Ten Things Your Student with Autism Wishes You Knew: “An amazing gift for explaining the most complicated aspects of autism in simple language”

from Healing magazine, Spring-Summer 2007, Vol. 12 No. 1

At Healing, we’re always looking for new resources of information that will be useful for those who care for, treat and teach kids. We give “high fives” to sources that we feel will be beneficial to kids and those we care for them.

Ten Things Your Student with Autism Wishes You Knew

by Ellen Notbohm (2006, Future Horizons Inc.)

Ellen Notbohm has an amazing gift for explaining the most complicated aspects of interacting with autistic children in simple language that resonates with truth, clarity and enlightenment. This book is written in the voice of a child and is for all those who teach autistic children in the classroom, in the home and in other areas of their lives. Notbohm explains that autistic children think in concrete terms and are visual learners — they don’t understand questions like “do you have ants in your pants?” to mean anything other than that the questioner thinks that there may be insects in their trousers.

Notbohm stresses that it takes a team effort to teach an autistic child, including the classroom teacher, speech and occupational therapists, para-educators who help the child in the classroom and, most importantly, the family. Communication is imperative on a daily basis. There are teachers who refuse to make accommodations for different learning needs, and this is unfortunate not only for the autistic child but for all children in the class and the teacher as well. Notbohm compares autistic children to other children in their classes as PCs and PACs — neither is “wrong,” they are merely wired differently, and being able to operate one does not guarantee one’s ability to operate the other. She points out that teachers and parents should approach each other as blank slates at the beginning of the school year and open lines of communication with positive expectations and cooperative attitudes.

Most children with an autism spectrum disorder find it difficult to multi-task and may also have difficulty categorizing and comprehending cause and effect. She explains to teachers that trust is the foundation of learning for a child with ASD and it is important to always remember that they have feelings that can be hurt as badly as any child’s by a mean comment or mocking attitude. She also encourages teachers to cultivate curiosity, sometimes using the areas in which the child has an interest, even if it is not part of the general curriculum. Ultimately, teachers and families want the same thing for children with ASD: for them to move forward, become independent and gain self-sufficiency.  -PS