An adorable Talking Tom App, Valentines Day, Perspective taking activity
almost recess , and the superintendent, principal ,and head of HR walk into the happy class. Wouldn't you know it. I knew this was a difficult task for my amazing students as all perspective taking tasks are and why I weave them in every chance I get. However, it went well! The class was engaged, focussed and when we hit a few glitches ( typical ) they CALMLY showed how to take a screen shot and then email it, shut the iPad down and reboot it or help a peer who needed help spelling a word. They were emailing, typing, helping and on task even when I was uh.. distracted. ;-) The iPad is such a powerful tool in these student hands!!!
This Bar Graph shows the prevalence of reported cases of children with Autism in the US from 1996-2007. This growth while documented here is for me begging some important questions whether 1) Autism is increasing with time or 2) the awareness is increasing so better reporting ( other 'disabilities' are dropping so had there just been a substitution? ) or 3) people are becoming less tolerant of individual differences and this is causing the increase in reporting or 4) classrooms are becoming unable to reach such diverse thinkers due to the well documented struggles facing our schools and these children are getting more referrals leading to increased reporting. This increase of prevalence between 1900 -2000 makes me pause and wonder. As teacher for children with Autism, I am interested in my own questions # 3 and # 4. The more sociological and cultural perceptions of differently abled children with diagnosed or undiagnosed ‘Autism’ & its impact on the prevalence of reporting is what interests me.
There seems to be differing viewpoints on autism by the public depending on experience. For me, as a teacher for children with Autism, I do not see autism as something that needs to be fixed or cured. For me I see it as a unique way of walking through life. My experience with these children has forever changed how I see or think about the world. I think we as a society could benefit from the unique thought process and talent so many have displayed in my classroom.
However, I often run into others including parents who want their child fixed or cured. They want their child to be like everyone else. I understand this as these children often suffer emotionally due to being misunderstood or unappreciated for their gifts and talents. The stress they experience & the effort they must exert to conform is heartbreaking at times. Publically, I have seen so many ‘neuro- typical’ people including children become uncomfortable, tease or ignore a child’s communication attempts, the way they express their feelings or how they respond to sensory stimulation.
I know as a society we strive for conformity & we are uncomfortable with outliers or unexpected behaviors. This striving to share attitudes, beliefs & behaviors is exactly where these children struggle. The tendency to conform is almost programmed into people, unconscious, unaware. The pressure from society is intense and everywhere. My students miss these clues but do feel the pressure of not conforming in many indirect ways. This of course results in a host of emotional, esteem, and anxiety concerns for these children. Their behaviors trigger alert in others. They get identified as an outlier, different and in time they have the label of Autism. Is this part of the reason for the increase in reporting? I don’t know but do wonder.
So, you must be asking how is this connected to technology? iPads? As I reach my first year (March) having 1:1 iPads in my class, I reflect on how they have impacted my students and myself. The obvious is that iPads have given my students a voice, a way to use & showcase their incredible strengths which have surprised and delighted me, many parents and most importantly my students. My students shine with this device as it taps into their visual strengths, has predictability, immediate feedback, provides a safe way to communicate and practice communication, increases time on task, motivation and engagement .. my list is long.
The iPad is also an excellent tool for reducing stress, differentiating teaching & learning, presenting what they have learned or know is so powerful that I must find a way to honor & share their efforts. Their self–esteem, overall confidence, focus and motivation increased dramatically. They communicated more not less. The device opened a door for their unique talents & is clearly a device that allows one to step out of the box. Plus it has the 'cool' factor and is increasing in prevalence!
But more importantly for me it has given me a window into their thought process for which I am forever grateful.
Plus, all this got me to thinking of how a digital portfolio and getting work into the hands of their families to share that while their children are different from the ‘norm’ their beauty is in that difference.
You know how life can just line up and events work in a synchronistic way? Well , this book came to me at just the right time. What does it have to do with iPads? Everything. The book is amazing and invigorating. It is about attitude, creativity, passion, reflecting and the iPads for me are just a tool that allows all that and more to happen in my classroom. In the beginning of his book Burgess states that ' Pirates are daring, adventurous, and willing to set forth into uncharted territories with no guarantee of success.' 1 to 1 iPads in my classroom is certainly that for me!
Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask and Analyze, Transformation, and Enthusiasm ( did you see that the first letter of each word spells out PIRATE).
I am not done yet with the book but is indeed though provoking, affirming and inspiring me to keep moving forward in my growth as a teacher with iPads and beyond.
Just before I applied for the iPad Academy and wrote a Grant to get 6 Emwaves in my class I clicked into this man. By just a click on a link that looked interesting and maybe a bit of luck (I don't believe in luck by the way ) my teaching and professional life spiraled into chaotic yet exciting and productive change. I am grateful to everything lining up at that moment. Up to that click, I had been a solid, dedicated and effective teacher for children with special needs. But I was frustrated, burning out, wanting to leave, even making plans to do so! I was wondering if I was in the right place, I was angry ... but not at my students - they were the ONLY reason I kept making my long mountain drive to school each morning. I knew I was making a small difference for a small group of amazing children with Autism. I still had passion for their growth and well being. You are probably already familiar with this type of feeling if your an educator. BUT I was frustrated by the mood towards public education and towards hard working dedicated teachers.