“The unique individuals who are on the Autistic Spectrum vibrate on a totally different frequency; they orientate within their environment in a very unique way to us; their senses are heightened in a variety of ways which makes the world a profound sensory minefield for them; and most importantly they are misunderstood by society where they are expected to ‘fit’ into the mainstream way of being. ” — Karina D. Barley
Karina D. Barley is passionate about teaching, but more importantly she is passionate about making a difference to the world of Autism. Her insight largely comes from observation, interaction and becoming familiar with these beautiful and magnificent children. Her voice:
All children have the right to an education and educational resources that enables them to 1/learn how to learn 2/learn how to think as a part of the thinking curriculum and 3/achieve success in their learning according to their own individual learning style.
Children with autism seem to naturally gravitate to technology and computers so it makes absolute sense to allow them opportunities to learn using technology. I am trialed the use of iPads in my classroom for all curriculum areas for the majority of the school day. The students I had had a history of being reluctant learners; have difficulty focusing to tasks and would often wonder around the room avoiding the work provided. The results were remarkable and I have to say has surpassed my own expectations. The students have become independent learners, including those who have some real learning issues; they can’t wait to use the iPads and so enthusiasm and motivation is high; they think all of the time about what application to use; how to use the application and how they want their work to look. For example, I did a very simple activity where we used an Art/Drawing application and the kids explored every aspect of that application and the pictures they produced were just brilliant….they then decided to take screenshots of their work and use the pictures for their wallpaper.
I went to a seminar (June 5, 2011) with Apple and Warringa Park School (click on the links to be taken to the websites that provides more information on this trial) who are part of the Department of Education’s IPad trial. The seminar reiterated much of the success that I have seen, but ultimately I was impessed by a quote by a teacher from the school: “We believe that it is possible for every child to discover their own genius“.
She also has brought a professional development course on Digital Learning Tree for teachers, parents and anyone who wants to help autism learners.
Autism Awareness Course – Reuters (2012) in New York recently reported that about one in 88 children in the United States have autism or a related disorder, the highest estimate to date. This is increasing the debate on 1/ what is causing the increase and whether there is a need for a cure and 2/ how can governments and services provide better resources to assist parents and carers who have children diagnosed with autism. Research on causes and cures can take a very long time, so it is more imperative that we focus on services and how we can assist families and children affected by this condition. It is the view of many researchers and experts such as Simon Baron-Cohen (2005) and Temple Grandin (2010) that Autism is not so much a disease but indeed a difference in learning styles. Therefore rather than trying to find a way to ‘fix’ or ‘cure’ these children it is more important to understand them and cater to their differences. Specifically, Temple Grandin is clear that ‘understanding the specific learning style of each brain you meet helps you relate to and educate that particular brain’.
In the past six years of working with students with Autism I’ve discovered this to be the case. My role as a consultant is to go into family’s homes and troubleshoot problems. During this time, I find I’m not just dealing with the child who has Autism, but the entire family. I need to observe the child, the family, the environment and other external factors; I need to identify diet, sleeping habits and routines; and then put it all together to come up with what the problems may be and then how to address them. This takes training and strategies, as well as having a very clear understanding of what autism is and how to connect to the child and the family.
From my wealth of experience, research and knowledge, I have developed Professional Development training that will give you the skills, training and strategies that you can use in the field working with children who have autism and their families.
More on her website: PROJECT AUTISM. She also provides iPad Apps suggestion for special education and other purposes. (at the bottom of her autism page) You will learn how to leverage mobile technology to help autism learners too. This is an area very much needed!