A Teacher's experience - Autism Blog Hop guest post

People with autism have difficulty recognising and understanding people’s feelings and managing their own feelings

A wonderful post from Stacia...

I am a retired Pre-school and Kindergarten teacher, I taught at a private school for four years. My main reason for writing this is not to tell you about my career, however short it was, but to talk about teaching an autistic child. We’ve had blogs going around about how it is having an autistic child and how parents deal with the schools and teachers of these kids so I thought I’d share with you from an educator’s point of view in the classroom. Each person with Autism is different so I’ll just be talking about the child I know and this does not shed light on all autistic kids as a whole. They’re not numbers, they’re individual people.

We had a little girl who was five join our pre-school one year. The parents didn’t know how to handle her because she didn’t respond to the outside world as her siblings did. She wouldn’t even use words to communicate, the little girl made grunting noises. I remember the day they brought her in, she took one look at the classroom and started climbing her father like a tree. I had him take her into the hallway which had white floors and white walls and she calmed down. She grunted to get down and she walked around exploring and she was fine. We went back into the classroom and she got upset again so we went back into the hallway. That was when we realized she needed a space that was bland and uncluttered. So while the other kids were in the classroom with the other teacher, I taught her every day in the hallway. At the time this was happening, we did not know she was autistic, she was diagnosed a couple of years later.

I started her out with just one educational toy. It was a stuffed bear with colors on it’s belly. The child pushes the color and the bear says what color it is. We played with that bear for two weeks. Each time the bear would say the color, I would repeat it. By the time the second week was up, she was repeating me. I remember she loved stickers so every time she said it correctly or close to it, I would give her a sticker. By the third week I was able to integrate another simple toy. I took the bear away but by the fourth week I introduced the bear back into the equation. She was able to play with both.

She didn’t like toys that made loud sounds so we found a bear like the first one I shared with her that worked with numbers. She didn’t learn these too well, it took her twice as long but she was able to count to 10. Might not sound like progress but she went from grunting to repeating colors and counting to 10 in three months. She was also talking more. I would talk to her every day. Every time I would do something like stand I would say, “up”. She started to mimic me. I was just experimenting on how to get through to her. She is the only autistic child I ever taught and like I said, we didn’t know that at the time. I think I learned just as much as she did. When she sees me now, she still smiles at me. For me getting a smile from her was worth all the head butting I did during that school year.

Being repetitive in your teaching goes a long way to helping a child to understand and learn. That’s how I taught all of my students their ABC’s and 123’s. You just sometimes have to think outside the box and scale it down a bit. However, just because this worked with the child I taught doesn’t mean it would work for all autistic children. Each one is different.

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24 comments

  1. thanks for the wonderful post stacia. its people like you that make a huge difference in the world. i have a variety of learning disabilities all of which made school hell for me but there were a few teachers like you that certainly went a long way in helping me make it thru and graduate college successfully

    parisfan_ca@yahoo.com

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    1. thank you for the nice reply laurie. I myself have dyslexia but I had a few good teachers in my past who have helped me overcome it. I think that's why I wanted to teach.

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  2. Thank you for your post it's amazing how many children are not diagnosed early which would help the child and their parents get support.

    SHirleyAnn@speakman40.freeserve.co.uk

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    1. I agree. There should be a way to diagnose this earlier. I think they are too afraid of labeling a child who might just be slower than others in development. But there should be a way.

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  3. I, too, have worked with autistic children. I know my heart would swell when I "got through" to them.

    I know the intent of this article was to bring awareness, not tears. However, I find myself tearing up. Tears of joy.

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    1. thank you for the nice reply :)

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  4. Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Stacia. Stories like these shed light on these individuals, helping us to have a better understanding.
    We are each here to leave a mark, some of us might be fortunate enough to leave many marks. You left a mark not only that little girl but on her family as well.

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    1. Thank you. What I managed to teach her was just the tip of the iceberg. It's been a few years and she is thriving. Thanks to the people who work with her. I'm honored to be a part of her growth

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  5. That was a lovely and well delivered story. I don't know if your experience was just four years or just four years at a private school. God in heaven no blasphemy intended more of a prayer, I would want more teachers like you. Thanks for being the kind of teacher you were. I'm sure that there are other children from your classes that benefited because of your willingness to actually teach. you're awesome.

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    1. Just four years in a preschool/kindergarten setting. For two additional years I was a teacher's aide. I mostly graded papers for third, fourth and fifth grade. My health would not allow me to work more than that. And thank you. It's always nice for a teacher to hear the words, "Thank you."

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  6. Thanks for your insight as an educator and for your caring teaching of this little girl. I learned so much from the Hop about autism and how different it can be for each child.

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    1. I'm glad to share it with you. I'm glad you found the blog hop informative. That's what the intention was. This was a great idea Rj Scott had.

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  7. It's a very inspiring anecdote!

    Trix, vitajex(at)Aol(dot)com

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  8. Thank you for sharing the story of the little girl. It was a wonderful thing that you did.

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  9. Thank you for sharing your story of how you were able to help that little girl. This whole Autism blog hop is wonderful. doucook@yahoo.com

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    1. this blog hop was a great idea. I'm honored to be a part of it.

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  10. Thank you for sharing your experience with. I've had my up and downs with educators and I'm so glad to hear that there was someone such as yourself there for that little girl.

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    1. Thank you. I had ups and downs with educators as well. I was born with Spina Bifida and my parents had to fight from letting the teachers treat me different. There was nothing wrong with my brain, just my legs. But they fought for me and there have been teachers along the way that deserve medals for helping me be just like anyone else.

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  11. Nice story for you to share

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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  12. Stacia, you are truly a teacher by calling.

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  13. Thank you for sharing!

    spamscape [at] gmail [dot] com

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  14. It's amazing how different these children are, and how special. I'm so glad you shared your story with us, Stacia!

    ashley.vanburen[at]gmail[dot]com

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