‘Program Links Arts and Autism’ by Jan Pitman

Caroline’s Commentary:

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.

http://eedition.whatsupmuskoka.com/doc/Whats-Up-Muskoka/wum_july9_virtualedition/2014070801/#14

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

 

ClubMay3

 

 

 

 

 

Nicolas D. NicolasSettingUp

Jasmine G.

Jasmine&Coconut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'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.

The Creative Art Adventures Club is happening!

Caroline’s Commentary:

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.

Braeden'sPainting1Brenden'sPainting2Myah'sPainting1MyahPainting2

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

In Every Child there is a Spark

Caroline’s Commentary:

I would like to introduce, Carla O’Neill, as my administrative assistant. You may have been receiving emails and phone calls from her.

Carla, has two children aged 21 and 15, one who is on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. She runs an Autism Network System here in the Muskoka Region. Carla has been a great advocate for her son, Sean. They have lived in the Muskoka Region for 17 years.

If you need to contact her you can via email at carla@mcilroyinsurance.com

Here is an article Carla came across that she would like to share with you:

“Hi Everyone

I thought this attached article would be inspirational.  This article touched me as I myself truly believe that our children are capable of whatever they set their mind too and I believe that we should always focus on what they can accomplish and not on what they can’t.  Not all will major in physics but they all have their own personal strengths.

My thought for the day!”

Thanks.
Carla

 httpv://www.theloop.ca/news/ctvnews/article/-/a/2442441/Teen%20with%20higher%20IQ%20than%20Einstein%20once%20told%20he%20had%20no%20future

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.