Life Skills vs Academics?
Teaching on the Spectrum
Statistics regarding children on the spectrum range from 1 in 60 to 1 in 26 (depending on the source). According to Vaccines Revealed, the numbers are expected to reach at least 50% by year 2030. These numbers do not necessarily include those who are considered ‘high-functioning’ or of having ‘Asperger’s’ since these have been separated/removed from the diagnosis criteria.
There are a growing number of children who are non-verbal and unable to develop self-care skills. When looking at trying to educate these children, what can a parent do? When a child is unable to vocalize, a parent is not really concerned whether s/he has the states memorized or if they can do long division. However, it would be horribly wrong not to try to use whatever means available to teach whatever skills a child can learn.
When considering academics for those special children who may be struggling to simply learn self-care skills, it is important to look at the overall picture of what you wish your child to learn. For myself, when I asked myself this question regarding my son on the spectrum, I first decided I wanted him to have a spiritual relationship with God. I wanted him to be able to communicate as effectively as possible with those around him. I knew I wanted him to be able to read and write well enough to get a message across. For math (has dyscalculia), I wanted him to be able to develop a budget and keep a checkbook. This can give you an example of how you can decide which skills you wish your child to develop, depending on the severity of their symptoms.
For the younger child, those most affected, I would focus on reading, singing, and learning about nature. I would utilize the youth and/or Scout/4-H programs to the fullest extend possible, depending on their abilities.
For communication, I would utilize sign language or a communication board (or both) to help facilitate communication. For instance, each morning, during opening exercises, the parent can cover one or two simple home signs. These could be practiced throughout the day. There are numerous programs being developed today to help non-verbal children be able to communicate their needs. When my son was young, he did not have a very large vocabulary. I know sign language, so I taught him some basic signs. These helped lessen frustration greatly.
For scheduling, I would focus on the ‘academic’ portion in the morning for those who wake more alert. I would practice life skills in the afternoon (or less alert periods). There are various assessment forms available online to help a parent know which skills need developing. I would focus on introducing only one new skill a week, while continuing to work on mastery of previously taught skills on an ongoing basis. If your child is having trouble learning the skill, please do not add more additional skills to this one until at least a basic skill level is reached.
Charts and pictures can help children remember the skill processed. There is a growing body of resources to help parents teach these life skills. The main point to remember is to be patient and use whatever method that works.
Due to my own education/research/experience, I must end with the reminder that diet is so important for these special blessings. Our bodies are amazing and God can greatly bless when we take care of our body temple by feeding whole food and detoxing the yuckies out on a regular basis.
If you would like a professional to help guide you during this time, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org