Autism Presentation for Parents, Teachers, and Staff

My Background
This is one post
where I am going to ramble some (I promise to end with a free PowerPoint on
autism, too!) If you ever start a conversation with me about autism, you will
quickly see it is something I am passionate about. I could talk for hours about
my experiences with these amazing students. Some stories would come with
laughter while other stories I would share with tears in my eyes and a heavy
heart. As I continue on this blogging adventure, I hope to be able to share
some of the stories with you. Every experience (good and bad) has made me a
better teacher. I wouldn’t trade any of the tears in for laughter because the laughter
wouldn’t feel nearly as sweet.
Over my career
as a special education teacher, I have worked with numerous students on the autism
spectrum. I quickly learned that no child with autism is alike. The puzzle
ribbon is a powerful representation of these children. Their minds are like
puzzles and you have to figure out how to put the pieces together.
Some of my best memories
as a teacher are my breakthrough moments with my students with autism. Those
moments where something you are teaching clicks. There is nothing like
something clicking with a child with autism. You can see the moment of clarity
on the student’s face when they realize they got it. There is no better moment
than bringing clarity to a child that is often confused by the world that
surrounds them.  
as a special education teacher I have had some very frustrating moments
involving other special education teachers. I wish that all teachers were
positive and wanted to push their students as far as they could go. In my experience,
this is not always the case. I have “inherited” a few students from other
teachers where I was told the child did not have much potential. We were told
one child would never be able to use the bathroom on their own, was physically aggressive,
and had no chance at gaining academic skills. We also later found out he was previously
restrained to a chair for most of his day, but that’s a tearful post for
another day.
A Favorite “Click” Moment
One of my
favorite “click” moments was with this student. He was learning how to add. He
was great at rote counting, he could count for hours. But adding was too
abstract for him. Even with manipulatives, he had trouble understanding how the
visual of a number related to its worth. How could the number 1 represent 1 item?
How could the number 9 represent 9 items? To him, numbers were a squiggly line.
He had spent the past year at his other school trying to learn how to add, and
we had spent weeks trying various methods ourselves.
After much
research and thought, I introduced the Touch Math system. Each number 1-9 has
strategically placed dots. The number 1 has 1 dot, the number 2, has 2 dots,
etc. See the image below.
Working with his
inclusion helper, we showed him how the Touch
numbers worked. After one math class, he had every dot memorized. The
next day we were able to nervously introduce the adding method. It took two
examples and it clicked. I can remember the exact moment I saw it click. He
smiled from ear to ear; he understood exactly what we had been trying to teach
him the past few weeks. Something as simple as dots drawn on the numbers got
him to understand the concept that numbers represented more than a squiggly
line. I will never forget that moment standing there with his inclusion helper;
tears filling our eyes as we stared at each other in disbelief.
All of the
paperwork, planning, e-mails, and long hours were worth it for that one moment.
It’s why I teach and it’s why I love working with children with autism. While
it may seem like a small success to some, it felt like we hit the lottery.
Take a Chance
It’s important
to take chances on your students. Don’t be afraid of how difficult and
frustrating it may be at times to work with struggling students. You never know
how far you can push a student academically. For all of you fearful of
inclusion and working with students with disabilities, give it a chance. All it
will take is one “click” moment and you will understand why people like me push
inclusion so hard.
The Free Autism Presentation
As I promised, I
have attached a free PowerPoint presentation on the Autism Spectrum. You could
spend hours researching and reading about Autism. At each school I have worked
at, I have shared a version of this presentation. It is something you can use
at a staff meeting or send out to teachers to look at on their own. PTA’s can
use it to share with parents so that they have a better understanding of some
of the children that are part of their school community.  Later, I will share some information on how to
teach students about autism.
Tip for Presenting the PowerPoint
Under the fine
motor section, I love to do a hands-on demonstration. All you need are winter
gloves and pennies. Spread pennies out on a table. Have teachers/parents put on
gloves and try to pick pennies up. This represents what it may be like for a
student with fine motor difficulty.

To Download

Click the links below to download the files. After the file
opens, go to File, Download (or CTRL + S).
File to Download