Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A toast to inclusion: Autism education in the classroom

I've been asked to create a single link to the posts that describe my visit to Bud's classroom, so that it will be easier for people to pass it on to others. I'm flattered by the request and happy to oblige. Here it is.

First, it's important to recognize the incredible work that Ms. Walker, the classroom teacher, and Mrs. Nee, the classroom paraprofessional, have done this year. As I wrote to Ms. Walker this week, "Thank you for the credit you are so eager to hand over to me, but REALLY - this is not the result of one hour-long conversation. This is the result of seven months full of planting seeds and seizing teachable moments and providing opportunities and recognizing that teaching for life is more important than teaching to the test."

They started their work at the very beginning of the school year, celebrating Bud's tenth birthday in an extraordinary way.

Their work continued throughout the year, and they explained their approach to me in a conference last month. At that time, they asked if I'd be willing to meet with Bud's classmates and gave me a stack of questions that the children had submitted for me.

My meeting with the class was so extraordinary that it was hard to find the words to describe it. So, instead, I decided to recount the experience, one question at a time. Those questions were:

What is autism?

Why does Bud repeat things from TV?

Why does Bud say the same things over and over?

Why does Bud run in circles? Why does he need movement breaks?

Why do noises bother Bud?

Why does Bud miss his mom so much? Why does he get really attached to people and want to be with them all the time?

How can I be a better friend to Bud? How can I be a person Bud would like to hang out with?

Will Bud always be this way?

Does Bud know he's different?

How can I help?

Later that afternoon, Ms. Walker asked the children to reflect on the conversation. Their responses were extraordinary.

The magic is still unfolding in the classroom, and I imagine there will be further posts in the coming weeks and months. I will add links to them on this page. This link: http://bit.ly/9FLDc3 will lead people here. Thanks for sharing it.

4/2/10: Edited to add this follow up on the class response to World Autism Awareness Day.

33 comments:

Holly said...

Thanks for this! I loved this whole thread and I think you did an amazing thing for Bud in speaking so wonderfully to those children. I have passed on the link to this post to my son's teachers. They are also amazing teachers but I know they appreciate new ideas I just think you have so many great ways of explaining autism to kids. This is such important work.

Kim said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

graceunderautism said...

This series was beyond amazing. I just sent this to the Inclusion Specialist at my son's school and will be posting it as my facebook status as well as sending it to a few other people.

Erin said...

Thank you for doing this post. I have conferences with my son's teacher today, and am so excited to share this with her.

Erin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
*m* said...

Brilliant on every level. I think you will find, if you haven't already, that these posts are going to be flying all over the world. Thank you again.

farmwifetwo said...

Last year when my son was in Gr 2... I would have raved about inclusion.

Then, they gave me a teacher he wasn't suppose to have in Sept. Yet in June I was promised another. IPRC says "you can't". I let it ride until Dec.... 4mths later we go mid April to see 2 "multiple exceptionalities" classrooms. One has 10 children... ironically my non-verbal ASD does not qualify for a ASD classroom nor do I want him in one... a Teacher and EA supports. The children are low behavioural and verbal.

The children have been wonderful... I have NO complaints at all.. and they've gone over and above to be his friend and helper. The EA does the best she can. The Teacher... is useless. Over the next few yrs he'll be left more and more with the EA... I know the upcoming teachers... My elder son has them, and we know other's who have had them....

I'm not happy... but it's time. I want my child taught, not respite care given.

Leila said...

Thank you, this is inspiring, and so similar to what my son goes through in the inclusive setting. I want to try and do a Circle of Friends presentation next year.

drama mama said...

Thank you. I had to click on your answers to the questions...for myself.

Beautifully done.

Anonymous said...

I am so pleased to hear that things are going well for my friend Bud! (and his sweet Mom!)
I think of you often and wonder how the days/weeks/years have progressed.

4 what it is worth!
Sheila

Anonymous said...

I am so pleased to hear that things are going well for my friend Bud! (and his sweet Mom!)
I think of you often and wonder how the days/weeks/years have progressed.

4 what it is worth!
Sheila

Laura said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me better understand my own son.

Anonymous said...

I sent the link to my boy's wonderful teacher.

So many pieces have to be in place for an experience like Bud's, but it all starts and ends with a teacher. I've seen well-trained teachers who were not so effective, and untrained but good-hearted teachers who were better, but there is nothing like a trained, passionate, caring teacher. Few kids, exceptional or typical, have that privilege and we know what a difference it makes. How many of us remember a single teacher who turned us on to a subject, or who really seemed to get us as people? For our special kids, though, that kind of teaching makes all learning possible. I don't know how we can help create more such teachers, but I do know that you are exactly right to celebrate the ones we are lucky to know.

Thanks again for these terrific posts!

Amy from Occupation: Mommy said...

I came here via a link from Autism Unexpected. What an amazing series. Thank you so much for the compassionate, easily understandable way you answered these kids' questions. They have been given an incredible gift, and I look forward to hearing more about their thoughts.

sandy said...

Wow, this was moving. Makes me want to cry (in a good way). Gonna keep this for future reference. Brilliant.

Hartley said...

Thank you for posting everything in such an easy to read way! I am going to see how far through them I can get...you know, before my boys get out of bed *again*.

I would love to hear your thoughts on my new book, This is Gabriel Making Sense of School. Let me know if you are interseted. :)

Hartley
www.hartleysboys.com

kirsten said...

This page was smart - it would also be awesome if, where you put "Up next..." at the end of each post, you could make those links TO the next post. That way when people get hooked on the first one, they could just keep clicking to the next one.

Thanks again!

MOM-NOS said...

Great idea, Kirsten. Done.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Terrific writing and an example for schools everywhere. I e-mailed the URL of this to my son's (an Aspie) teacher since he has been denied any services for years. I was hoping that she could see that for a minimal investment in effort real change could be made in the quality of life for my son. I got no response. Please put this into a book or something to document what can be done by a committed teacher and parent.
I have to remain anonymous since we are heading to court over the same son. What a waste of resources.

Beth Up North said...

Wow, what a wonderful summary of an amazing process. Thank you so much for putting it all out for the rest of us to learn from. I am talking to my son's class today with my husband. Our boy is in Kindergarten, and it will be much shorter but hopefully go as well. We are blessed with an amazing school, and great classmates, but still it is nerve wracking. Thanks for all the inspiration!!

Ashlee @ I'm Topsy Turvy said...

Thank you so much! I've totally used Toaster Brain and directed people to your amazing posts many times in the last few weeks as I've tried to answer questions about my children. thank you! I'll be linking this up soon and will let you know.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I have finally got the diagnosis for my son I was expecting, mild aspergers syndrome and I am preparing myself to talk to his class. This has been very helpful :)

Thanks again.

AmandaJuel88@yahoo.com said...

Wow, I'm saving this forever! I have a 2 year old right now being diagnosed and have three other "typical" children and my oldest 5 is having a difficult time understanding him and why he does the things he does. You posts all pinpoint every question and some, probably which will arise when my other children are older. Thanks again. I am currently writing a memior of motherhood and autism and if I ever finish (ha) 4 kids 5 and under, one with Autism...I may want to refer to your blog if that's alright? And quote you. Like I said if I ever finish! Plus it would never be published, it's more for me and a reference for friends and family. Thank you again.

Anonymous said...

You have touched my heart... I have a daughter and a son. My son is autistic and I have to explain very often to my daughter that we don't love him more than her, we just have to help him more than her, because he needs more help. She now understands so much more because of you. Thank you!

LolaRyley said...

Thank you so much for this! Very helpful!!! Love the pictures Bud took, my son has some very similar shots in his cache! hahaha. Specifically the hand picture...keep finding lots, and LOTS, of those.

My son is going into Kindergarten full-time in a few days...I am so terrified of what lies ahead of him. This really helped me a lot. I hope he gets accepted as easily!

Sabrina said...

I'm.. well what can I say. First I can see my 2 yo been your 10 yo. Some descriptions are just similar. - except instead of teletubies I have Dora and Peppa Pig -. I'm translating your posts. This ones. The ones linked on this one. The main explanation, the circle of friends post and the questions. So far I just translated the 1st 2 and the 1st question. Why am I doing this? because I want my family from Mexico to read this. 60% of them read in English but the other 40 don;t so I'm committed to inform them about autism. My son is the 1st diagnosed in the family and I'm committed to help them understand him and other kids in the world. Was thinking on adding the whole translated post in the comments but might be to long. Let me know if you want that or if I can e-mail the document somewhere. Right now I translate those 3, but still have to check grammar. And to "adapt" more than translate some phrases.

Let me know.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post! I really wanted a way to help my students understand autism and your blog is a wonderful help.

Autism-Daddy said...

I just stumbled across all your posts about your class visit and they are heartwarming! And you are an AMAZING writer.

I have an 8 year old son with autism. He is quite severe and I doubt he'll ever be in an inclusion class but to read how accepting these kids are is truly beautiful.

I have an autism Facebook page (www.facebook.com/autismdaddy & blog (www.autism-daddy.blogspot.com ) and I just posted your whole series on my wall. So expect a few new followers, compliments of Autism Daddy....

Moogette said...

Thanks for this, it is really helpful. I am a teacher with an ASD boy in my class and I only recently found your blog. It is really interesting and totally useful. :-) Thank you

Sunshine said...

My son, Paxton is 3 years old. He was diagnosed with autism five days ago. In addition to my own questions, his cousins (6 and 7 years old) have been asking me questions that I can finally answer. I just didn't know how. I Googled "Explaining autism to kids" and found your blog. Now I not only have some guidance about how to talk to them (and other questioners) but I have a greater understanding of who my son is. I am so proud of you, and so proud of Bud. Thank you for your explanations and advice.

Anonymous said...

i am so touched by this its so much what i want for my little buddy[yyes buddy is his name] i have an iep in december and want to print this to explain at his meeting that i just want my son to have the same fighting chance at really having aa friend verses just kids in his class a chance for them to understand why he is the way he is and a chance for them to be friends with him just the way he is thank u again kim, buddys mommy

quirky granola girl said...

I just found your blog today and I am so grateful. My Bubbaloo (3, turning 4 in June) got on the school bus at 8:30 and I've spent the last 2 hours reading about your adventures with Bud and his classroom. The experiences you have written about have touched my soul. My son is still in the pre-K classes with lots of supports. I dream of a day that he can join the mainstream classroom and I fear it at the same time. Thank you for giving me hope and inspiration.

Sometimes I get sad that my own schooling and training have gone by the wayside as I now have a "doctorate degree" in Bubby--how he talks, what he means, how he feels and how to make the world more manageable for him. Often I feel like my life has gotten more and more limited for him. But you taught me a great lesson today about embracing that knowledge and sharing it with others. His ASD doesn't have to make my life small. It does make me richer and I can grow and develop even more just as Bubby does. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I don't think I can properly convey what a mental shift like this can mean to a mom, but I have a feeling that you already understand.

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