'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

What's Happening Update 25 February 2013

What’s Happening ~ Update re Survey ‘Would You Like a Loving Community Space in Muskoka for Your Exceptional Child?’ 

So far 14 parents and teachers have responded  to the 10 questions.

Q1.  89% responded Yes they are interested in having a place like this in Muskoka

Q2.  14% are willing to travel up to one hour to get to this community space; 29% are willing to travel up to 45 minutes and 57% are willing to travel no more than 30 minutes

Q3 & Q4.  75% would prefer it to be located West of the Town of Huntsville; 12.5% East of Huntsville;  12.5% would prefer north of Rosseau village and

37 % had a variety of other suggestions based on proximity to their community.

Q5.  50% preferred it to be located on a small lake; 16.6% with streams and a pond; 16.6% wanted no waterfront of any kind.  One commented “Water is nice, land is also nice, as long as there’s a healthy nature element.”

Q6.  What would parents like to do after they drop off their child?  25% meet with other parents for support; 25% have a bite to eat; 12.5% receive a massage or Reiki; 25% go for a walk or a swim;  25%  go into town to go shopping;  25% rest in a quiet reading room

62.5% chose all of the above

Q7.  65% are interested in volunteering in their area of passion

Q8.  50% said Classes September till June;  33% May long weekend until Thanksgiving; 16% all year long; 0% summer only

Q9.  57% preferred classes on Saturdays; 42% after school and 15% during school hours

Q10.  One of the mother’s Comments was, “I really like where this is going.  I think it would be really special to have something of this nature available to exceptional kids!”

'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.

 

 

 

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”

'Rowan the Intrepid Explorer' by Jenny Lockwood/Teaching Children with Autism

Caroline’s Commentary:

Here is another story from Jenny Lockwood of the New Trails Centre in Texas.  Rowan’s teacher, Jenny is making learning fun for him by using his imagination to learn about the Amazon Rainforest.  Why am I posting this?  Here is an excellent example which demonstrates the seed of knowledge germinating  within Rowan as he takes charge of his own learning, where his teacher Jenny has blended in with their environment and is there to facilitate and support the process that is taking place within Rowan rather than being in a position of authority over him, she is allowing him the freedom to make use of his own creative thought process, letting him enter into the magical realm to explore and discover new horizons.  Rowan’s vocabulary has expanded in the process, as well as his power of observation, he is learning about another way of life on the Amazon and coming up with alternative options for living in harmony with the earth.  What do you think of this teaching method?  Leave your comment below.

‘Rowan the Intrepid Explorer’ by Jenny Lockwood

The wood behind Rowan’s house has a dry creek bed that runs through it which last week was transformed overnight – by the biggest thunderstorm Texas has seen in well over a year – into a flowing river. When Marvel (Rowan’s school bus who just happens to be a horse) and I went to pick Rowan up on the morning after the thunderstorm, he announced that the woods had magically become the Amazon Rainforest overnight and that once we had changed into our expedition clothes we were going to go explore.

So adorned in our expedition outfits – swim shorts and crocs – off we went to investigate. We began in the ‘Amazon river’ where we spent our time spotting birds, monkeys and other animals hiding in the bushes. We were even lucky enough to see two jaguar cubs. Whilst splashing and playing we talked about the mighty river as well as the important role that it plays in the lives of the people, plants and animals that make the rainforest their home.

From there we went off to investigate the lake – also referred to as Alligator Crossing – where, after being snapped at one time too many by hungry alligators – we found a canoe which we learned was the transportation of choice for many of the people who live close to the Amazon river.  Whilst canoeing around our lake we heard a noise and upon closer investigation discovered it to be a group of people trying to cut down some of our trees. After learning about the devastating effect that deforestation could have on a rainforest, as well as the world in general, we decided to try and stop this practice and instead show the culprits how they could use the huge number of natural resources that the rainforest has to offer in a sustainable way.

Exhausted from our adventures it was at this point we decided it was time to go home and get dry and warm and wait with anticipation for the adventure that tomorrow is sure to bring.
After all – that’s the Horse Boy way. Continue reading “'Rowan the Intrepid Explorer' by Jenny Lockwood/Teaching Children with Autism”