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Jan Pitman wrote this article which was published on July 9th, 2014 in ‘What’s Up Muskoka,’ page 14, ‘Program Links Arts and Autism.’ This article was about the pilot project held throughout 2014. We met on Thursday afternoons starting at 1:30 pm in the Raymond Community Hall in Utterson, 2013 Hwy 141.
A program that utilizes the arts to promote healing is gaining momentum in Muskoka. Caroline Butson helps families and their children with autism using creative arts classes as part of the Creative Art Adventures Club for Children with Autism.
Butson believes that through the arts she has been able to manage many of the challenges children with autism face. The art stimulates the brain and calms the nervous system alleviating the effects of autism.
She started the Creative Arts Adventure Club at the beginning of 2014 with a trial run of 12 weeks. That proved highly successful, says Butson.
Children in the new program can range in age from five to 16 and are welcome to join the classes with their families or support workers. It is also open to siblings and friends who are not on the autism spectrum.
“We do different activities together, for example story telling, rhythm music, clay modelling or painting,” says Butson. “The paintings are very large, the children paint with the whole body. I am giving them the tools to express themselves because they can’t do it with words. Also, I help parents to connect with their children.”
Up to six families can meet once a week at the Raymond Community Hall at Highway 141, which Butson rents for her classes. The Tree of Life Art Adventures Club is sponsored by the Autism Ontario Potentials Programme and Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
“I would like to hold classes twice a week,” she says, “there are around 600 children in Muskoka registered with autism , and many more children who need help and are not registered. Our classes are simple, light and fun.”
Participants learn social skills along with how to co-operate and respect one another. Parents, siblings and caregivers also benefit and learn to relax with the creative process, so that they can apply these tools at home.
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!
Please join us at your local town hall to raise the flag for World Autism Awareness Day. We will proudly see the flag raised in Gravenhurst, Bracebridge and Parry Sound. We would really appreciate a showing of support from anyone who is able to join us. Last year we had families, students, school staff, other professionals and community members join us at different locations. I know it’s short notice, but this year we would love to see you!
On April 2nd, schools and municipalities will be Raising the Flag for the second annual World Autism Awareness Day.
Come out and Raise the Flag in support of people living with autism and their families.
The town of Gravenhurst will be Raising the Flag at noon at the town hall, 3 – 5 Pineridge Gate.
The town of Bracebridge will be Raising the Flag at 11:30 a.m. at 1,000 Taylor Court (behind Rocky Island Tire).
The town of Parry Sound will be Raising the Flag at 12:30 at the town hall, 52 Seguin St. Meet at the flag pole.
Thank you for your support!
School Support Program – Autism Spectrum Disorder Consultant
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Part 2 of No Pressure Learning coming…
To find out more please visit our website at www.horseboyworld.com or email email@example.com.
In spite of the severe cold and heaps of snow we have had a great beginning to the Creative Art Adventures Club in the winter of 2014. Here are a few of the children’s paintings from the first club. We use large sheets of 4′ x 5 ‘ paper taped to the wall which gives them lots of their own space to move freely as they are painting. These young artists are 5 and 6 years old painting with their parent or support worker.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
We held our first Creative Art Adventures this last Saturday November 16th,
in the Raymond Community Hall. A… came early to help set up a creative space.
We had great fun with everyone participating.
I introduced the Rabbit Dance Story with the drum.
It was a mild, sunny afternoon so we were able to go outdoors to explore the
grounds – S……. first noticed 8 turkeys grazing in the field next door.
K… discovered tiny bugs close to the ground – he drew a picture of a small
caterpillar on a branch. We picked milkweeds and noticed all the interior details of the pod and how the seeds are carried in the wind.
We played with clay and combined clay with granite stones.
S……. wanted to share 3 songs from The Island Princess before leaving.
We will be holding a Creative Art Adventures Club this winter 2014 on 6 Saturday afternoons starting at 1:30 until 3:00 pm.
This is a new social learning opportunity for families who have
exceptional children ages 5 to 11 with autism and or FASD or LD.
Participants will explore a variety of creative mediums to facilitate self expression in a fun supportive atmosphere.
Email Carla O’Neill, email@example.com to register in advance.