My experiences as a creative person, tutor of children, and teacher of creative writing

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Update Resources - Autism and Asperger's Now Called ASD

Every few years the terminology changes for putting people into categories. Now Autism and it's milder form, Asperger's Syndrome (later called Asperger's Disorder) are labeled as ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). I am not changing the labels in the articles I wrote, but it is still the same topic. Here are some current 2016 articles on the subject.
(I like these practical suggestions. I have tried them and they work. They match my experience as a teacher, tutor, and mother. Just help them to get the whole picture which will help them better cope with change and improve relationships. They are gifted in left brain areas such as math and memorization. Encourage their gifts.)

(Good video by an autistic person.)

This mother of an autistic genius allowed her son to pursue his interests. He has developed incredible abilities in physics. This is the approach I have used and I know it works.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Autistic Babies and Children

Here are some comments by different parents of mildly Autistic children. These children are said to have Asenberger Syndrome.  By "syndrome", they mean a characteristic group of behavior. An example is that most Asenberger children have difficulty dealing with change. It does not mean that they have an illness or anything is "wrong" with them. They are who they are. We each have different strengths and weaknesses. These people often are exceptional on left brain skills such as structure, linear logic, memory for details, math, and spelling. Recognizing behavioral patterns and predicting behavior often is very difficult for these logical, literal people. Their particular personality results in some common behaviors.

I am grouping the comments. Since there are five times more boys than girls that are autistic, most quotes will refer to "he".

"My son is not a diagnosed autistic.  He is odd but only diagnosed with depression.  Also though he is married with children now he doesn't ever seem to get too much fun out of life.  He always sees the negative in everything and rarely the positive."

"Our son would become extremely frustrated when people did not do what he expected them to do. He would go to his room and begin tearing all his pictures off the wall."

From an autistic girl, " I take drugs because that is the only time that I feel 'normal'."

"His older brother, a strong football player, has to pin him down when he becomes violently upset. "

"He does not realize that he pressures and criticizes those around him. He insists that all must be done HIS way and can become violent when it doesn't."

"Our son is often baffled by others 'illogical' behavior. He doesn't understand the social rules and emotions that are involved."

From a confused eight year old autistic boy, "I told them that I would be the quarter back . . . they didn't let me play!"

 "He was an unaffectionate child and didn't like to be hugged or kissed.  I guess he basically didn't much like being touched. "

"He hated to be touched. It took two adults to pin our baby down and change his clothes."

By an autistic young man, "I felt confined and felt I had to be free when someone held me."

"Our daughter did not ever want to be touched. I felt very unloved."

"Our daughter was a premie. She never wanted to be touched."

"Our five year old son informed the family that he had the best memory in the family, therefore he should control everyone in the family and all the family resources."

"All the family were treated as if we were inferior, didn't think right, and mere things made to serve him. He treated everyone else that way too."

"The kids in the neighborhood would not play with our son. I could not blame them. Whenever they didn't do what he wanted, we could try to beat them into submission by hitting them with anything he could find such as a large shovel or a baseball bat. (no one was hurt)"

"He seemed to have no awareness of others feelings. Consequently, he was often surprised by others reactions to his statements. When he insulted us by letting us know that we were dumb, senile, retarded, maladjusted, deaf, slow, or crazy, he couldn't understand why we were upset. After all, he was just stating facts."

"Our son considered that we were made to make him happy. As he stated, "Why shouldn't I have it! He felt entitled to whatever he wanted."

"Our son saw his parents as selfish if we not give him what he wanted."

"When a toddler, he was not comfortable being around strangers. He would cry when he was taken to the nursery."

"Though he was unable to express feeling verbally, he was always eager to help anyone do something. He has a big heart and is a good person."

"She send me lots of notes of appreciation. Often this was after she had done something wrong. "

" When he would be odd as a child and I knew something was wrong because by then I had other children who were different, my ex husband would not accept that anything was wrong with his child and would not give me money to take him to doctors for testing.  I was not working at the time and had no money of my own. "

"It was a long time ago and they didn't so much testing then. I had never heard of Asenberger Syndrome and just thought boys sure were touch to raise. We didn't find out until he was grown."

" His teachers at school kept asking me what was wrong with him, but the only oddity they came up with was that he wasn't paying attention and would stare out the window.  However, when the tried to catch him up by calling on him to answer a question he consistently answered correctly. "

"He was bored and quickly did all the school work-- correctly. His teacher refused to allow him to read saying he needed to remain with his class.  He would just have to sit there until they were finished. We didn't move him to another class because she was the only teacher with strong enough structure and discipline to handle him."

"When the librarian asked if our large for his age four year old son could read, I replied, 'No', then stopped. Who knows what he could do? I turned to him and asked him if he could read. He said, 'I don't know', then picked up an adult book from off the library counter and began to fluently read. We signed him up for the library summer reading program."

"His teacher asked if we were aware that he kept hitting the other children when they didn't do what he wanted. I replied that we were well aware, were working with him constantly, and had even kept him home a year, starting him a year later in Kindergarten."

"Our son cried when there was any change at school."

"He has a nearly photographic memory."

He is " very witty now that he is an adult, but though he may be witty and make you laugh he doesn't ever seem to be able to laugh himself. "

"He learned from his experience and gradually came to understand other people some. He is a good husband and father."

"I never remember ever seeing him laugh."

"He does not really relate, but has useful (to him) connections."

"He stays alone in our bedroom and refuses to speak with our seven children."

"He has trouble following company rules and relating to people, therefore he often loses jobs. Now he works for himself and does well."

"He believed that his college teachers didn't know how to teach."

"He got a scholarship to a good college based mainly on his high test score, but quit because he couldn't handle the work and got migraines."

Tangents– "He drew every picture in one color; red. He drew red cars and fire trucks over and over."

"He did not want anyone to look at him when he was a toddler. He said "Uho" and pointed another direction."

"He had trouble eating, was picky, and would often throw up. He hated any greasy texture like mayonnaise and refused to eat it."

"Our son cried when he was held as a baby. He was ok when he could hold his own bottle."

"He did whatever he determined to do. When he decided that he wanted to ride a bike, he kept trying hour after hour. Even though his legs were all bruised, he kept running into the fence and falling until he mastered riding a two wheel bike. He never gave up."

"He always had to be moving. He was always crawling as a baby and loved to jump in his jumper. He would jump up and down in his stroller until he broke out the bottom of the seat."

"I had to snap my fingers, or clap to get his attention. He had tremendous concentration."

"She incessantly washed her hands and was always worried that things were not clean. She would not take a shower and was afraid of the water."

"He threw the game controls across the room when he couldn't achieve the level he wanted."

"Our son kicked in the side of a metal cabinet when he became frustrated."

"He liked his food extra spicy, his music blaring, and the lights dimmed."

"He pushed away when I tried to carry him as a baby."

"He seemed to be unaware of pain and would jump up, landing on the cement on his knees."

"He had to do things over and over to learn. He put things in the electrical plug (and lived), his finger in the crack behind a door and shut it, and his hand on the stove repeatedly until he was sure it would be the same each time."

"He was exceptional adept with things. He had great small coordination and could build great lego creations."

"He was very one-sided. When he washed his hair, his left arm hung limply by his side. He mainly used just his right hand when he was young."

"He was happiest when we enforced simple rules. It was like the world was now logical and dependable and he could function."

"He liked to understand how things worked and would often take things apart. Once he found my wind-up wristwatch and asked me what it was. Before I could stop him, he had twisted it so hard that the spring broke. I said it used to be a wristwatch."

"When summer came, he would not give up wearing his snow boots and winter coat with the hood up. He put on his summer shorts, but he always put on his coat and boots to go outside. Fearing heat stroke and seeing the sweat pouring down his face, we finally hid his winter coat and boots in the attic. (about age 4)"

"Our son wanted to wear his winter coat even though it was 113 degrees!"

"There was an assembly that day, so classes needed to be changed. The new schedule was clearly written on the board, but the third grade boy burst into tears."

"Once we felt impressed to come home immediately. We arrived to see our four year old son sobbing on top of our house roof! Our son had put his younger brother there and was trying to convince him to jump off roof, and he (a large teenager) would catch him. He stated that it would be fun!"

"He often felt we were unfair. He thought that he should do what ever he wanted, when he wanted without even telling us where he was going. He could not understand why we would not allow him to come and go as he wanted, so he climbed out his window."

"Our son lived in the moment. He disregarded the past and ignored the future."

"She pushed past me causing me to fall and knock the lamp off the table and break it. She wouldn't help clean up the broken pieces, because I had broken it."

"When our son was around five, I had my hair cut. He was disturbed and asked, 'Mom is that still you?'"

"Our daughter blamed me for everything",  says one mother. "She claimed that everything she forgets, doesn't follow through on, or mistakes she has made, didn't happen. She flatly states that she didn't do it even if she is caught doing it. She even denied that she was pregnant until her seventh month."

"He claims that everyone else is inferior to him and lets them know it. He alone is perfect."

"If he doesn't do well in school, he says that his teachers are dumb. They don't know how to teach. It is their fault that he didn't learn."

"Said to his mother when he was unable to understand my careful explanations, "You don’t think right! You don’t make sense!"

"She would lie and say whatever she wanted things to be. She believed that she couldn't do anything wrong- ever!"

"Our son would not accept that he had debts. They were ours, and we should pay them."

"Our daughter claimed that she did not need to pay us back the the money we had loaned her. She claimed that she had earned her money. It was hers, and she did not owe us anything."

"Holding his crying younger brother up to ceiling, he claimed that brother was 'Having fun!'"

"He could not tell when other people were getting upset and would just keep going until he got yelled at."

'Our daughter stole things to get money, pawned it, was identified, and either denied having stolen it, or she said that we weren't using it, so why not."

"When asked why he used my brand new kitchen hand towel to polish the wax on his car, he pointed out that it was soft and worked well."

"He used whatever he found no matter who it belonged to. As he patiently and logically explained, it belonged to the family, I am the family, therefore it is mine."

"Our son felt that if he had it in his hand, then it was his."

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Dealing With School Discouragement

When my oldest was young, we dreaded school beginning.  Soon it would start again.  She would come home sobbing, “They called me dumb!”.  By the end of second grade, she knew she was “dumb”.

My heart ached to see someone so young already without hope.  I prayed and studied all I could about those who have difficulty learning.  I found myself remembering my own struggles in elementary school, and wondering why the Lord had not blessed me as others.  I was startled out of my self-pitying mood, as these words filled my mind, “You have not understood.  These are not your weaknesses, but the strengths I have given you.”.

From that moment, I sought to better understand the Lord’s perspective.  I read from Romans 12:6 how we all have “gifts differing”.  In I Corinthians 12, Paul explains how we are all like different parts of a body; each equally important and essential.  I felt uplifted when I read the 46th section of the D&C where the Lord explains how we are each given different gifts so we can help each other.

As our family became complete, we found it filled with a wide diversity of abilities.  This made family unity challenging.  One logical child could see no value in another sibling’s creative abilities.  An outgoing child could not understand a quiet soul’s  need to have time to think and ponder.  Another declared that studying was a “waste of time” for the only effective “way to learn was by doing”.

Drawing from the Gospel plan, and our backgrounds in education, we discovered some ideas which helped strengthen our family, and protect our children from discouragement in school.

Teach Gospel Truths
Remind children that our purpose in life is to learn and grow.
The Holy Ghost can help us progress.
The Lord has also given us families, and expects us to help each other.
The Lord loves each of us equally.
He has given all of us gifts which he expects us to share.
Provide Perspective
Different situations in life require different abilities.
Elementary school requires primarily the concrete ability of working with letters and numbers.  Our son who easily memorized words, names of States, and multiplication tables, soared.
In the higher grades, more and more emphasis is placed on understanding.  This is why our “soaring son” from elementary school occasionally “crashed” in high school.  As he declared, “How should I know what it means!?”  At this point, he needed extra help in developing this ability.

Develop Appreciation
We try to help our children identify and appreciate which abilities are being used in any activity by using words such as:
“He sure is gifted with his hands.  Look at that beautiful cabinet!”
“What a great painting!  She must have worked hard to develop that talent.”

Don’t Use Labels
We also try never to use labels, but instead, attempt to identify specific gifts.
When a child says, “He is so smart!”  We might reply, “Yes, he certainly has a great ability to memorize the times tables.  That is a nice gift to have.”

Develop Talents
We find helping our children identify and develop their own talents helps them increase their self confidence, and be less competitive with others.
Such things as having s bulletin board where awards can be posted, and attending their performances has helped to give them the positive attention they need.

Don’t Allow Excuses
A son, hoping to get out of an English assignment, announced that he wasn’t creative.  We reminded him that he would just have to work harder when something doesn’t come easily to him.  Perhaps he might need to pray, and seek help from someone who was gifted in this area, but he still had to do the work.

Set Reasonable Expectations
If the child is becoming overwhelmed, it may be time for the parent and the teacher to evaluate what are reasonable expectations for this child. For a child who laborious fights his way through one page, requiring him to read a 300 page book could be devastating.

Also, the child may need extra assistance in learning.  They may need help in developing little used abilities, or in learning how to use their strengths to help them cope in their areas of weakness.  When we accept the child strengths and weaknesses, and teach him in the way he needs to learn, then we are showing our respect for them as children of God.

We need to remember that our child is in school to help him develop his unique potential.  When we try to see our child as the Lord sees him, instead of as through a narrow worldly perspective of  “smart” or “gifted”, then we are better able to help our child progress.

Some children may be weak in the few specific abilities which are emphasized in a school setting, but they do not have to become discouraged.  They can still develop a strong sense of self worth, if we, as parents, help them to know they are sons and daughters of God who have each been given different gifts.

People Learn Differently

Being a person who struggled in elementary school myself, I really believe that people learn differently. Based on my own experiences and what I have learned in over thirty-six years of tutoring children, I  agree that most children are not disabled learners, but simply people who learn in a different way.
Some of us can not learn merely by hearing something. We need to see and experience to learn. Visual aids such as pictures, time lines, graphs, demonstrations, and DVD’s really help me follow a lesson, but they don’t always have to be things you can touch. Stories, parables, examples, and analogies also enable me to “see” the ideas. I have found  Teaching No Greater Call to be a invaluable resource of teaching ideas.
While visual aids are a great help to me, sometimes there are problems. Though it really helps when the teacher writes the key words on the board or draws simple pictures to represent the idea as she teaches, I must be able to see the teacher’s face and  lips when she talks, or I can’t “hear” what she is saying. I find it helpful if the teacher says something, THEN turns around and writes on the board, or has someone else write on the board for her. I also struggle when the room is dark such as during a computer presentation, and I can’t see the teacher. Having what she is saying also printed on the screen, aids me in following the presentation.
Another problem I encounter is when we are asked to read a scripture in class. Reading scriptures out loud is difficult for me, so I really appreciate it when a teacher doesn’t just call on me to read before the class. If she does, I am further embarrassed because I don’t know what  verse we are to look up. It means a lot to me when the teacher writes the verse number on the board, so I can be a part of the scripture study.
It also helps me when a teacher begins by giving the “whole picture” or purpose of the lesson. This allows me to understand what is being discussed. For me learning is like putting a puzzle together. I need to know what the finished puzzle should look like, then I can fit the pieces together.
One way to help me grasp the main idea of the lesson is to begin with a question written on the board. I appreciate having time before the class starts to think about the lesson. It also helps me when the teacher pauses and gives me time to think after she asks a question. I have many ideas I want to share, but it takes me awhile to put them into words. Sometimes teachers assume that since I usually can’t answer “simple” detail questions such as when or where something happened that I certainly couldn’t answer “harder” questions. Actually, these are the questions I enjoy answering.  I love it when I am given to opportunity to answer the “big picture” questions which ask me to explain what the concept means, or how to apply a Gospel principle in my life.
I am grateful for all the teachers in the Church who use a variety of teaching methods, so that those of us who learn differently can participate in classes and learn the teachings of our Savior. One of the most important things I have learned is that I  am a unique daughter of God who is not “disabled”, but who has been given special “whole picture” talents to share with others.