Opening Statement



Saturday, 10 November 2012

On Teaching Low Functioning Autism Students


As you might not know, besides my union executive involvement, I am an autism teacher. It's rare that I read a half witted, straight forward article on my autistic students many different needs during and after they leave high school at age 21. Worse yet it's often written in edu-speak. At school my frustration is palpable in guaranteeing their safety and well being as well as that of the other staff and students within an educational setting. It's often much more than just a question of programming, which is without doubt important, but also in having proper safety plans and supports readily at hand.




My Autism students don't have the far milder form of Asbergers syndrome with which most of us are familiar these days. I teach the more extreme and increasingly common types of autistic students who are very, very low functioning not just in their reading, writing and thinking skills, but also in their self control. They can exhibit self injurious, aggressive or even predatory behaviours. They often can't read, write or talk. 

In low stimulus settings with familiarity, consistency and a lot of structure the students in time communicate to varying degrees. We use picture symbols and verbal prompts or gestures. However, the behavioural concerns still can and do get in the way. To top it off the students don't necessarily retain what they've learnt. They might not regularly apply it elsewhere nor with others either.

The learning challenges run the full gambit. The old bromides about "just teaching a student well and they will respond well" fall far short of dealing appropriately with my students very extreme and quite dangerous behaviour. Besides posing a great safety risk for the students and others the behaviour can also greatly hinder the learning process. Unfortunately many educators don't realize that, and think they can explain it away.

Tests and reports often omit my students, the much more extreme cases. They are not properly taken into account in autism studies. As a result many educators, including school administration can have a very unfortunate lack of grasp on realistic programming goals or in determining the students and staffs safety needs, however well intended they might be. 

I think, for that reason, expert educators and school administrators are much more difficult and frustrating for me as a teacher than the students could ever be. Teachers are with them regularly. We either figure it out, get hurt, or decide these classes are not for us. The classes are not for everybody and in that there is no disgrace. They require a certain patience and sensibility. At this late stage of my teaching career I can't suffer fools gladly anymore, and unfortunately they are not in short supply. They do very little but exacerbate the situation. The mindset these students pose creates a major paradigm shift in educational thinking and support services, that in my experience is just not there at school. 


My low functioning autistic students pose great challenges both at home and school. At school there is surely the safety of others to be considered too. The teacher will require adequately trained EA's and CYW's in correct proportion to the students needs. 2:1 or 3:1 are not uncommon but adequate funding is not available. 

There are often very few family supports at home. The parents and family can be victims of an awful lot of physical abuse. Consider too, that wherever these students might be they are also in great danger of injuring themselves. The question of where they go to live after they turn 21 cannot be easily addressed. There is very little available or being put in place to help for when they grow up and need to leave. 

Anyway, you can imagine my surprise finding this excellent article in Cottage Country Now under the headline "The Provincial Government Has Broken it's Promise". My students are among the most challenged of God's children. It's awful what's missing in and outside of the school system that's practical let alone realistic for helping to meet their needs, the needs of the family and those of our communities and institutions. How sad that as the government says, we are burdened with school crisis and economic debt. When that is the MOE's major focus and concern so little attention is given to addressing my students very critical needs and concerns. For shame!

For the article see:

My blog on teaching Autism can be found at: http://tsu3rdvp.blogspot.ca/2011/04/my-class-at-school.html
 
My blog on the health + safety concerns for teaching low functioning autism students see @ Questions to ask?
 


PS: Last weekends Toronto Star piece brings more public attention to autism. Still most of the students can read, write, talk, and don't need a harness or a diaper even though they are teenagers or adults. Nor do they have self inflicted bite or punch marks all over them. They don't try to do the same to anybody standing near by. Otherwise it's a worthwhile read. Hmmm. Somehow that doesn't sound right. Well now you know why. Anyway, see: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/autismproject

No comments:

Post a comment

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!
See below ...

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?
A careful analytical study!

Help! I Have No Arms!

Help! I Have No Arms!
Please scratch my back.

I can't find my underwear!.

I can't find my underwear!.
Have you seen them!

Weee! I can fly!

Weee! I can fly!
Look! I can crawl thru walls!

I have a headache!

I have a headache!
And a broken nose.

I have a square hole in my bum!

I have a square hole in my bum!

Here try this, it's very good!

Here try this, it's very good!
No. You have a bird face.

I have an ugly baby!

I have an ugly baby!
No I'm not!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!
OK but I need a new hand too!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

You don't look well.

You don't look well.
No. My head hurts +I have a sore chest.

Would you like a bun?

Would you like a bun?

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!
The Temple of Kukulkan!

Gotta love it!

Gotta love it!
Truly amazing!

Under Reconstruction!

Under Reconstruction!

Temples + Snakes!

Temples + Snakes!

The Snake!

The Snake!
It runs the length of the ball field!