What I have learned from my Autistic son from the time that he was a toddler to now (almost 9 and in Grade 3) is its all a matter of “showing what you know.” It sounds simple doesn’t it? Its like when you were in school and solving a math question and the teacher wants you to “show” your work and how you got the answer. The thing that as parent I have forgotten many times and I know that teachers and other professionals forget as well is that Autistic children think differently because of Neurological reasons. If I only look at things from my point of view and never from my son’s how will I ever understand. In school meetings I take it even farther and suggest that if educators want Johnny to take risks and challenge himself then instead of concerning themselves with teaching him to learn like the kids to be in the regular classroom they should teach to his strengths. Maybe his peers can benefit from learning some things that way too.
Imagine how frustrating it is for Johnny when he knows how to do the same Math as his peers but because he has trouble processing all the small print of the equations on the page because the page is too busy then that teachers assume he can’t do it. Why can’t they use a bigger font or just go to the photocopier and enlarge it? Johnny’s solution is to scan it and import it to his iPad and with two fingers he can quickly enlarge it so he can see the numbers the way he likes to see them and he can finally SHOW WHAT HE KNOWS. He also has fine motor delays that hamper his ability to show what he knows. When he was in grade 2 and also in grade 3 the kids have to break into smaller groups and try to work on math problems together. Learning in a smaller group is better for Johnny but not when all those small groups are in one room and all the kids are chatting. This year John he recognizes that someone actually asked to go into the ASD room with a small group where it is quieter so that he can think.
Johnny has a great ASD teacher who “gets” this but I worry that for a few years dangerous assumptions were made and now he is trying to play catch up to his peers. Above is from last week where the teacher wrote down the equations and used a website called Gizmos Math to help Johnny figure out the answers to the questions by using borrowing and then write down his answers. His teacher is so very proud of how well he is doing now in Math right now.
I was also thinking about one of the biggest prompts I use with Johnny is the word “show.” When he is asking a question to someone or doing a greeting and they look a bit confused I prompt him by whispering in his ear, “Johnny how do you show **** that you are talking to them?” and he has a look of realization and turns and looks at who he is interacting with and tries again. I presume he knows what to do but its just hard to remember all the social steps especially if other distractions are happening.
The other thing about showing is that at times Johnny doesn’t look Autistic (whatever that means.) He is a little 8 year old playing with his friends. He is laughing and running around and having fun. He is trying to talk to the Mom’s of his friends and ask them questions and interact. Then later he begins to stim or runs away from his sister at the playground squealing or he goes to receptively pick up sticks instead of playing and now he is “showing” as a friend calls it his “Awesomeness”.