Saturday, November 23, 2013

Connecting with Kids with Autism Through Writing

Hey Everyone! Did you miss me?! It's been a record 3 weeks since I've posted something new for you! Super sorry, but I was just plain busy! So much has happened in the last few weeks but I'll do my best to fill you in on the good stuff in the next few days.

I don't know if I've mentioned this, but my teaching partner and I have split up our caseload of kids in our class based on who connects the best with them. I have multiple kids on the autism spectrum (or the related less severe disabilities) who are "mine." I'll be honest...I love them! It was the saddest part of changing schools when I was under the impression I wouldn't have any more autism kiddos. It turns out we have a few but they are more high functioning than the kids I worked with at my old school. One of my biggest successes in the last month has been my ability to make a connection with these kids!
Communication! This may seem obvious, but what can be hard to understand is that kids with autism don't communicate like we do. Yes, this seems obvious for kids with severe autism, but what about those kids who are on the high functioning end of the spectrum? What about those kids who can speak in full and clear sentences? What about those kids who LOOK like they know what's going on, but really DON'T get those social cues and verbal expressions of emotions?

I found a way to connect with some of these kids. It all started on accident! On Back to School Night I told all the kids to clean out their desks and that anything in their journals their parents might read, so make sure to write something for mom and dad to read that night. One of my kiddos wrote something that was both informative and surprising. He told his dad he didn't like getting big hugs. This was HUGE! Dad and I had a chat about it, and he said it's something he never knew. After writing about it, my student was able to tell us that he likes gentle hugs, but not the big strong ones dad gives sometimes. This type of communication was a BIG WIN that has lead to so many things!

Now my little guy likes to this all the time when he's feeling emotional and wants to tell us. He writes little notes to both his parents and myself. I've noticed a huge drop in his number of outbursts! Now he just writes on a piece of paper and drops it on my desk. Then I'll talk to him about what he's written, and he'll give me a written response back. He'll also write to me later in the day to let me know when he's feeling happy again. It's adorable!
I talked to him between these two notes above. He was mad at me for underlining a word on his paper. In his mind this was the equivalent of me scribbling all over his paper. I explained to him why I had written on his paper so he could see the word he wanted was right on his paper so he could copy it. He told me he was happy I was trying to help, but not so happy that I wrote on his paper. I apologized to him for upsetting him and explained that I was just trying to help and that's when he put a "that's ok" note on my desk.

A cute little happy message to the right was written on my whiteboard "The best day is today" is what he meant to spell.

How do you emotionally connect with your students/kids?

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