'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.

Would You Like a Loving Community Space in Muskoka for Your Exceptional Child?

We are currently conducting a survey. Would You Like a Loving Community Space in Muskoka for Your Exceptional Child?

Would you want a place available in Muskoka, Ontario, to bring your exceptional child on the autism spectrum where they feel accepted and inspired to learn?

The Purpose of this Survey is to learn:

1.  If you would be interested in bringing your exceptional child or student to this community space.

2.  Where exactly in Muskoka you would like this community space to be built.

We value your feedback, and would appreciate if you took a few moments to respond to 10 questions AND write down any specific concerns or questions.

Here is the link to the survey on Surveymonkey.com

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PZVV2BV

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.

 

 

 

Making Learning Fun for Teaching Children with Autism is Key

Caroline’s Commentary:

Here is some great practical advice from a father of a girl with Autism, Henry Bee.

1.  Set up a safe learning space or ‘Therapy Room’

2.  Enter their world

3.  One on one learning sessions

4.  Interactive Computer based aids

5.  Do things children love doing with them

How do you make learning fun for your child or student?  Please share or comment below.

 

The Five Best Teaching Aids for Children With Autism and Special Needs by Henry Bee

We have had over ten years experience with tutoring and teaching our daughter with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Below is some of the Teaching Aids we used that we think were the most successful in her development and learning. These methods can be used with any child with or without an Autism Spectrum Disorder, Pervasive Development Disorder or Special Needs.

Teaching Aid 1 – Setting up a Therapy Room
In the beginning what got us going was the SON RISE program. Liz went to America to the Option Institute and did a two week course on how to cope with a child with Autism, methods for working with and tutoring a child with Autism and how to set up a therapy room for a tutoring a child with Autism and or Special Needs.

The course is not just for Parents of children with Autism, but also for children with Learning Difficulties, Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD) and children with Special Needs in general. The course also focusses a great deal on how to deal on an emotional level with the fact that your child has an intellectual disability, and there is ongoing support if you so wish.

So on Liz’s arrival back home we set up a therapy room. We used a spare bedroom and painted it in bright colours. We set it up with shelves and storage drawers, play equipment, a computer and printer, a suitable child’s height table and chairs for table top work and a sturdy floor covering. The basic idea was to have a room the child can identify with as a learning and fun area only, somewhere that they will in time know that when they are in there it is time to learn. Continue reading “Making Learning Fun for Teaching Children with Autism is Key”

'Entering Their Imaginative World' by Dan Edmunds

Caroline’s Commentary:

Here is an interesting article by Dan Edmunds for you which may help you connect with the autistic student.  The key is for you to enter their world through your creative imagination.  Please share your experience below.

‘Entering Their Imaginative World’ by Dan Edmunds

In dealing with children with autism spectrum disorders, its all about relationship. These children are within a realm where they feel and respond much differently than others. There has been much focus on trying to eliminate certain behaviors or to evoke particular responses in children which actually become rote and repetitive for them without context. One of the goals in aiding these children should be in helping them find meaning. In order to do this we must be willing to not look at the child as broken, unable to respond, or even unable to communicate. These children DO communicate, however they are not always able to manipulate their senses to communicate in the typical ways of other children. As a result, they can become easily frustrated and trapped. The therapist must enter their imaginative world and learn to communicate in their language. Continue reading “'Entering Their Imaginative World' by Dan Edmunds”

'Parents of Children With Autism Feel Guilty' By Jene Aviram

Caroline’s Commentary:

Do you at times feel guilty about not correcting your autistic child’s behavior or mannerisms?  No worries. Here is a great article by a mother of a boy with Aspergers. Jean Aviram co-founded Natural Learning Concepts as a result of helping her son Dean.

‘Parents of Children With Autism Feel Guilty’ By Jene Aviram

If your child is on the autism spectrum, the chances are you suffer from guilt. Paradoxically, parents of autism spectrum kids are one of the most proactive groups that exist. While they commonly feel they’re not doing enough, these parents should be honored and commended. They’re able to cope with more in a day, a month and a year than most can conceive of coping with in a lifetime. Their resilience, creativity and persistence help their children progress and reach potential that nobody thought possible.

The next time the guilt factor sets in, keep it in perspective and remember the following points.

YOU’RE NOT ALONE

You are a great parent. You are your child’s best advocate. You have a lot on your plate. Your days are often filled with a great deal of mental anguish and emotional stress. You help your child through small activities that most parents don’t even think about. You fight for services and the best class placement. It can be tiring. It can be exhausting. As you look around, you often feel that other parents are doing a better job.

Realize they think the same of you. The guilt factor impedes their life too. Parents of autism spectrum kids have a common bond. They understand, they empathize and they spur each other on. If you declare “My 6 year old dressed independently today” they rejoice with you, because they too appreciate every milestone, large or small.

ORGANIZATIONS

Parents of children with autism have been the catalyst of some of the largest and most successful establishments for helping those on the spectrum. This is on a worldwide basis. A large number of autism schools have been driven by parents. Special education distributors and manufacturers often have parents at the helm. Researchers and educators are often parents. Non profit establishments have teams of dedicated parents who are committed to helping those on the spectrum.

You might not be part of one of these establishments but you have made a difference. It’s the combined unity of parents and a strong voice when advocating for your child that calls these organizations into being.

RELATIONSHIPS

When your child is born you are instantly a parent. The role of a parent is to love, educate and support your child. You provide your child with values, teach right from wrong, build their self esteem and guide them to become happy, independent adults.

When you have a child with autism, you become a teacher. The role of a teacher is to educate a child. Whether it’s a small task or a large task, teachers use every opportunity to educate a child. As a parent of a child on the spectrum it’s difficult to maintain a balance. While you want your child to learn as much as possible, you also simply want to be a parent.

The next time the guilt factor sets in because you’re not teaching your child at every moment, release it immediately. Your child loves it when you’re just being a Mom or just being a Dad. While it’s perfectly fine to teach some of the time, a healthy balance leads to a healthy relationship between you and your child. Enjoy those moments with your child. Even if they aren’t typical interactions, they’re certainly fun! Continue reading “'Parents of Children With Autism Feel Guilty' By Jene Aviram”

'Rowan's First Physics Lesson' by Jenny Lockwood/Teaching Children with Autism

Caroline’s Commentary:

Here is a story from Jenny Lockwood of The New Trails Center in Texas that we thought you might enjoy.  This is another example of making learning fun using the game of chase in the outdoors to learn about mass, volume, force and velocity.  Subsequently Rowan made up his own story incorporating these new words which showed he had understood their meaning and the basic concepts of Physics.

‘Rowan’s First Physics Lesson’ by Jenny Lockwood

Rowan has now reached the fourth grade and according to the national curriculum is ready to learn about measurement. He is already pretty confident with the idea of length, distance and speed – after all it is very important to know exactly how many miles it is to each of his favorite zoos and approximately how long it will take us to get there. However recently we decided that he was ready for us to introduce the concepts of mass, volume, force and velocity – in other words his first physics lesson.

Now, like me, many of you will recoil in horror at the word physics. How many of us sat there in class week after week bored and confused whilst our teachers droned on at us about completely abstract concepts that we considered at the time to be of no importance to our lives whatsoever? We therefore decided it was essential to begin teaching Rowan about physics in a fun and lighthearted way in order to give him the best possible chance to learn.

Rowan is an incredibly intelligent boy who will learn everything there is to know about a subject as long as he is interested in it and motivated to learn about it. The only challenge when teaching him is catching and holding his interest long enough for him to soak up the information you are trying to impart. There are a number of tried and true techniques we use to do this, the first of which is to introduce any new concept to him in a no pressure environment without, at first, expecting anything back. Of equal importance is to spend as much time as possible teaching him outdoors in a natural environment whilst he is moving and to make whatever topic we are covering as fun as possible.

We therefore spent a number of days chasing Rowan through the woods in an ‘evil godzilla style’ whilst simply talking to him about the concepts of mass, volume, force and velocity. It wasn’t long before Rowan had started incorporating these words into his vocabulary and using the concepts in a story that he made up which I have written out for you to read below. Continue reading “'Rowan's First Physics Lesson' by Jenny Lockwood/Teaching Children with Autism”

'The Power of Video Games' by Jenny Lockwood

Caroline’s Commentary:

Video games are popular with children and you can use this interest to help make learning more fun.  In this article, ‘The Power of Video Games’, Jenny Lockwood describes how Rowan first got interested in video games and as a result these games enhanced both his learning experience and his social interactions with other children as well as with his teacher, Jenny.

‘The Power of Video Games’ by Jenny Lockwood (about The Horse Boy Method)

A little over a year ago Rowan and I visited Cabela’s for the first time, (an outdoor shop that has an impressive display of taxidermy)  and it was here that he discovered and fell in love with their ‘Big Buck Hunting Game’. Over the weeks and months since, we have gradually noticed his hand eye coordination improve as he learnt to navigate a relatively complex game that involves aiming, firing and reloading a plastic gun in quick succession. He is now at the stage where he very rarely misses a shot and is regularly awarded the prestigious honor of ‘hunter hero’.

However it wasn’t until eight weeks ago that Rowan discovered the world of video games outside of Cabela’s. Whilst his friend Tashka was visiting from Australia, he met and fell in love with Mario, Yoshi and their friends when she was kind enough to let him play Super Mario Brothers on her Nintendo DS. He was soon hooked and became even more so when a few weeks later he discovered the Nintendo Wii and Mario Kart.

In the two months since we have noticed many changes in Rowan, both in terms of his cognitive and social skills. Since September Rowan has been attending a nearby school one day a week and soon after getting his own Nintendo DS we asked whether it would be possible for him to bring it with him to the school. It wasn’t long before he was discussing the best way to defeat the various enemies that these games involve with the other kids and generally interacting with them in a way we had not seen prior to this.

It was at this point that we asked ourselves whether we could use his love of these games in order to help him learn. As is often the case with Rowan he himself showed us how to do this by inventing a new game which involved him as Mario and me as Yoshi adventuring together in order to collect ‘power stars’ which we could then take to the ‘Luma Shop’ and use to buy any item that we desired as long as we had enough stars.

It was then we realized that not only do these games encourage turn taking, perspective taking and an understanding of rules and their consequences but they also require a relatively complex understanding of math. For example collecting the appropriate number of power stars can incorporate addition and subtraction and using them to buy various items in a shop is a good way to model money. In fact if you use your imagination it is possible to introduce any number of topics (speed, distance, space, gravity to name but a few) using these games. We therefore encourage all parents of children on the spectrum, and in fact all parents in general, to not resist these games but instead use their child’s interest in them to help them learn in fun and intrinsically motivating ways.