Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Learning about the Fishbowl Project

Last week I spent my days in a lecture room with two AMAZING remedial therapists (previously educators) learning about Autism Spectrum Disorder.  WOW!  That's about the shortest summary I can give!  I went on the Fishbowl Project Training. Please do yourself a favour, and click on this link!  If you are a teacher / parent of a child with ANY special needs, not just on the Autism Spectrum, seriously, go and read what they have to say about this training.  I HIGHLY recommend it!

The one thing that keeps resounding in my head is: VISUAL OVER VERBAL!  Use visual cues, visual instructions, visual schedules - it all makes life SO much easier for children with autism.  But not only for these children, but also neuro-typical ('normal', as we know it) children.  I've had to rethink how I do therapy, and how I instruct children.  It makes sooooo much sense to use visual before verbal!  Verbal instructions are abstract and fleeting, visual instructions are concrete and makes a lasting impression.

A few cool ideas I got from the course last week:
  • Have a picture of two feet / two shoes stuck on the floor in your therapy area.  This is to avoid having to repeat the instruction "take of your shoes" every time the dear child comes for therapy.  They'll see the sign, and KNOW what to do, without you having to TELL them each time.  BEAUTIFUL!
  • Make sure that the activities which you do with younger children / children on the autism spectrum, has a visual way of telling the child when they are done with the activity.  This includes basic things like starting left, working towards the right, and when all the pieces have been moved from left to right, you're done. 
    • Or having lots of big beads or cotton thread spools in two different colours in a round container (that is stuck to a 2L ice-cream container's lid on the left) and then two colours of shoelaces (on the right side of the lid, held in place by making a hole in the lid and then tying a knot at the end of the shoelace inside the lid) matching the two colours of beads / spools.  The child will instinctively know to thread what is on the left onto the matching shoelace. And he'll know that the activity is done once there's nothing left in the left side's container. Uhm...and now I don't have the visual to explain my verbal diarrhea to you - OOPS!  (Thank you, Reinette and Bernadette, for showing us these inexpensive but durable activities / games!)
I also learned about Makaton, which is a way of signing to support verbal communication, and I'm now seriously considering going for the training to do Makaton Signing for Baby to allow me easier communication with my child.  And it is accessible in South Africa, thus providing us with the opportunity to understand our non-verbal children better, and for them to express themselves, and their needs, more clearly!  Makaton has also been researched, with research published. I really think this is the way forward!

This past week has been SUCH a blessing in my career - I was forced to really rethink how I do things.  To be able to really get down to a child's level (my word, I was really reminded a LOT about creative ability and activity analysis) and present activities / tasks in such a way that they will be able to comprehend, as well as not become frustrated.  It took me back to my pre-grad days!

And, in the process of find all these amazing links for this post, I stumbled upon this amazing website.  This mommy is really making it easy for all the mommies out there to not only entertain their children, but simultaneously turning it into a learning opportunity!  Really awesome!

On a slightly more personal note - I am now 18 weeks 1 day along in my pregnancy, and about 2 weeks ago I started feeling my baby move!  Very exciting, and always unsuspected.  As I was sitting here, writing this post, Jellybaby has been seriously active.  I think one of the seams of my pants running across my tummy is REALLY irritating Jellybaby!  Can't wait until the movement becomes more pronounced :-) YEAH!

God Bless and hope that this information was helpful.