Tag Archives: what

Being Intelligent Does Not Guarantee Success

TEDxGrit

 

When I was a  young child, I was always taught that in order to be successful in school, work and in life in general, I needed to be intelligent. High I.Q. according to my first teachers, equals a high grade. However, as I went through high school to graduate school and now as an educator, I discovered that having a high I.Q. does not guarantee that individuals will succeed. Intelligent students do not always get the highest marks/ grades, and the not-so-smart ones do not always get the average or lowest grades.

Life events and well-being immediately come into people’s minds when asked why this is the case. In addition to these, Angela Duckworth proposed that success depends on another important factor: Grit, defined as the ‘perseverance and passion for long-term goals’. Watch her TED talk below:

 

To read Angela Duckworth’s seminal research on Grit, click HERE

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Practical Tips to Make your Classroom Autism-Friendly

classroom

A few weeks ago, I wrote a list of  typical characteristics exhibited by students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). In this post, I will provide a list of interventions and strategies to help teachers make their classroom Autism-friendly. As with all of my other articles, I must remind my dear readers that students with Autism are very different from each other, hence some of these strategies may not apply to all of them. My advice is to ‘personalize’ each of these strategies based on your students’ personalities, skill-set, social and academic abilities. It is also helpful to keep a written record of the interventions you have put in place and their effectiveness (or lack thereof). This will help you plan future interventions, and will also serve as evidence for annual reviews and/ or school inspections.

RULES AND REWARDS

  • Define classroom rules as early as possible. Boundaries should be clear and concise. Make sure that all rules are fair to everyone in the classroom and that are any ‘special’ arrangements made for students with ASD are explained to mainstream students. Click here for a useful explanation of fairness.
  • Reinforce rules with pictures and words that are clearly visible to the students.
  • Establish a reward system. Rewards could be visible for everyone, or only to individual students.

 

(See also: Useful tips for teachers meeting students with ASD for the first time)

 

PLACE IN THE CLASSROOM

Students with Autism need to sit away from distractions as most of them find it difficult to ‘tune-out’ sensory stimulations.
school circletime

  • Keep them away from the classroom doors as they may be distracted by people coming in and out of the class (more than your average student).
  • Keep them away from windows – passers-by are distracting enough for others.
  • If you are in a mainstream school, especially primary school, your classroom may be full of colourful posters and displays which could be very distracting to students with ASD. Make sure you place students with ASD in a seat where they are not in front of any colourful displays.
  • Make sure that they sit next to a good role model. Being seated next to a student who is hyperactive, talkative or just generally unpredictable can be very unsettling to students with ASD.
  • Establish a permanent space or spot for your students with ASD would sit everytime your class have Circle time and Carpet time. This aids predictability.

VISUAL REPRESENTATIONS

  • Most people with Autism prefer visual representations, especially of timetables. It is useful to have individual Visual timetables for students with ASD. It helps them organize their day and it helps them predict what will happen next. Physically putting pictures on visual timetables at the start of every school day helps students prepare themselves for the day ahead. Below are a few examples of how visual timetables could look like (taken from  asdteacher):

edited-schedules

  • Make sure that any change in the students’ or the class’ routine is represented in their timetables. Make sure that such changes are explained, too.
  • Non-verbal students may be helped by introducing PECS, or Picture Exchange Communication System. In simple terms, PECS is communication through pictures, i.e. students show their teachers a picture of what they want (e.g. the toilet) and the teacher honours that request.

COMMUNICATION

  • Make sure that you have their attention before communicating with them. Make sure you call on their names everytime you 6a00d8357f3f2969e2017d3bc742e7970c-400wiwant to speak to them.
  • Do not demand eye contact. People with Autism struggle to give eye-contact for various different reasons. It has been suggested that quite a lot of them are not able to process Auditory and Visual stimuli simultaneously. Others found that eye-contact is avoided when people with ASD are thinking and/ or concentrating.
  • Use concrete language. Keep it simple and straight to the point.
  • Be careful with metaphors, sarcasm and irony. People with ASD have a very literal understanding of language (a good example of this is Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Coopervideos). Most of them may not get phrases like ‘Pull your socks up’, or ‘Toast the Bride’. I remember this one student of mine a few years back who was extremely puzzled when I told him to ‘Hold that Thought’.
  • Explain everything that has a double meaning.
  • Allow extra processing time. The National Autistic Society recommends practitioners to wait at least six seconds before repeating an instruction (Six-second rule).

TEAM APPROACH

  • Teachers, parents and students should all be involved in planning interventions. A healthy relationship between schools and parents are an excellent platform for success.
  • Keep a home-school diary to increase communication with parents and to ensure that interventions are followed-through.

More on Autism:

Vote for Miss Montana, Alexis Wineman

What does Autism mean?

What is PDD-NOS?

Communication difficulties in Autism

Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper: Asperger’s Syndrome’s Poster Boy?

Still unsure if Sheldon has Asperger’s?

The Autistic Me: BBC Documentary

Autism in the classroom:

Guide to parents of students with ASD on coping with the first day back to school

Common signs of Autism in the classroom

First day back to school: Top tips for parents of children with Autism

Inspiring People with Autism:

Dr. Temple Grandin

Jessica-Jane Applegate (British Paralympian)

Satoshi Tajiri (Pokemon creator)

Carly Fleischmann

More on Savants:

The Psychology of Savants: Memory Masters

Artists with Autism

The Einstein Effect: Is there a link between having Autism and being a genius?

The Autistic Me: A BBC Documentary

Below are Youtube links to a fascinating documentary which featured the daily lives of three men who have Autism. I am sharing this because it highlights how different individuals with Autism are to one another. It also shows how challenging life can be if you or one of your family members have Autism.

What is it like to grow up with Autism? How hard could the transition to adulthood be? Is it easy to find a job? What about finding a girlfriend? If you want to find out, watch the clips below:

REMEMBER: It is important to know what it is like to live with Autism in order for us to understand them better. Knowing more about this condition will help us build better relationships, and communicate and work with them effectively.

PART 1:

PART 2:

PART 3:

PART 4:

PART 5:

PART 6:

 

More on Autism:

He flaps his hands and screams a lot but he doesn’t mean to annoy you

Optimum Outcomes for people with Autism

DSM 5 and its implications to ASD diagnosis

Diagnosing Autism: What you need to know

Vote for Miss Montana 2012, Alexis Wineman

What does Autism mean?

What is PDD-NOS?

Communication difficulties in Autism

Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper: Asperger’s Syndrome’s Poster Boy?

Still unsure if Sheldon has Asperger’s?

DSM-V and Autism

The Autistic Me: BBC Documentary

Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of minds

Autism in the classroom:

Guide to parents of students with ASD on coping with the first day back to school

Common signs of Autism in the classroom

First day back to school: Top tips for parents of children with Autism

Practical tips to make your classroom Autism-Friendly

Inspiring People with Autism:

Dr. Temple Grandin

Jessica-Jane Applegate (British Paralympian)

Satoshi Tajiri (Pokemon creator)

Carly Fleischmann

More on Savants:

The Psychology of Savants: Memory Masters

Artists with Autism

The Einstein Effect: Is there a link between having Autism and being a genius?

 

Love really comes in different ways: The case of Objectum Sexuals

We are all familiar with the common sexual orientations there is: heterosexuality, homosexuality, transgender, bisexuality, etc. Only few have heard of Objectum Sexuality- a term that refers to people’s orientation to love objects. Objectum Sexuals are said to love specific object(s) in an intimate manner. What they feel for objects is similar to the kind of attraction, infatuation and attachment that others may feel to a fellow human being when they are in love. To an eye of a non-objectum sexual, such a relationship may seem one-sided, but most Objectum  Sexuals claim that they feel love in return.

Watch the documentary below to find out more:

For more information on Objectum Sexuality, click HERE

What does AUTISM mean to me?

The Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV)‘s definition of Autism is as follows:

ASD is a spectrum of disorders characterized by impairments in three areas (also known as the ‘Triad of Impairments’):

  1. Communication- delays in language development; impaired ability to initiate and/ or sustain conversations
  2. Social skills- lack of typical eye-contact when communicating; failure to display and/or identify and express appropriate emotions; limited peer relationships
  3. Repetitive and stereotyped behaviours and interests- inflexibility to routine changes; intense preoccupation to objects

Having worked with students and young people with Autism Spectrum Disorders for years, it comes to no surprise that people often ask me what Autism is, probably expecting a simplified version of the one offered by the DSM-IV. However, my response often pleasantly surprises most people. I believe that Autism represents a great personal and societal responsibility to learn, understand and embrace the different ways in which human beings are.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition which affects between 1/88 to 1/100 individuals. Compared to those without the condition, each individual with Autism is observed to have unique developmental trajectories particularly in the areas of language and social skills. To understand how different their language and social interactions can be, watch the Youtube clip below which features Amanda Baggs, a young woman with Autism:

Amanda made a very important point there when she asked why her “failure to learn our language is seen as a deficit while our failure to learn hers is seen as natural”. This to me highlights one of the deficiencies of the DSM’s definition stated above. The DSM states that people with Autism’s ability to initiate and sustain conversations is impaired. However, I feel that this does not take into consideration the various different ways in which people with Autism attempt to communicate with us. I believe that half of this communication difficulty lies within us Neurotypicals. We need to figure out whether or not a person with Autism is communicating with us and what they are trying to tell us.

Dr. Thomas Armstrong pointed out in his book that individuals with Autism are normally viewed in terms of what they can’t do instead of what they can. This can be seen in the definition above- individuals can’t do this, can’t do that, and they are impaired in this and that areas of development. As mentioned, I prefer to think of Autism as a different developmental trajectory. Not impaired; not disabled. If we take a closer look at the way they process visual information, we will notice that they have a phenomenal eye for detail. some of them also have amazing memories.An example of how great a person with Autism’s memory could be is the case of Kim Peek, also known as ‘The Real Rain Man’, as he was the inspiration behind Dustin Hoffman’s move, Rain Man.

A person who demonstrates both the ability to keep an eye for detail and memorizing is Stephen Wiltshire. Stephen, who is diagnosed with Autism at an early age, is a British artist capable of drawing detailed and accurate depictions of cities and landmarks from memory. Take a look:

Stephen Wiltshire draws Rome from memory:

It is important to keep in mind that people with Autism are not one and the same. As Francesca Happe stated, ‘when you meet one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism’. Stephen Wiltshire, Kim Peek and Amanda Baggs are in no way representative of every single person with Autism. Nevertheless, they represent the different ways in which Autism manifests. More importantly, their cases highlight the fact that a diagnosis of Autism marks not the end of the road to life, but the beginning of the road to understanding and acceptance. People with Autism may not be the same as you and I, but that does not mean that they should be ignored, avoided or be pitied. We have an enormous responsibility not only to help and support them, but also to help other people understand what Autism really is. We have to start viewing Autism in the light of what they CAN do, not on what they can’t.

More on Autism:

He flaps his hands and screams a lot but he doesn’t mean to annoy you

Optimum Outcomes for people with Autism

DSM 5 and its implications to ASD diagnosis

Diagnosing Autism: What you need to know

Vote for Miss Montana 2012, Alexis Wineman

What is PDD-NOS?

Communication difficulties in Autism

Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper: Asperger’s Syndrome’s Poster Boy?

Still unsure if Sheldon has Asperger’s?

DSM-V and Autism

The Autistic Me: BBC Documentary

Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of minds

Autism in the classroom:

Guide to parents of students with ASD on coping with the first day back to school

Common signs of Autism in the classroom

First day back to school: Top tips for parents of children with Autism

Practical tips to make your classroom Autism-Friendly

Inspiring People with Autism:

Dr. Temple Grandin

Jessica-Jane Applegate (British Paralympian)

Satoshi Tajiri (Pokemon creator)

Carly Fleischmann

More on Savants:

The Psychology of Savants: Memory Masters

Artists with Autism

The Einstein Effect: Is there a link between having Autism and being a genius?

PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES, NOT DISABILITIES WITH PEOPLE

Over the past three weeks, the BBC has shown a documentary (WATCH BELOW) which featured musically talented individuals with Tourette’s syndrome (TS). Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological condition characterised by uncontrollable motor and/ or verbal tics. At the time of writing, there is no known cause of the condition and hence, treatments are still being developed.

In the programme, DJ/ TV presenter Reggie Yates interviewed each of the individuals to find out the severity of their TS and the extent to which their condition has affected their lives. Reggie also found that their tics however severe disappeared whenever they sing or play a musical instrument. Doing so gave them a sense of calm. These individuals were then brought together in a studio and over a period of eight weeks, they rehearsed for a concert which they performed in front of a lot of people.

I felt that the series showed how their diagnoses are only a part of their personalities. Each of them has an incredible talent which, sadly has been over-shadowed by their Tourette’s. More often than not, people tend only to focus on what people cannot do rather than what they can do. The reason why I wrote the last sentence is due to the comments made in Twitter. Almost every tweet mentioned how great, wonderful and gifted this group of people are and that their ability to stand up and sing on the concert was a massive achievement- almost a miracle. While I agree to all of those statements, I was amazed how surprised these people are with what they saw. To me, this highlights the need for us to get to know each individual that we meet, regardless of whether they have a physical and/ or psychological condition or not, as a whole person. We should not let others’ disabilities mask who they truly are. Yes, their conditions are a part of themselves and that we need to tailor our behaviours and language to their needs. But their conditions are a fraction of a whole person. Focus on what they CAN, not on what they CAN’T do.

Working with students with Special Educational Needs gave me the opportunity to see how each individual, regardless of their condition, have a unique set of strengths, limitations and extraordinary talent. Majority of students who were surrounded with people who have a clear understanding of their diagnoses and the willingness to get to know them have flourished beyond what most professionals expected. So please, open your mind, throw stereotypes out of the window and get to know each person as a whole.

Here’s the whole series:

Part 1:

Part 2:

 

Part 3

 

People in th UK can also watch Part 3 on BBC iplayer: CLICK HERE

 

For more information on Tourette’s Syndrome, click on the links below:

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Tourette’s Action UK

NHS webpage for Tourette’s

Documentary about Tourette’s Syndrome

I just want to share this brilliant documentary about Tourette’s Syndrome, called ‘Tourette’s Uncovered’. I don’t know much about Tourette’s Syndrome and these videos showed me what it’s like to have the condition. The documentary is enlightening and educational.

These youtube videos are uploaded by M111771. Enjoy: