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.

 

 

 

'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”

'The Story of the Sacred Tree'

‘The Story of the Sacred Tree’ presented at 4:30 pm Thursday 16th February, at The Bohemian Cafe & Gallery in Bracebridge.  Presented in 3 parts: the first originates from the oral storytelling tradition of the First Nations peoples which was published by the Four Worlds Development Project in 1984; the second part is based on a true event which occurred in the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1997, with a golden Sitka spruce sacred to the Haida; the final part was created by Caroline Butson in 2006 with the launching of the Tree of Life Centre for Creativity. There will be a slideshow presentation following of the student’s artwork and their unique interpretation of this legend.  Come and experience this story of myth, madness and greed for the first time presented in the Muskoka community!


'Autism is a Gift!' by Shawn Garza

Caroline’s Commentary:

I agree with Shawn Garza that we have to have the attitude that autism is a gift.  The only thing we have the power to change is our attitude and the most positive attitude is one of hope.  Many individuals on the autism spectrum are extremely talented in the Arts and Music, Acting, Mathematics, Physics and even Teaching.  What do you think?  Is Autism a gift or a disabilty?  Leave your comment below.

‘Autism is a Gift!’ by Shawn Garza

Too often, we tend to think of autism as a disability. However, the word “disability” is typically defined as “lack of ability.” It may be true that people with autism can lack some abilities, such as speech, the ability to potty train, empathy, withstanding touch or emotional control. Additionally, children with autism spectrum disorders often cannot tolerate everyday situations such as shopping, eating out or driving due to the inability to filter sensory input. These issues can be frustrating and downright depressing for parents, family and friends.

We must remember, however, that autism is not a disability. Autism grants its own gifts to those who have it. Those gifts can manifest themselves as stellar mathematical abilities, memory, creative writing, visual arts, or even acting. Some individuals with autism spectrum disorder even make fantastic teachers. In this role, the communication abilities of the individual shine in ways that parents, families and peers initially thought would never happen. Continue reading “'Autism is a Gift!' by Shawn Garza”