publishes a series of articles called ‘The Autism Project” which you can read online at www.thestar.com

American research now shows 1 in 88 children — 1 in 54 boys — is diagnosed with autism. The rising numbers mean it is impossible for teachers to go their entire career without autistic children in the class.

Five years ago, 7,000 Ontario public schoolchildren were identified as autistic. Today, that number has more than doubled. The Toronto District School Board, Canada’s largest, estimates 1 in 88, or close to 3,000, is on the autism spectrum. The Durham District School Board puts their number at 1 in 75.

Canadian children, on average, are not diagnosed until age 4, after many have already started school. That means the majority of those kids will still not have received therapy.

Yet there is no mandatory teacher training in autism, or special education for regular classroom teachers. Teachers can take an elective course in university, or take extra courses once they start their careers, but they pay for those and take them on their own time.

Isabel Killoran, a professor at York University’s Faculty of Education and former special education teacher, says a teacher’s greatest challenge is that “no two children with autism are the same.”

She teaches a 36-hour course in special education, helping teachers learn common strategies that can help in class, depending on the child’s needs.

Children with autism think and learn differently. They need organization and structure, lessons in social skills and how to manage stress; they don’t tolerate a lot of noise and distractions.

Killoran’s big message though: behaviour is communication.

“It’s our job to be detective and figure out what’s triggering the behaviour. A lot of time it is something that’s environmental, something happening in the classroom.”

All school boards have an autism resource team — special education teachers, psychologists, speech language pathologists — to provide support to schools, but even school officials recognize it isn’t enough.

The Durham board launched its own autism training centre for teachers. It instructs them in how to set up a classroom to minimize distraction, how to use visual schedules so children with autism know what to expect, and how to anticipate an autistic child’s unruly behaviour. The program already has a waiting list.

Says Doug Crichton, the board’s superintendent of special education: “We’re working on the premise that in almost every classroom, certainly in every school, we’re going to have children with autism.” Continue reading “'The Autism Project' in the Toronto Star this week November 10 – 18th”

Play is an Integral part of Teaching Children with Autism

Caroline’s Commentary:

Jenny Lockwood, who teaches Rowan at the New Trails Centre School in Texas, shares with us her experience using Play dough to make learning about ancient History fun.  Exceptional children love modelling with clay and integrating the element of play into every lesson is both more fun for you and easier for them to learn. I prefer to use modelling clay as it is a natural product of the Earth rather than man made Play dough, however that being said if you have Play dough more readily available, use it. 

‘From Play dough plays to Puzzles’ by Jenny Lockwood

I have been teaching Rowan Isaacson (aka ‘The Horse Boy’) for over three years now and during that time we have together discovered a number of different techniques that help him to receive and retain new information. Key to his learning is movement – if he is forced to sit still at a desk all he will learn is how to sit at a desk. However if his body is allowed to move his mind is free to take in information. Just as important, however, is incorporating his interests into what we are learning about, if he is motivated intrinsically by a topic he is much more likely to not only remember it but want to learn more about it.

I don’t think there are many of us who didn’t play with play dough when we were kids. The combination of color and texture and the limitless possibilities on offer makes the salty dough irresistible to children of all ages. But I wonder how many of us realized the potential for learning that lies within this simple childhood play thing.

Play dough has also been an integral part of Rowan’s learning for some time now, helping him understand everything from fractions to division to decimals. He loves the color and feel of the dough and it often much more motivated to learn when we incorporate it into our lessons. However, this summer he took his love of playdough to the next level when he invented the playdough play.

Rowan’s passion this summer has been learning about history and his particular focus has been the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Every day for a week we spent some time each morning fashioning Greeks, Romans or Visigoths out of play dough and then using them to reenact moments from history that we have been learning about. Never was a playdough moment so poignant as when a purple Julius Cesar was killed by a blue Brutus.

Keeping with an artistic theme Rowan, who loves to puzzle, decided we should also make our own ‘Horrible History’ puzzles again depicting the Greeks and Romans. So far we have created a Roman Communal toilet puzzle and a puzzle depicting when the Visigoths sacked Rome.

It is important when working with children with autism to keep things as visual and interesting as possible and using art projects to supplement your learning is one way to do this.

For more information regarding Rowan, The Horse Boy and the techniques we use to teach him please visit our website at www.horseboyworld.com or email jenny@horseboyworld.com.