Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Lack of Communication-Autism Perspective

In my music class, I have had an autistic student for the past four years. In the beginning, I tried many different ways to reach her. When she was in third grade, I found out that she sang "You are my Sunshine" at home all the time, so I taught it to the class. Then, when I learned she knew sign language, I bought a video and taught the class the alphabet and some basic signs for colors and animals. Both of these attempts were met with outbursts. . . Unpleasant outbursts. I am not sure what was happening, but my guess was that the world she lived in and the world I taught in had collided and it made her feel uncomfortable. I kept attempting to reach her by holding a hand and getting her to create a beat with various instruments.

This year, while other students were working on a heavily academic assignment, the student was listening to Masterworks of music. One day, I gave her some paper and said, "Draw what you hear." She proceeded to draw a beautiful representation of the CD Player! I laughed....a lot....and at myself! She did exactly what I asked her to do. She drew a picture of what she heard. Up until this point, when I asked a question, she repeated what I said...including BOTH answers. If I said, "Is this good or bad?" She would reply, "good or bad." On the day of the drawing, I asked her if the music sounded happy or sad. She immediately wrote the word, "Happy" on the paper. True communication occurred! HAPPY!

In that one bright shining moment with the picture and the word, I felt like together we had accomplished a connection.

This year, Peter H. Reynolds illustrated a book called, "Wings of Epoh" (Epoh is Hope backwards) written by Gerda Weissmann Klein, the noted Holocaust survivor. The book is available from FableVision and SARRC. It is a truly moving story of acceptance. I knew it would be a good book....I had no idea how good. Last night, Peter sent me an email to let me know he had published a cartoon on YouTube. Please check it out and check out the book. If you have tried unsuccessfully to truly communicate with someone the book and video just might give you the motivation to keep trying!

1 comment:

mindelei said...

What a wonderful moment for the two of you to share. Congratulations! I know that even the smallest things can mean so much.