My son and I go to a local autism support group. It meets once a month for the kids to play and the parents to chat. At those monthly meetings the group has sometimes organised for a visitor to come and present to the parents - for example we’ve had occupational therapists who have specialised in sensory needs in autism, Contact A Family run a workshop on the law surrounding SEN & school & EHCP’s, and a local university researcher with a specific interest in autism present her findings on researching transition from primary school to secondary/high school (I’ll write a separate blog post about this). The group also runs additional activities for the kids to enjoy, for example cooking, climbing, trampolining, karate lessons etc.
The group was recently contacted by a local primary school which none of us are connected to. The SENCo invited us to deliver a whole school assembly on the subject of autism. Myself and two other mums got together to do it, and the assembly took place on Monday morning (24th Apr 2017). It was a scary proposition for us, but it was wonderful to see a school wanting to do more to promote understanding of autism, and inclusivity, amongst the school children themselves and we were very keen to support that!
Having not prepared an assembly on autism before, and considering the age range (from 3 years old up to 11 years old), we opted to base our short assembly around a new animated video that was produced for autism awareness this month. When I first watched the video I found it too much - it was too much information crammed into quite a fast presentation, it moved on too quickly. However, on subsequent viewing, and with a less critical frame of mind (sometimes you can watch something as a critic, instead of as an audience), I realised that yes, it’s fast, and there’s a lot to take in, but there is a lot to take in about autism. You can’t sum up the whole of autism in one neat little sentence. It’s a good message delivered in a fun and engaging way for a child, and even if they don’t consciously retain it all, they will have gained something from it, and that’s enough for now, and for a 15 minute assembly.
To try to slow down the message of the video presentation, and expand on specific areas it mentions, we paused the video in three places. The video is called Amazing Things Happen and you can find it on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/7JdCY-cdgkI
Pause point 1. At 36 seconds in, a picture of the head of an animal on the screen. This was my turn to talk. I talked about how “because we’re all different, and think in different ways, we might see this picture differently to each other. Some of us might see a different animal to others. Would anyone like to put their hand up and tell us what animal they think this is a picture of?” It went perfectly, with two different children seeing the different animals (a duck, and a rabbit), and I concluded with “isn’t it interesting that different people see the same picture in a different way? But both are correct. We’re all different, so we’re all able to experience things differently.”
Pause point 2. At 1.38 minutes in, when it says “and for this reason it’s useful to know a bit about autism”. Another mum talked about social skills and making friends. How autistic children may interact in a different way and about being kind and patient. She gave examples of how people greet each other in different ways - high five, hug, hand shake, dab, wave, say “hi”, but the child in the video nudged people on the arm to greet them, but other children didn’t understand that was just his way of greeting them and trying to make friends.
Pause point 3. At 2.54 minutes, when it says “they seem ok on the outside, unable to ask for help.” Another mum talked about senses. She asked the children to suggest places they thought might be very noisy (they suggested shops, music concert etc.) and then the mum asked them if they could think of somewhere closer and they said classroom and playground. She talked about becoming overwhelmed, and maybe closing eyes and putting hands over ears or seeming angry, and about how to help someone who is overwhelmed - not by adding to their sensory input by asking them questions or touching them, but by quietly staying with them or trying to get them to somewhere quiet and less overwhelming.
We also got to meet some of the parents of autistic children at the school, who attended the assembly, and have a chat with them.
We’d be interested in going back to the school to talk to staff and answer any questions they may have. I think it would be a unique opportunity for staff and parents to talk openly with each other about each other’s perspectives without any worries about being based at the same school. Staff could admit any vulnerabilities or lack of knowledge without any fear, and we may be able to support them in filling those gaps. We may also be able to advise on building good relationships with parents and working with them effectively - and vice versa! But it could only really work in a trusting enough environment for people to be able to talk freely.
Do you guys remember singing songs in Primary School about some guy called Mr Clickety Cane and how he’d do fucked up shit like wash his face with orange juice, and brush his teeth with bubblegum and belly flop on a pizza? I mean what a thoughtless dick. Belly flopping on someone’s pizza.
So in primary school, we had this game where we would line up and pretend to be in the army then the teacher would yell in our faces to try and make us laugh, if you laughed, you lost.
So this was the only time when being extremely shy had a benefit because i never laughed or smiled unless i was playing with my friends alone.
The teacher took out every kid in the class then marched up to me and i remember one of the idiots that bullied me going “woah how can she not even smile??” And i won that game with a completely stale expression but inside i was like HELL YEAAAAAAAAH TURN THE TABLES ON YOUUUUUU HAH
happy thursday everyone!! today’s gift ideas are centered around finds for your kid’s teacher — or maybe your own teacher :) claypages is an etsy shop with hella cool notebook paper-patterned ceramic and pottery items, like this fun trio!
I hear a soft knock outside my classroom door today and there stands one of my reading intervention pupils. She wants to practice writing her name and soon we got to talking about Islam. She tells me about fasting for 30 days for Ramadan because “if you love God then you fast” from sunrise to sunset. She teaches me that Muslims cannot eat pig because he “has Satan in his body. If I eat him, I die.” She tells me she must pray five times a day and wear her hijab, or head wrap, all the time. She gazes at me, smiles, and says that she feels most beautiful when wearing her hijab. I have her put it on to show me and she was clearly correct. However, our school doesn’t let her (or any of the other Muslims who make up 39% of the school) wear them during the day because we were founded by the Church of Uganda. Sometimes the others at the schools say bad words to her for being a Muslim, even teachers she says. I tell her that whether she’s green or purple, big or small, Christian or Muslim, she can always be my friend. She giggles and asks if I will go to mosque with her one day; I happily comply but only if she lets me borrow her “smartest” hijab. We pinky promise and she continues writing her name over and over again with a joyful grin across her face.
It randomly came back to my mind that when I was like 12/13 years old I was wearing my fingers taped sometimes (just as Michael did)
And one day at school my teacher asked me “Oh no! What happened? Did you cut your fingers? It’s everything ok?”
And I replied “Yes everything’s perfect. You know I’m like Michael Jackson. It’s great”