Yes we did it! With a Me to We approach!

It was a long relenting cold winter  in 2014 but in spite of the challenging driving conditions we managed to launch the Creative Art Adventures Club in the middle of winter with 4 families participating. The children came with their parent or their support worker who participated with them throughout the experience, sharing the storytelling, clay modelling, drawing, and painting.
A wonderful volunteer, Lea D. stepped in wherever a helping hand was needed; with registration, setting up the space, or surprising us with a beautiful colorful banner to hang up in the hall.
When the spring finally came, ‘me’ became a ‘we’ as 2 student volunteers joined us, Jasmine and Gabrielle, from Rosseau Lake College, as well as Nicolas from B.M.L.S.S. who assisted with many aspects of setting up the room and providing a gentle pillar of support for the small boys. Hooray we did it!

Portrait-LeaDLea Dooley

 

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Nicolas D. NicolasSettingUp

Jasmine G.

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'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.

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

Creative Art Adventures Club ~ a new social learning opportunity in Muskoka

I’m proud to tell you we are launching the Creative Art Adventures Club this winter on 6 Saturdays starting February 1st. This event is sponsored by the Autism Ontario Potential Programme, in partnership with Ontario Ministry of Children & Youth Services. It will be held in the Raymond Community Hall (Lower Level) 2013 Hwy 141, Utterson from 1:30 – 3:00 pm. Sign up this week with the link provided on the poster below.

DESCRIPTION: This is a new social learning opportunity for families who have exceptional children with autism. Participants will explore a variety of creative mediums to facilitate self expression in a fun supportive atmosphere. We will explore nature with storytelling, rhythm music and movement, clay modelling, drawing and painting in each afternoon session. This Club is designed for exceptional children with autism ages 5 to 11 years old who endure social anxiety and communication difficulties. Held in a kind, loving, supportive, safe environment.

We can accommodate between 4 to 6 children and their parent, sibling or guardian. Participants will learn social skills; how to co-operate and respect one another. Parents, siblings, and caregivers will benefit too as you learn to explore your own creativity and relax with the creative process so that you can continue to apply the tools at home.  You have the choice to either participate fully with you child or you can opt to join with other parents in a support circle or alternate activity.

I will need to talk with you the parent/ guardian through Skype, googlehangout or in person to see if this is the program for your child sometime this week of Jan 20th – 25th. This will include a FREE 40 min. consultation that each person will receive regardless if they choose to be in the program or not.   Contact my Assistant Carla O’Neill today to set up a meeting dcmsoneill@bell.net

COST: $72.00 per person (The cost of admission will be funded by Autism Ontario’s Potential Programme.)
Click on the link here and be one of the first to sign up.

Creative Art Adventures Club – Jenne_BIL (final)

I will also be talking to Amber Morrill, Hunter’s Bay Radio, Family Feat Program on Monday January 27th at 10:35 a.m. You can listen at the following link, http://www.muskokaonline.com/HuntersBayRadio

I look forward to hearing from you. If you know any family that might be interested in the above program, please do not hesitate to share.

Caroline

CreativeArtAdventuresPainting

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

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

'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”

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”

'Could Singing and Music Making Be a Tool For Autism? Find Out' by Bonita Darula

Caroline’s Commentary: 

Exceptional children love to make music.  Keep it simple and fun.   A simple heart beat rhythm helps you and your child or student get connected to their center and helps the right and left hemispheres of the brain to work together. Using shakers, rattles, bells and drums or even a jar partially filled with beans or popping corn from your kitchen cupboard works just as well. You can also drum rhythm using a wooden spoon on a pot or pan. At the Tree of Life Centre for Creativity we use Earth rhythm music which helps them ground and helps them focus their attention on learning. You can make up a song for just about anything you want to teach. The autistic student loves to learn this way.  I would love to hear your experience making music with your student or child in the comment section below.

‘Could Singing and Music Making Be a Tool For Autism? Find Out’ by Bonita Darula

Singing with young children is fun and exciting for both the adult and child. One does not have to be an experienced musician to just sing and have fun.

Autistic children tend to enjoy repetitious motion and words. With singing and repeating words to music, children with autism learn to formulate words, and sounds. It helps their listening skills to relate words and sounds, to develop pictures in their brain. It also encourages them to understand rhythm, the coordination of different sounds to make music and develop motor skills.

If one is creative and chooses to make the singing have more of an impact, use visual aids that tend to stimulate their senses. Autistic children will not only hear the music, but feel and move to the rhythms, keep the beat going. It is an excellent idea to introduce musical instruments to the children. For example, tambourines, small little drum pads, that can be used with their hands or unbreakable drum sticks, small horns to learn how to blow and use their fingers to hear the pitches and sounds. Many autistic children do play the piano. There are some toy pianos that can be used or keyboards. Make it fun, be creative with visuals, instruments and rhythm. Continue reading “'Could Singing and Music Making Be a Tool For Autism? Find Out' by Bonita Darula”