A teacher writes:
Hi Philip! I look forward to all of your posts and want you to know how interested I am in learning from you. I work with kids who are autistic, mostly "high functioning"-Asperger's. I feel like I could sit with you and ask a million questions but I will limit it to those that are most concerning to me.
1.) Many of the kids I work with are defiant at times. They do not want to do their school work even though they are capable. Sometimes this causes teachers and aides to become frustrated and feel the student is lazy and stubborn. How can I help educate teachers and aides on how to deal with this? How do I help the student to comply with school expectations without a meltdown?
2.) Do you believe it is best for an autistic student to have the same expectations as the other students in the class or is it best to modify? Ie: reduced number of problems to complete, use of a calculator permitted instead of having to do math in your head, use of a scribe instead of taking notes, not having to do "abstract art" assignments. I would love to hear your input on this. I know from my students many things challenge them but they can not put into words a way to adequately explain this to teachers. Help!
I want to explain about performance at school. Autism presents many challenges. Anxiety is the biggest one. Other challenges are sensory difficulties like crowds and noisy halls, my movement challenges, and inability to communicate quickly and efficiently. I think kids like me seem defiant because they get anxious about not being able to meet people's expectations. Manners are hard to follow because our bodies do not often follow directions. I love to do what is right. Most of us do. Meltdowns occur mostly from being unable to meet expectations and feeling made to blame for it because of poor character. You can tell your fellow teachers and aides that we mean peace but our capability is most affected by our anxiety. Sometimes anxiety stops us by telling ourselves we can't do it. We freeze. Patience masters more problem behavior than yelling. You can help students meet expectations by setting goals that are challenging and interesting. How to make good goals is to solve the puzzle about what makes each of us care to learn. People are all different. For example, I am motivated to learn about nature, good biographies, and God. My friend Max is interested in drawing and bowling. We can learn many things from our interests. I do most well answering questions about interesting things. Another thing I need are patient teachers. They can help get my thoughts out of my head by encouraging me to type. I have many thoughts stuck in my mind. I need some help in getting them out. I need someone especially understanding of my challenges and needs. When a person believes I am intelligent and trying my best, I can do my work best. I will have fewer meltdowns if you don't yell, raise your voice, or accuse me of being defiant or lazy. Pace my day with breaks because I get tired easily. I need to recharge often by relaxing. I prefer music, rocking in a rocking chair, and leaning on a beanbag. After a short break, I can work again.
I think modifications and accommodations should be allowed for those who can't show success otherwise. I am unable to keep up with typical kids in showing my work but I am equally able to understand the lessons. I would never finish my assignments on time without accommodations and modifications. Modifications such as assigning me a project I can do rather than abstract art I can't do makes better use of everyone's time. Modifications such as giving me fewer problems can allow me to address people's expectation that I know the material, but not overwhelm me with the amount of time it takes to answer. A scribe allows me to type rather than handwrite on worksheets that I can't do on my own. Modifications and accommodations are important for my success.
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