Recently I had an experience with my own son that opened my eyes about the need for compassion and understanding from adults when it comes to young children with autism. We were at a park playing, and there was another child, a beautiful little girl, who had autism. My son asked me about her and I of course, gave my best “teacher, child-friendly, motherly explanation” of what it was. I explained to him that all children learn things on their own terms, and in their own ways, and that she was no different. That it may take her longer to learn things, either academically, or socially, but if she keeps working hard, she will eventually get it, in her own unique way. I also made sure that he understood that just because she didn’t talk, didn’t mean that she didn't understand. He listened intently and then excitedly said, “So I can play with her, just like I play with anybody else??” He ran over to where she was playing in the sandbox and when he did, her caregiver repeatedly told him, “She has autism, she doesn't understand!” I overheard him loudly say to this woman, “just because she has autism, does NOT mean that she doesn’t understand!!!” Then he continued to explain to her, as I just did to him, about how she learns differently and she will get it, it will just be on her own terms. The woman rolled her eyes at my son, as he continued to play in the sandbox with his new friend…
I was so proud of my little boy and his confidence in sticking up for this girl who didn't have a voice of her own. This experience got me thinking about different books that could help children learn more about autism so that they can be as compassionate and loving as my son was that day on the playground. I think that if we start teaching our children early enough, then hopefully one day, there will be no more adults like that caregiver, to say insensitive and untrue things, such as “she has autism, she doesn't understand!”
-Amy Keveanos, Teacher Celebrate The Children
So here it is…
In My Mind: The World through the Eyes of Autism by Adonya Wong
Connor's Gift: Embracing Autism in this New Age by Tracie Carlos
Keisha's Doors: An Autism Story by Marvie Ellis
The Girl Who Spoke with Pictures: Autism Through Art by Eileen Miller
Leah's Voice by Lori DeMonia
Tacos Anyone? An Autism Story by Marvie Ellis
Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm
Looking after Louis by Lesley Ely
We're Going to Do It!: An illustration of The trials and tribulations Families of
Autistic, ADHD and other special needs children may experience during the early years. by Christopher A. Chaplin
The Autism Acceptance Book: Being a Friend to Someone With Autism by Ellen Sabin
Since We're Friends: An Autism Picture Book by Celeste Shally
My Friend with Autism: A Coloring Book for Peers and Siblings by Beverly Bishop
I Am Utterly Unique: Celebrating the Strengths of Children with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism by Elaine Marie Larson
All About My Brother by Sarah Peralta
A Is for Autism F Is for Friend: A Kid's Book for Making Friends with a Child Who Has Autism by Joanna L. Keating-Velasco
Ian's Walk: A Story about Autism by Laurie Lears
Google Classroom Off and Rolling
It has taken a majority of the school year to get ready, but Google Classroom at CTC is finally off and rolling! Two of my four world history classrooms are now completing assignments, posting articles, and commenting of other students posts completely paper free. Students so far have been very excited and engaged with their Google Classroom, as it gives them a way to interact online when not in class on topics in History. It gives students a chance to have responsibility and accountability in an online forum, and a chance for their interests and voice to be heard. My hope is by next year every history class will have a Google Classroom in use! Joe DeVore, Teacher, Celebrate the Children
Career exploration is an essential element in deciding about one's future. This type of exploration is not the type that can be found in a book, but rather it is in seeing a workplace first-hand and speaking with a career professional. As our children and students aspire to be athletes, pilots, police officers, and astronauts, it is important to think about and explore the whole industry verses focusing on one element.
On a recent trip to the NJ Transit terminal in Hoboken, a small group of students had the opportunity to tour the terminal led by the supervisor of the Main, Bergen, and Pascack Valley lines. He was asked by one of the students to describe his job in three words. Interesting, challenging, and changing were the words he chose and he went on to explain the hard work and the time commitment that went into working his position. The students were stunned when they were told he had to work almost every holiday! He then went on to explain that while everyone may not want his job, there are many jobs, which make the railroad industry function. Engineers, carpenters, electricians, and track designers and builders are just a few of the hundreds of jobs distributed among 14,000 employees.
Ongoing exposure to the many possible career paths is critical to the development and nurturing of a child's passion. It is OK to want to be the conductor, but it is just as important to expose our children to all of the parts, which make up and contribute to an industry as a whole. -Diane Sandonato, Teacher, Celebrate the Children
Teaching: Think Outside the Box
Working as a teacher at CTC has allowed me to become creative and think outside the box when teaching higher level courses such as chemistry. For example, our most recent topic in chemistry has included a study of carbohydrate reactions. To illustrate this topic, our class made strawberry jam. We studied how the acidity of the strawberries, when heated, breaks down the sucrose in sugar (a disaccharide) to form two monsaccharides (glucose and fructose). This reaction accounts for the delicious taste of our jam. We were also able to taste test this carbohydrate reaction! I find that lessons like this really help to solidify concepts that will allow students to apply their knowledge to other areas in the future.
May is Better Speech and Hearing Month. Many students at Celebrate the Children school are expressing their voices through augmented communication in order to be heard. Our students feel empowered when using technology to communicate with others.
One of the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) implementation strategies is Aided Language Input or Modeling. When modeling, it is important to model one word beyond what the individual is able to communicate independently. For example, the child says, “SQUEEZES.” You could say, “You want MORE SQUEEZES?” and model this. You could also say, “You LIKE SQUEEZES.” The reason for this is that while the individual may be able to say a word verbally, they may not be able to combine words and use them in intelligible, connected speech verbally…but the communication device or app can give them that ability. The idea is to model and increase language use in order to move towards independent, generalized communication. Communication is the key to access all of the child’s other goals successfully…appropriate behavior, the ability to express cognition, academic progress, peer relationships, and independence. Communication is powerful and thus promotes self-esteem, confidence and empowers the individual to reach their highest potential.
When communicating with the child, it is helpful to focus on the intent of the social exchange, rather than on speech production. Some parents worry that using AAC will deter a child from speaking, however this is not the case. Utilizing AAC to combine words in order to better express thoughts and ideas reduces pressure in addition to strengthening foundational language skills. This allows children to experience successful communication, which boosts confidence and motivates them to communicate using both AAC and verbal language.
Once a child is able to communicate successfully, the next step is often supporting their ability to initiate social exchanges. This entails helping children learn the power of language. In order to realize this power, children should be provided with the ability to say the things they want to say. One fun way to achieve this is to program an attention-grabbing word, nonsense word or sound on the child’s AAC device. Oftentimes something silly like a “burp” sound, a line from a favorite song, or social “slang” phrase like “whatever!” creates the motivation needed to initiate an interaction. -Fiana Bezpalko and Amy Pinder, Speech Department, Celebrate the Children
Contributions to this blog are made by Celebrate the Children's highly talented, interdisciplinary team and wonderful families.