Today started my participation in a Book Study and I wanted to share some pertinent pieces to the first quarter of the book, How to be a Para Pro. This book provides some basic information about autism and on the students with ASD that we work with daily in our school division. Although the book title signifies that it was designed for Educational Assistants, I believe that any person working with students with ASD would benefit from a read.
The preface of this book is centered with the important notion of RESPECT – a respect for a student’s unique perspective, their unique learning style and their unique needs. It also presents an amazing label that hit me squarely between the eyes (read carefully and see what you think).
Even though there are many things about me that are unique, in the ways that really matter I am just like other children. I learn best from people I trust, and I learn to trust when I sense that people like me. Please try to see the world through my eyes, for I can’t see it through yours. And please know that even though it may not seem so, I really am trying to adapt to a world that my neurological challenges prevent me from understanding without your help. If you keep these things clearly in mind, you will less apt to label me a behavior problem, and more likely to teach me the things I need to know so that I can function with greater understanding and competence in a world that is often inhospitable to my needs.
I have an important role to support teachers, program facilitators and administrators in facilitating rather than impeding a student with ASD’s learning. As most of the time I work indirectly for the student, it is key that these personnel learn and share the student’s needs clearly so that I can offer targeted support. The above quote reminds me of The Doctors TV episode last Fall where Carly a young lady diagnosed with severe autism, shares her story. If you have a few minutes, it is well worth the time to watch the video.
The first chapter of this book focuses on “Getting to Know Your Student – The Autism Spectrum Disorders Continuum”. Overall, understanding that Autism exists on a continuum and ASD’s are neurological not psychological or environmental.
The second chapter focuses on, “Atypicalities in Social Understanding and Expression”. ASD students will always have a problem in social behavior, they are bidirectional (deficits and/or excesses) which affect the students understanding of a social situation and sometimes leads to inappropriate social expression (not rudeness!)
The third chapter, “Impairments in Communication and Language”, which reminds us that communication always develops before language, comprehension precedes meaningful expression and ALL behavior communicates. It also shares an important point that we must not assume communicative competence and mistake problems in communication for problems in behavior.
Finally, the fourth chapter, “Restricted Repertoire of Interests and Activities; Problems with Imagination” brings forth the thoughts that students with ASD showcase a very narrow range of interests that they do not choose themselves but it is part of their disorder. As well, free play should not be considered yet carefully planned and monitored.
Overall, my discussions with the Book Study members were fruitful. I came away with a need to share my thoughts before they left me. I also wanted myself to remember to…
HONOR THE CHILD.
Hence, I go back up to the top of this blog and once again re-read the Fragile – Handle With Care quote.