Carolyn Ogburn, Therapist at the Asheville TEACCH Center talked with autistic adults about their educational experiences.
There's a reason I call myself an autistic, rather than utilizing person first language, and said reason has nothing to do with laziness. It has everything to do with the fact that autism is an integral part of who I am. Autism is not a disease, a disorder, or something holding me prisoner in a shell. Autism is a culture, a lifestyle, and a way of being. - Kassiane Sibley
For many years, we enjoyed having a monthly social group for adults with autism at our home. Now that we no longer host the group we occasionally see members out in the community involved in their own activities, jobs and social situations.
Autistic individuals can display strong interests in almost anything. These strong interests can often disrupt or throw a wrench in the good intentions of those working with them. Or, these powerful interests can be used positively for the individual with autism as we work to establish educational goals.
I worked for several years in a TEACCH preschool program, working with children with autism, between the ages of 2 ½ to 5 years of age. For many of these students, work itself was motivating, for others, work activities were of no apparent interest at all. One young man, named Chris, presented quite a challenge upon first entering the program, since he showed very little interest in anything. When so little interest is shown, how does one begin to motivate the young person to begin the journey on the educational highway?
Sometimes challenging behaviors occur when an individual is just not feeling well, and has no other way of expressing. Adam, a young man working in our ShoeboxTasks workshop, is not verbal; however, he communicates with some signs and is able to follow visual picture/word schedules very well.
Not being able to anticipate what is happening next can create some very strong reactions from individuals with autism. We tend to say how inflexible they can be, however, it has been my experience that if they have some advance notice on a change or what is expected in certain situations, they can show great flexibility. The following example points this out.
Establishing a new routine for an individual with autism can be quite a challenge. Donald is a young man who recently came to work for me at Centering on Children. He lives with his parents and this is his first job since graduating from high school.
A companion describes an afternoon with a 15 year old autistic friend.
Many parents wish to work with their children in the home as they see it being done in the classroom. These suggestions will help you get started. Working closely with your child's classroom teacher will help in choosing appropriate work materials and thus, reinforce what's happening at school.