'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.

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”

'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”

'Art & Music is Vital for the Autistic Student' by Caroline F. Butson

All children receive many benefits on multiple levels from art education whether or not they are on the autism spectrum.  However for the autistic child art and music is vital for their growth and development.  Autistic children learn best when learning is visual and by making learning fun.  Besides being a tool for helping the autistic child express themselves, painting and playing music are also a multi-sensory experience engaging the autistic child with all of their senses; visually as well as through touch, smell and sound.  Teaching must be creative and any subject can be taught using art as a tool, including the maths and sciences.

How does art education benefit the autistic student?

I would say that the healing or therapeutic aspect of art is most beneficial in that it develops the inner realm of the child and will help them discover who they truly are and how they fit into the world around them.  Learning how to express themselves with paint and music will help them gain self confidence and self esteem which will benefit them for the rest of their lives.  They often get the message that they are different, they have a disorder or they have an ‘incurable disease’; that they don’t fit in socially to the mainstream.  Children with autism are just as much a part of society as so called ‘typical’ kids especially nowadays when there are one in 88 of children world wide being diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  Art and soothing music will help them feel connected to the world around them and to the people in their life; their family and peers in school as well as out of school.   Art is therapeutic in and of itself because it heals on every level physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

A lot depends on how art is taught.  When the teacher can encourage the students and allow them freedom of expression they can play a very positive role. Whereas a negative critical teacher can discourage self expression and turn the student off art and make them feel inadequate or shamed.  It is necessary therefore that the teacher nourish there own creative expression so that they can feel confident within themselves to help the autistic child with their artistic expression.  It is important that the teaching goes both ways; as much as the student learns from the teacher, the teacher must also learn from the student.

Life Cycle of Monarch Butterfly by Evan

 

 

Of course the autistic student will learn basic skills like listening and following directions and using materials properly but the child with autism often does not or cannot understand words so as a teacher you have got to communicate what you want them to learn in other ways.  The teacher has got to be creative in getting across the lesson in other ways than verbally. If the student has not got the lesson then you have to find another way to get the lesson across.

If you have a question or comment please send it to me below or the Contact page.  Enjoy…Caroline

'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!


'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”