On the benefits of an age-appropriate curriculum for autistic people
I will be sharing my own experiences as part of this – getting out of a place of ignorance to a position of knowledge.
Firstly, I would like to draw your attention to the common misconception that all nonspeaking autistic people have intellectual disabilities. This is incorrect and comes from the fact that most of us have limited verbal and motor capabilities. Language, motor, and speech are all different parts of the brain; therefore, this means that you can think and understand without being able to show it.
How did society get it so wrong?
Once you can understand this then the real question is why not educate autistic people age- appropriately?
Everyone has the right to learn and find their passions. Everyone has the right to receive stimulation and converse in a sophisticated manner. Everyone should be given the opportunity to engage in important issues that affect them and others. Everyone should be treated with respect and belief in their intelligence. This way would be extremely beneficial for all involved.
So many autistics feel that they must be stupid because of where the content is pitched. How would you feel if you were taught easy concepts, that you understood the first time, over and over again? After a while you would realise that people thought you were stupid and then you would try to improve your motor skills so you could demonstrate your ability, or you’d get bored and switch off. This is enormously frustrating for autistics who are desperate to learn new things. Everyone would do better if we could work at the person’s age.
I would like to also address how to teach age-appropriately when an individual needs help in responding.
I understand that teachers look to the student to assess their learning at points during the lesson. This is mainly done by the teacher assessing a student’s motor skills as if this could show the students true mental ability. Eg. They may ask the student to pass them certain amounts of objects to assess their understanding of quantities from one to ten. However, the students may not be able to physically show that despite them knowing. Therefore, it is best not to make judgements based upon the motor skills alone.
I suggest the following:
Firstly, talk to your students as you talk to anyone. Respect goes a long way. Secondly, start to read to your student. This will demonstrate that you believe they are capable of taking on new information. You then need to consider how to help your student learn a new method where they can learn how to show what they know.
I would recommend the Rapid Prompting Method. This method can help a person become more purposeful while learning interesting things. I built my motor skills by practising key words from the lessons. In the beginning, I needed training to help me touch the correct letters on large stencils and alphabet boards. I had continuous prompts that included gestures, verbal directions, lots of encouragement, and I also needed to hold the pencil– this reminded my hand of what we were doing. Over time, I was able to spell words independently, and this meant I could start sharing my own thoughts and opinions.
Education was the tool that helped me to change my life. Learning and building on my skills each day means I am able to do more than before. I am improving in some way all the time. It just starts with the knowledge that we are capable and deserving of an education.