Friday, 22 October 2010

Working with Autistic Children

I spent yesterday at Rowan Primary, a school for autistic children. I have worked in Special Schools before, and even with children in Primary Inclusion Centres, so I was not a complete novice, but profound autism definitely sounded like quite a challenge.

occasionally like to muster the courage to push the boundaries though: often you discover strengths you didn't know you had. I'd not be doing children's events at all, had I not been dragged from my initial terror by Sheffield's wonderful Books For Babies coordinator, Kath Navratil, whose gentle persistence got me started. 
I didn't know how to pitch the day at Rowan, so asked advice of the Head Teacher. She warned me that visual humour would work better than verbal humour, so I read Stinky!, Class Two at the Zoo and Dragon's Dinner, all of which are visually quite slapstick.

The youngest classes were quite hard - I had to think on my feet much more than usual. Few children liked to sit, and often went off on personal tangents, with little concept of the 'group' nature of the activity.

The teachers were really helpful though and I found that, if I stayed calm and bent with the wind, it was fine. For example, I gave up immediately on them doing individual drawings: instead I tore off flipchart sheets and, those that wanted to, all mucked in together. One little boy got very focussed when I got him to take turns with me, colouring alternate stripes on a snake.

The older children turned out to be very good listeners, with only occasional disruption by individuals. I got them drawing dragons and they did really well. Several seemed surprised and pleased with what they achieved.

I'm so glad I went for it and didn't let nervousness put me off. I was pretty exhausted when I got home, but felt I had connected with the children. The teachers all appeared genuinely pleased with how it went, so I reckon I did ok.
Rowan Primary is in Sheffield, so it was nice not to spend ages travelling. Of course, it also meant no train drawings, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to show you some of the ones I did when I was last out and about - sorry if their apparent randomness threw you!


Tami Traylor said...

It was nice hearing about your experience with the autistic children. My daughter volunteers as a summer camp counselor and with autistic children. She loves it.

I noticed your mention of Chesterfield on that last sketch. I happen to live in Chesterfield, Virginia but it's probably not nearly as charming as your Chesterfield.

Lucky you with your iPod. I sent one of mine through the wash. We were able to revive it in a bag of dry rice, but it won't keep a charge in the battery.

Lynne Chapman said...

Fancy that! Well, the thing our Chesterfield is most famous for, is the extraordinary twisted spire. Take a look: