This past Friday I had the honour of speaking to my colleagues at the BCTELA (BC Teachers of English Language Arts) Provincial Conference. It was exciting to share my presentation entitled: Perspective-Taking and Social Understanding Through Story: Literature based activities for students who have challenges with social cognition.
My session offered an explanation of the core challenges of students with high functioning autism/Aspergers and inclusive literacy strategies for addressing their social developmental needs. I love that these strategies would benefit students with FASD, depression, anxiety, impulse control issues and other developmental challenges. In fact, these strategies are of benefit to every child, which is the idea of universal design (UDL) and the goal of supporting the needs of students with autism in an inclusive setting in the general education classroom. So often what is best practice for the child with autism… is best practice for every child!
It was lovely to be a presenter at the conference. To be honest, I always find that fun and exciting. It was also amazing to connect with so many educators that are passionate about their practice and about meeting the diverse needs of their students.
So… it was a spectacular experience. A few more teachers have a better understanding of the experiences of students with autism – and I am feeling excited about my own teaching practice and the dynamic teachers that are out there working to support diversity.
And… at this point, I must extend a huge thank you to the autistic adults who inform my practice and perspective: I have been listening!!
I changed it up a little, and pulled a number of slides from my presentation so that I finished a few minutes early. I thus had time to add in the powerful voice of H, my 13-year-old son, at the end of the presentation. I shared the self-advocacy work that he prepared for the Arizona TASH Conference, and more recently shared with the teachers at his school (which is also my school). I recorded him presenting a few weeks back and I had that playing so that he, in essence, was able to read his presentation, ‘Dear Teacher: A letter from H’, to the group.
It was powerful to be able to include this child’s perspective and give him a voice in the room in a way that builds understanding for others.
People were moved by H’s message, and I sense that his voice will have an impact that is carried with them in their interactions with other children. These teachers will go forward from this experience with a new capacity for listening to autism.
H’s message resonates…
H, lovely boy, you are my best teacher!!
Reaching out… sharing perspectives… listening to others… this is how change is made!
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2012)