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Old 02-16-2006, 02:42 AM   #1
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Default Anyone have autistic children?

I teach the 4-6 year old class at church and there is a 4 year old in my class with autism. The mother speaks mostly Spanish and hasn't been able to give me much input.
Any suggestions on dealing with him? He usually doesn't participate in whatever we're doing. We were coloring last week and he just ran around the room. Thankfully his mom stays with him and keeps an eye on him, but I'd like the class to be a positive experience for him. He is quite disruptive at times and I don't want the other children to think this is acceptable.
Help?
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Old 02-16-2006, 03:40 AM   #2
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I think explaining to the other children in very simple terms that the child is still learning how to cooperate and sit still would help them, even if they don't understand the real reason. Say that that's why his mother stays in the class with him. Young children are usually amazingly understanding about a child with special needs.

My sister's youngest daughter has autism, as does my cousin's older son, and my husband's cousin (now adult). We're very aware of it in our family to say the least! It's probably not realistic to expect him to join in the group at such a young age. Hopefully, if he is getting lots of special intervention he will eventually "learn" socially acceptable behaviour, (ie. my niece knows how to carry on a phone conversation because she has been taught exactly what to say, and she knows she must stay at the table until she has asked to be done, but she doesn't internalize these behaviors like we do).

That must be really difficult if you can't communicate with the mother either because of the language barrier.
Sometimes children with autism prefer tasks where they are organizing or lining up objects...not that this is particularly productive, but it might keep him more entertained for the short time he's there.
And maybe if the mother speaks enough english you could ask where he goes to school, and speak with someone there just to get some tips on the best way to handle the situation.

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Old 02-16-2006, 04:01 AM   #3
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I used to teach a dance class that included an autistic girl. There were four other girls, 9-12 year olds, and the same thing happened in our class as you are describing. She would run around, talk to herself, pretty much not participate in whatever we were doing. But I always talked to her like she was participating, always encouraged and praised her if she showed any sign of doing anything that looked remotely like what we were doing, and soon the other girls learned to do the same thing. They understood that she just did things "differently." I always did make it a point to address her during the class.

I hope this helps! Is this child new to the church? If not, maybe you could ask someone else about this child and his "normal" behaviors and habits.
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Old 02-16-2006, 04:41 AM   #4
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I have two sons with autism. The younger of which is more closely alligned to the boy you speak of. One of the hallmarks is that autistic children are developmentally delayed. Only through intensive intervention will he learn not to run around, etc. And even then it may take years.

Little kids are much more understanding than grownups. Most kids I know just accept the behavior as that from a child who is different (which is the case). They often don't say "But he gets to do that, why can't I?" If they do say something like that, it is entirely acceptable to explain that "God made the boy that way and he can't help his behavior, but I know you can."

My son has an aide with him every Sunday (a volunteer, but they know what they are doing). We've been trying to get him a paid aide through In-Home Support but either the worker doesn't work out of they can't do Sundays. However, we still keep trying. It would be GREAT if you could find someone in your church who would be willing to help out this mother so that she can get to the service. If I had to stay with him every week, it would not be long before I just didn't go. It's hard enough being a mom to them when we are at home...extra exhausting when we are out.

Autistic kids are generally not social, especially in the younger years. He will probably avoid doing things with others. Structure is very important and it might be helpful to develop a picture system that will tell him what to expect. For instance, have some Velcro on a clipboard and put pictures on that indicate the various parts of the class (clip art of toys for free time, clip art of food for snack time, clip art of a music note for worship, clip art of crayons or whatever for craft time, clip art of Bible for Bible story time...). All the pictures hang out at the bottom of the clipboard in order, then when it is time for a particular thing, it moves to the top of the clipboard and it is announced that it is "music time". The boy should be shown this and even asked to move the pieces himself. This is where an aide comes in handy (even if it is Mom). Autistic kids like order and routine, so it is best if you follow the same schedule each week.

My son is 6 and a half and he has been in a therapeutic school setting since he was 2 and a half. When he aged into the 4/5 Sunday School classroom he was pretty much uncontrollable, so he was often taken to another room since the environment of having 12-15 young kids was over-stimulating to him. That made his behavior worse. He was very happy to go to another room (a break-out room, as it's called) to play by himself and get under control. The person with him would bring him back in with everyone else for quieter times (snack), then progress and add more times when he would be mainstreamed. He is now mostly in the room with the others and is even playing with the other kids sometimes. He speaks a little but not a lot.

If your goal is to have this child get something out of the class or for it to be a positive experience, the best thing you can do is give him a place where he feels loved and accepted, and one that doesn't cause him anxiety (which means he'll probably need to take breaks away from the classroom). He may never get the Bible story or message, but he will get the single most important lesson that any of us can learn...that someone loves us. Remember, as a teacher, you may be the only Jesus some kids see.

Hmmm, sorry I got a little long-winded.
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Old 02-16-2006, 07:02 AM   #5
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I used to teach a gymnastics class that included an autistic boy. (I taught other autistic children, but usually in classes together that parents attended, too.) This little boy came and did class alone. He was 5, in a 4-5 year old class. He had amazing behavior. He did everything I asked, if I held his hand, and talked him through the task/s. He did however never talk, nor make eye contact with me. Really a good kid.

Crazy thing...he had been coming for several weeks, and we had gone to the "big gym" and done floor fun and trampoline on the big trampoline...but one class I let the kids have some play time in the pit. His first time in the foam pit. He looks at it with some apprehension, and then jumps in full force. He was usually very timid with new things. After jumping in, he started repeating verbatim the dialogue from Toy Story. It was wild. He kept repeating each characters lines, directly from the movie. He would do this whenever we went to the pit. I was amazed, and when we returned to our "little gym", I told his parents what had happened in the "big gym"...they just smiled, and said that it was "he and I's little RainMan moment."

I'll never forget that kid, and every time I would get into the pit, either as teacher or tumbling I'd think of him. Round off, back-handspring, double full...To Infinity and Beyond!" Everytime. Just another case of a kid leaving his hand prints on my heart.

Great, now I'm tearing up just remembering. Stupid pregnancy hormones.

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Old 02-16-2006, 07:12 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by srogers5
Hmmm, sorry I got a little long-winded.
Don't apologize! That is EXACTLY the kind of information I was looking for. Thank you to all who responded.

My heart really goes out to this family. They recently had confirmed that their 2 year old twin boys are ALSO autistic.

I think I've been doing the right thing so far. But I'm apprehensive about suggesting that the mom leave him there...but I'd like her to have a chance to go to an adult class.

Thanks again for all your responses.
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Old 02-16-2006, 08:37 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by srogers5
Little kids are much more understanding than grownups. Most kids I know just accept the behavior as that from a child who is different (which is the case). They often don't say "But he gets to do that, why can't I?" If they do say something like that, it is entirely acceptable to explain that "God made the boy that way and he can't help his behavior, but I know you can."

My son has an aide with him every Sunday (a volunteer, but they know what they are doing). We've been trying to get him a paid aide through In-Home Support but either the worker doesn't work out of they can't do Sundays. However, we still keep trying. It would be GREAT if you could find someone in your church who would be willing to help out this mother so that she can get to the service. If I had to stay with him every week, it would not be long before I just didn't go. It's hard enough being a mom to them when we are at home...extra exhausting when we are out.

Autistic kids are generally not social, especially in the younger years. He will probably avoid doing things with others.

Remember, as a teacher, you may be the only Jesus some kids see.

Hmmm, sorry I got a little long-winded.
Oh, Sharon is going to make me cry! It's all perfect! my dd has Asperger Syndrome. She has the "deer in the headlights" version of autism, meaning she shuts down in these situations. She is doing WAY better now. I used to stay with her in Sunday School, too. It was exhausting, since I had another child (not knowing she had her own issues) who would scream for me during SS. My dd never participated, but she didn't run around. At that age, the other kids really didn't even notice! What Sharon said about explaining it to the kids would be great. They can know God made him the way he is, NOT weird, or crazy, or bad, just different from them, and that he will learn to sit down, too, but it takes him longer to learn these things.

If it is super noisy in there, or too colorful, or too busy, he may flip out. Hard to make it not that way when you have 4 to 6 year olds! Most autistic kids are hypersensitive, often to sound. Some to touch, some to disorder, some to taste. All different things. Mine is hypersensitive to sound, but undersensitive to touch.

My dd is 9 now. AT our homeschool co-op she is doing so much better & is in only one class I teach this semester! the other kids treat her like she's just one of the kids, but they can get frustrated when she won't do the work, but does her own thing! Now, though, she will share with me that it makes her mad when they tell her what to do! She's expressing emotion, which is huge. I know she was high functioning to start, but if you can somehow encourage the mom (maybe through a translator) that it gets better with age, it might help some.

Other thoughts, if you can get a translator, maybe you could find out what kind of help the child needs or is getting. I know you are a teacher in a private school, so wonder if you know anyone who works with special needs kids. When I taught in a Christian school, we had just 'mainstream" classes, but did start having a reading specialist. Nothing special ed, really. But, yours might be different.

Hope you can figure this out!
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Old 02-16-2006, 08:40 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AprilJP
Don't apologize! That is EXACTLY the kind of information I was looking for. Thank you to all who responded.

My heart really goes out to this family. They recently had confirmed that their 2 year old twin boys are ALSO autistic.

I think I've been doing the right thing so far. But I'm apprehensive about suggesting that the mom leave him there...but I'd like her to have a chance to go to an adult class.

Thanks again for all your responses.
April, do you think you could ask if there is someone in the church who can be a special helper for him? sometimes there are teenagers who want to work with kids, even special needs kids, who would jump at the chance to do this. I wish we'd had that for Bethany! I ended up taking her out of Sunday School & going to church with me. Then, I would have to get Natalie out of class b/c she screamed & they paged me. My dh wasn't going to church with us at the time & I gave up on going. I would hope for other moms there might be a bit of respite for them on Sundays, IF there is someone to help out. YOu can't teach the others and take care of him, so maybe someone could step in to help? Just a thought!
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Old 02-16-2006, 10:02 AM   #9
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Lori, thanks for the input. My church school is very tiny, so we have no help to give from that direction. I believe the grandparents help with the two little ones right now which is why she can stay with Nathan in my room. I like the idea about asking a teenager....that's a good idea....I'll have to put out some feelers.

So, it does get better with age? I think that would encourage her to know that.
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Old 02-16-2006, 10:39 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AprilJP
Lori, thanks for the input. My church school is very tiny, so we have no help to give from that direction. I believe the grandparents help with the two little ones right now which is why she can stay with Nathan in my room. I like the idea about asking a teenager....that's a good idea....I'll have to put out some feelers.

So, it does get better with age? I think that would encourage her to know that.
our church has an entire special needs unit, their own wing. with all the closest parking lots designated for them so they dont have to chance their children running free.
but.. thankfully we have the space to do this.

i know the director of promiseland (their wing) likes to have a 2-1 ratio.. that is 2 students to 1 special needs child.. and our junior high and high school students make up the majority of the leaders. i think it is sooo sooo awesome to see them serve in that area. and on most occasions, they have a 3-1 ratio.. because the students enjoy it so much!

involve the older students in the church.. let them experience the joy in serving!!!
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Old 02-16-2006, 01:46 PM   #11
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Hey Tasha,

Do you go to Willow Creek, by any chance?

As for volunteers to work with the kids, teens are awesome a lot of the time (if they are teens who like kids). I would suggest, however, that they have some sort of training first. Like explain to them what the child's typical behavior is, what is acceptable and what is not, and especially what to do if they lose control. As long as my child is safe, I don't really care what he is doing. They can be blowing bubbles for all I care. Happy and loved and accepted. That's what it is all about.
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Old 02-16-2006, 05:01 PM   #12
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I have an autistic young man in my class right now. He is extremely bright and actually scored the highest grade on our districts beginning and middle of the year assessments. He amazes me with his knowledge.
The other kids realize that he is different socially and pretty much accept him. He does have a close friend in class who is patient and understanding with him which makes partner activites so much better and easier.
So, the point of this is that they do improve with therapy, caring teachers and support staff, and understanding from everyone.
I applaud you for taking the time to understand his disability and trying to find ways to help him.
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Old 02-16-2006, 05:18 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by srogers5
Hey Tasha,

Do you go to Willow Creek, by any chance?

As for volunteers to work with the kids, teens are awesome a lot of the time (if they are teens who like kids). I would suggest, however, that they have some sort of training first. Like explain to them what the child's typical behavior is, what is acceptable and what is not, and especially what to do if they lose control. As long as my child is safe, I don't really care what he is doing. They can be blowing bubbles for all I care. Happy and loved and accepted. That's what it is all about.
heh, no.. but our staff did conference at willow creek to learn all about promiseland.. anything we do.. we learned from them!
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Old 05-25-2008, 06:35 PM   #14
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Default SCS support thread

There is a support thread for this now...
Support For Parents With Autistic Children


Please feel free to visit and share with us.
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Old 05-25-2008, 06:51 PM   #15
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There's an autistic child in my DS's class at church. He would come home and tell me he didn't like X because he hit him or was loud or whatever. I found this book so I could explain to my son why X bahaves that way and then we discussed ways we could show him love. Since then, my DS has invited him to birthday parties and explained to others that X has "ostsism".
http://www.amazon.com/Sometimes-My-B...1770047&sr=8-1

It wouldn't hurt to spend a Sunday reading this book and discussing a verse or two on how Jesus wants us to love the children. I don't think I would say that his behavior is not excuse for others to misbehave. Just focus on how they can show him love.
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Old 05-25-2008, 08:55 PM   #16
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we have a prek child in church with this same thing. we have an older teen buddy with him to help out. my son being one of them, because we have an autistic child and so my oldest knows what to do. to help? find a translator for you to see what mom can say. also, a picture schedule of what is going to happen each morning will help him. there is a book called 'Let All the Children Come' that addresses this issue. also if you can find a special ed teacher in your congregation, they might be able to offer help. we have a large church with an incredible special needs program.
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Old 05-26-2008, 07:14 PM   #17
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Leah, oh my goodness thanks for posting the link to that book. I am going to get it and go through it with Emma. Thanks!
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