Today I read a wonderful blog post - found here.
(If you are a new to my Adventures In Natural Learning blog - welcome - just to let you know, I have some experience with Asperger's Syndrome (understatement!) and am always keen to learn more).
The article linked to above is called : "10 'Autism Interventions' for Families Embracing the Neurodiversity Paradigm" written in November 2015 by Briannon Lee.
It contains such gems as:
3. Say NO to all things stressful & harmfulSay no – to quackery, to intensive normalising therapy, to excessive socialising, and to inappropriate school environments. Say no to anything that causes stress or harms their bodies. Say no to anything that will interfere with their ability to say No themselves in the future. Model self advocacy early.
6. Value your child’s interestsThere is no right way to play. Special interests are good for autistic brains, and a natural way that autistic children learn and develop. Don’t use them as a ‘way in’ for other learning, therapy or change. Don’t attempt to broaden their interests, or restrict access to special interests. Join in, learn about and share their interests; but also respect your child’s wishes for time alone with their favourite things.
I re-read that piece "Don't use them as a 'way in' for other learning ..." A few years back I remember reading about a teacher who knew one of her Aspie students was into Pokemon (not an uncommon thing for an Aspie to immerse himself/herself in). So in the holidays the teacher bought Pokemon stickers to use as rewards, familiarized herself with some of the characters so she could bond with him*, printed off Pokemon activity sheets etc. She was all ready for the new term. School started, she was pleased with herself, in came the student with a new lunchbox with STAR WARS on it! He was "out" of the Pokemon phase. She was disheartened to say the least.
When I heard that I thought "Ah well, it was a good try, but it wasn't the way to go anyway." I always caution people against "killing" a subject of interest for a child - or a POTENTIAL subject of interest.
And making a child's interest/phase/obession into something "SCHOOLY" is horrific!!!!!!!!!!!!!
There is a way to help the child learn things in a respectful natural way without it becoming schooly. This last week our birthday boy had birthday money burning a hole in his pocket, and as there were sales on all over town he was keenly interested in how to work out what 20% off meant. A short lesson involving a few scribbled figures on a piece of paper, and he understood. He had money to spend, and action figures on his mind. If I could have spent a little more time on percentages I would have been happy that he REALLY understood, but I knew it was time to quit, and hopefully we can revisit it another time when he brings it up.
Back to the article -I loved it so much I shared it to a facebook group I belong to for home educating families with children/parents on the autism spectrum.
Some of the members of that group enjoyed the article too, and the discussions that followed were very interesting.
I was especially taken by the comment from T.H. who said (used with her permission):
I love this!!!! Right from the start we kicked against the whole concept of trying to change or "normalise" our children. As far as we were concerned "normal" didn't look too good and was certainly not better than what we had. Best decision we ever made!!! Life has been so much less chaotic and upsetting than other stories we hear. Our boys are both doing great and we do not have any drama's. We are selective of who we hang around with and where we go (for sensory reasons not snobbery...lol) but even that has become less and less of an issue, as our sons have been allowed to take on various challenges as and when they feel they are ready. No child is created to stay where they are, all children progress with or without you if you just stop pushing your personal goals and agendas on their lives. Of course sometimes, certain therapies are needed, like physical therapy but it really should be there to help support the direction the child is focused on and not a personal goal of the adults.
This, of course, doesn't just apply to only children on the spectrum, all respectful parents should keep these things in mind, but there is more of a pressing urgency in the BIGNESS of autism that makes parents of children on the spectrum have to really look at what issues they are facing, and work out strategies.
We didn't know that our family quirks came under the umbrella of "autism" until about 6 years ago - at which time our oldest was already 17 and the other children were various ages and stages of quirkiness. So we haven't had much to do with intervention. But blessedly, I made many decisions over the years which have helped our family to survive and thrive - and I laughed when I read T.H.'s comment about "sensory reasons not snobbery" because we HAVE been called exclusive, elitists, anti-social and other such hurtful names when what we were doing was SURVIVING!
The world has such different flavoured people. We don't need a "great big melting pot". Just a bit of respect and space is all some people need.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this - please leave any comments below. Thank you for reading!
* re "bonding" with children over their interests. Be sure you are genuine and have your facts right! One of my older boys recalls, during the deepest years of his "Thomas The Tank Engine" phase, having people trying to "connect" with him - and his distaste of the whole thing! Someone would point to Edward and say "Oh, this is Thomas isn't it?" or "This must be Henry," when they had picked up Gordon. I guess some children are a little more patient with mere adults ...