Autism Spectrum Australia

Education never stops

  • Posted: 27/06/2014
  • Author: Thomas Kuzma
  • Comments: Loading.. .

Bonjour readers, welcome back to Aspire. Now that I am off my convention high, it’s time to get back into the thick of it.

Around this time of year students around Australia are either on holidays or hoping their half yearly reports are good enough to not spend their holidays learning about the periodic table or the Battle of Waterloo (where Napoleon surrendered and promised to love you more).

The opportunity to learn is everywhere. Not just in the classroom, but all around the world we live in. There is a reason we don’t play with fire – our ancestors tried that, and screamed ‘mamma mia!’, but instead of having fire in their soul, they had burnt fingers and an angry eyebrow-less face.

A Professional Opinion

Knowing me, knowing education I decided to talk to an expert on the matter, Dr Trevor Clark, Aspect’s Director, Education & Senior Autism Research Consultant.

”Research has shown that people with autism tend to learn more via visual means. Therefore, in classrooms teachers need to present information visually which supports their learning and also helps them understand class rules. A visual schedule or routine can also support students with the ‘hidden curriculum’. The hidden curriculum involves understanding social interactions, relationships and managing your own behaviour eg., how to ask the teacher for help, how you make friends and play with others in the playground.

We do a great deal of work in this area through our Educational Outreach service to support  children with autism in other schools; not Aspect schools but mainstream, public, Catholic and private schools. We are also run  the ‘Sixth Sense Program’ which was developed by Carl Gray to help raise awareness and understanding of autism and how other children can support their classmates who have autism. There will be presentations on this program at the upcoming Aspect Autism in Education Conference.

Parents play an important role in the education of their children. Sometimes they have to work with the school to make sure teachers have the right strategies in place to support their children within the classroom. Unfortunately not all teachers understand autism and the support strategies that are needed in the education of our students. By having visual supports and structure in place within the classroom students have be assisted to develop their skills and talents.

Overall what we find is that children make the best progress if the school, the teacher and the parent all work together. It really helps if the visual supports and the same behaviour supports being used at school are also used at home. This helps students to successfully adapt to a range of environments in their daily lives.

Research has also there is a higher incidence of reports of bullying toward students with autism than other students in schools. This is an important issue that teachers need to be aware of and all schools should ensure anti-bullying programs are in place.  

It is also important for teachers to understand sometimes children with autism due to their problems with understanding communication and social interaction may display inappropriate behaviours. These students are not ‘misbehaving’ or being ‘bad’ on purpose, but responding to the environment or things around them they don’t understand.

Given the many issues faced by students with autism in schools and the challenges for teachers, Aspect is holding our Autism in Education Conference next month. This is a first such conference internationally where people can come together and focus on educating children with autism. We are doing this because we think we can do a lot better in educating students on the spectrum and we need to increase the understanding and training of educators to do so. 

My Two Cents

Now for those who don’t know, high school was the dark times for me. I was bullied, made fun of, people fought me and I was depressed. Who knows where I would have ended up if I didn’t find out I have Aspergers Syndrome? Some say they don’t want the label, that they don’t want something slapped on them. I say the opposite; there is nothing worse than being the chew toy to bullies, being alone, hopeless and not knowing why. But this isn’t a blog on labels; that was the first blog!

Anyway, long before I was talking on the Aspie scene, I was young and sweet, diagnosed at seventeen. After my diagnosis I started taking social classes with other people with autism in the school. There I learnt about social skills, body language and how to understand social behaviours.

I believe that even though changes are being made to the schooling system, there must be more. Introducing an ‘Ethics’ class is a great start. I grew up in a Catholic school, and even though there were some good ideals with Catholicism, you can’t only use religion for ethics. I believe we need mentoring programs in schools. I had the help from a man called John Hill. The man was a legend; he was funny, looked like Colonel Sanders and played a mean jazz solo. He taught me a lot about creative writing and editing. I believe a major benefactor to people with autism is social skills classes. Through this we are helping people on the spectrum learn skills that will last a life time.

In Conclusion

Ah so here we are, at the end of another blog. Now before you say S.O.S, don’t worry and take a chance on me. We learnt how we can help those on the spectrum in the school systems. Remember parents, just let your child know that ‘If you need me, let me know, gonna be around If you've got no place to go, if you're feeling down, to take a chance on me’ (by which I mean you the parent). But learning doesn’t end when the bell rings, we learn every day in our lives, whether it is a cooking recipe, how to use a computer or how to ride a red Rolls Royce while reciting Renée Zellweger’s ‘Roxie’.

Until next time folks, make sure your mind is open, your diet healthy and your nose clean.

What am I? ANIMAL

I am dark, quiet like a summer night

My tree trunk arms show my might

Some say I’m humble, pleasant and warm

Yet I get enraged like a thunderstorm

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Education never stops