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About Antolak

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    Salisbury Hill

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    Central Scotland
  1. I am an Enhanced Provision teacher in a mainstream primary school in Scotland. Most of my students have either Autism or ADHD. We have some money (a lot) to spend on the EP classroom. Can you suggest any kind of equipment, furniture, aids or software that would benefit my pupils. I have a list of my own, but I'm worried there is some fantastic "thing" out there that I know nothing about. Help me out, please. Antolak PS. The money can't be spend on employing extra staff. "
  2. Children often behave differently in school to how they behave at home. Parents regularly tell me that their children cannot do such and such, and are unbelieving when I tell them differently. Then again, some children behave beautifully in school, bottle up all their emotions, and let rip once they get home. So I can only ever tell a parent how I witness their child in class. Home-school liaison is vital in order to get a whole view of a child's character and abilities.
  3. Thanks Arlene, getting the candidate to talk about discipline strategies with regard to ASD would be quite revealing. That's an interesting angle I had not considered. I had merely been thinking along the lines of inclusion and integration. So you've given me something to think about. Many thanks. Richard.
  4. Hello Arlene, thanks for thinking about this for me. Only a few, possibly three, teachers in the school have had training in ASD (other than the hour-and-a-half's "overview" given at the beginning of each academic year). Richard
  5. I am an Enhanced Provision teacher in a medium-sized mainstream primary school. All my pupils, bar one, are high on the autistic spectrum. Later this week, interviews begin for the position of new headteacher in our school and I am on the preliminary interview panel. I am able to ask the interviewees just one question. What should that question be? Any suggestions? Richard. PS Please remember that I may have to work under this person for the next few years.
  6. Point taken. AS is already taken for Aspergers. But "on the autistic spectrum" could still be used (although it is a bit of a mouthful). So maybe not. Disability, Difference, Disorder. All of these terms don't exist in a vacuum. They only exist if compared to something else, even if that "something else" is yourself at an earlier time. So you're always having to compare yourself to someone else, some group, or yourself at some earlier stage. Without that comparison, whatever you have is just "normal" and you deal with it. It's the same with "poverty" (or wealth): you don't know you're poor unless you compare yourself with someone else. If, in 200 years time, the majority of people in Europe "have" Aspergers Syndrome (and there have been predictions of this) then the term AS would disappear because that would then be the norm, normal, ordinary way to be. So I still (personally, individually) like the term "difference": different from something/someone else, but not necessarily in a bad way. Just different.
  7. I'm not sure if it is a disorder. What's being put out of order? Daily life? ......Maybe. But was it ever in order in the first place? Is it a disability then? Well it can be. But then again, so can lots of other things in life. Sometimes people with ASD are better at doing certain things than people who don't have it. I admit I do like the word "difference", because it's an accurate description. It is being "different" from the "norm" . But then, why do we need the "D" in ASD at all? What's wrong with just AS?
  8. by John Whitehead. According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control, a staggering 6.4 million American children between the ages of 4 and 17 have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), whose key symptoms are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity—characteristics that most would consider typically childish behavior. High school boys, an age group particularly prone to childish antics and drifting attention spans, are particularly prone to being labeled as ADHD, with one out of every five high school boys diagnosed with the disorder. “There’s a tremendous push where if the kid’s behavior is thought to be quote-unquote abnormal — if they’re not sitting quietly at their desk — that’s pathological, instead of just childhood.” — Dr. Jerome Groopman, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School Presently, we’re at an all-time high of eleven percent of all school-aged children in America who have been classified as mentally ill. Why? Because they “suffer” from several of the following symptoms: they are distracted, fidget, lose things, daydream, talk nonstop, touch everything in sight, have trouble sitting still during dinner, are constantly in motion, are impatient, interrupt conversations, show their emotions without restraint, act without regard for consequences, and have difficulty waiting their turn. The list reads like a description of me as a child. In fact, it sounds like just about every child I’ve ever known, none of whom are mentally ill. Unfortunately, society today is far less tolerant of childish behavior—hence, the growing popularity of the ADHD label, which has become the “go-to diagnosis” for children that don’t fit the psycho-therapeutic public school mold of quiet, docile and conformist. Mind you, there is no clinical test for ADHD. Rather, this so-called mental illness falls into the “I’ll know it if I see it” category, where doctors are left to make highly subjective determinations based on their own observation, as well as interviews and questionnaires with a child’s teachers and parents. Particular emphasis is reportedly given to what school officials have to say about the child’s behavior. Yet while being branded mentally ill at a young age can lead to all manner of complications later in life, the larger problem is the routine drugging that goes hand in hand with these diagnoses. Of those currently diagnosed with ADHD, a 16 percent increase since 2007, and a 41 percent increase over the past decade, two-thirds are being treated with mind-altering, psychotropic drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall. Diagnoses of ADHD have been increasing at an alarming rate of 5.5 percent each year. Yet those numbers are bound to skyrocket once the American Psychiatric Association releases its more expansive definition of ADHD. Combined with the public schools’ growing intolerance (aka, zero tolerance) for childish behavior, the psychiatric community’s pathologizing of childhood, and the Obama administration’s new mental health initiative aimed at identifying and treating mental illness in young people, the outlook is decidedly grim for any young person in this country who dares to act like a child. As part of his administration’s sweeping response to the Newtown school shootings, President Obama is calling on Congress to fund a number of programs aimed at detecting and responding to mental illness among young people. A multipronged effort, Obama’s proposal includes $50 million to train 5,000 mental health professionals to work with young people in communities and schools; $55 million for Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), which would empower school districts, teachers and other adults to detect and respond to mental illness in 750,000 young people; and $25 million for state efforts to identify and treat adolescents and young adults. One of the key components of Obama’s plan, mental health first-aid training for adults and students, is starting to gain traction across the country. Incredibly, after taking a mere 12-hour course comprised of PowerPoint presentations, videos, discussions, role playing and other interactive activities, for instance, a participant can be certified “to identify, understand and respond to the signs of mental illness, substance use and eating disorders.” While commendable in its stated goals, there’s a whiff of something not quite right about a program whose supporting data claims that “26.2 percent of people in the U.S. — roughly one in four — have a mental health disorder in any given year.” This is especially so at a time when government agencies seem to be increasingly inclined to view outspoken critics of government policies as mentally ill and in need of psychiatric help and possible civil commitment. But I digress. That’s a whole other topic. Getting back to young people, Dr. Thomas Friedan, director of the CDC, has characterized the nation’s current fixation on ADHD as an over diagnosis and a “misuse [of ADHD medications that] appears to be growing at an alarming rate.” Indeed, not that long ago, the very qualities we now identify as a mental illness and target for drugging were hallmarks of the creative soul. Many of the artists, musicians, poets, politicians and revolutionaries whom we have come to revere in our society were unable to sit still, pay attention, concentrate on their work, and stay within the confines which had been set out for them in the classroom. Visionaries as varied as Mahatma Gandhi, Richard Feynman, John Lennon, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Thomas Edison, Susan B. Anthony, Albert Einstein, and Winston Churchill would have all been labeled ADHD had they been students in the public schools today. Legendary filmmaker Woody Allen claims to have “paid attention to everything but the teachers” while in school. Despite being put in an accelerated learning program due to his high IQ, he felt constrained, so he often played hooky and failed to complete his assignments. Of his school days, Gandhi said, “They were the most miserable of his life” and “that he had no aptitude for lessons and rarely appreciated his teachers.” In fact, Gandhi opined that it “might have been better if he had never been to school.” One can only imagine what the world would have been like had these visionaries of Western civilization instead been diagnosed with ADHD and drugged accordingly. Writing for the New York Times, Bronwen Hruska documents what it was like as a parent being pressured by school officials to medicate her child who, at age 8, seemed to have “normal 8-year-old boy energy.” As Hruska relates in painful detail, each time the overall effects of the drugs seemed to stop working, their doctor increased the dosage. Finally, towards the middle of fifth grade, Hruska’s son refused to take anymore pills. From then on, things began to change for the better. Will is now a sophomore in high school, 6 feet 3 inches tall, and is on the honor roll. Will was in third grade, and his school wanted him to settle down in order to focus on math worksheets and geography lessons and social studies. The children were expected to line up quietly and “transition” between classes without goofing around… And so it began. Like the teachers, we didn’t want Will to “fall through the cracks.” But what I’ve found is that once you start looking for a problem, someone’s going to find one, and attention deficit has become the go-to diagnosis… A few weeks later we heard back. Will had been given a diagnosis of inattentive-type A.D.H.D….The doctor prescribed methylphenidate, a generic form of Ritalin. It was not to be taken at home, or on weekends, or vacations. He didn’t need to be medicated for regular life. It struck us as strange, wrong, to dose our son for school. All the literature insisted that Ritalin and drugs like it had been proved “safe.” Later, I learned that the formidable list of possible side effects included difficulty sleeping, dizziness, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, headache, numbness, irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing, fever, hives, seizures, agitation, motor or verbal tics and depression. It can slow a child’s growth or weight gain. Most disturbing, it can cause sudden death, especially in children with heart defects or serious heart problems. The drugs prescribed for Ritalin and Adderall and their generic counterparts are keystones in a multibillion dollar pharmaceutical industry that profits richly from America’s growing ADHD fixation. For example, between 2007 and 2012 alone, sales for ADHD drugs went from $4 billion to $9 billion. If America could free itself of the stranglehold the pharmaceutical industry has on our medical community, our government and our schools, we may find that our so-called “problems” aren’t quite as bad as we’ve been led to believe. As Hruska concludes: ___________________________________________________________________________________ We’re also ensuring that down the road, when faced with other challenges that high school, college and adult life are sure to bring, our children will use the coping skills we’ve taught them. They’ll reach for a pill. If “accelerated” has become the new normal, there’s no choice but to diagnose the kids developing at a normal rate with a disorder. Instead of leveling the playing field for kids who really do suffer from a deficit, we’re ratcheting up the level of competition with performance-enhancing drugs. We’re juicing our kids for school. Which brings me to the idea of “normal.” The Merriam-Webster definition, which reads in part “of, relating to, or characterized by average intelligence or development,” includes a newly dirty word in educational circles. If normal means “average,” then schools want no part of it. Exceptional and extraordinary, which are actually antonyms of normal, are what many schools expect from a typical student. For [Will], it was a matter of growing up, settling down and learning how to get organized. Kids learn to speak, lose baby teeth and hit puberty at a variety of ages. We might remind ourselves that the ability to settle into being a focused student is simply a developmental milestone; there’s no magical age at which this happens. Article published here: The Rutherford Institute. URL: http://www.a-w-i-p.com/index.php/2013/04/12/the-psycho-therapeutic-school-system
  9. Sadly, most people I meet have a negative view of Aspergers and ASD.But the truth is that our society needs people with Aspergers and ASD. And we're going to need their skills and abilities even more in the future. I usually tell new friends (those who think negatively about these matters) that when I'm flying off on holiday, I hope that the pilot is Aspergers: because then I'll know he won't leave the ground until he's checked every single dial in his cockpit several times and is 500% (maybe more) sure that the plane is safe for take-off. I say the same about surgeons. If I need an operation, then I hope the surgeon is Aspergers every time. I wouldn't want an artistic "humanities" type surgeon anywhere near me. Aspergers can also make good lawyers etc etc.
  10. Hi Noskcaj86, yes, being able to relate what happened can be difficult for some children (and yet it's a vital social tool). A lot of the interaction between adults is to do with gossip, telling stories about other people. In my EP, we often spend time trying to see if we can relate back what happened in a video we have all watched. The children fall into two groups: the first group remembers just snippets from the story, but the snippets are not in any order. The second (smaller group) remembers every single detail in sequence, but has no feel for what details in the story are important to the plot. So they give every single detail, however insignificant.
  11. In the school where I work, we try to get "Broad Scots" versions of class novels whenever we can. The children love them. Roald Dahl's "The Twits" (Scots version) was done just recently by P6. I had fun reading parts of it out loud to the class (because I'm not Scottish). Pupils also have opportunities to write their own stories and poems in the local dialect. There are also dialect words plastered over various walls across the school to get children to use them (which they do). But I don't know how typical we are of Scottish schools in general. I must confess I've never been to the Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh, even though I don't live too far away. Must investigate over the Easter holidays.
  12. By all means, go and talk to your child's teacher and explain what you and your husband witnessed. If your child has an EP teacher, go and see her. EP teachers are usually very protective of the children in their care and will want to help. Then, definitely make an appointment to talk to the headteacher. The school will probably say that they cannot address incidents that happen outside, only those that happen within school grounds. So concentrate on those. Ask the headteacher to investigate the incidents in the school (other children will have seen what had happened). Ask them what strategies they can put in place to make your child feel safe in school, especially with respect to the other three "bullying" children. If they try to fob you off, keep phoning the school (or better still, make appointments to see the headteacher regularly). Make a pest of yourself, that usually makes them act (just to get rid of you). If you still feel that too little is being done, threaten to write to the local newspaper. Just the threat of that will make them do something. Schools hate bad publicity. You could also try speaking to the parents of the three "bullies" directly.
  13. I think story-telling is a very important ability. It's not about being "a writer" or anything literary like that. Its just that, as human beings, we live by stories. We tell one another stories all the time, about ourselves and others, our past , our future. The sense of "who we are" is a story we make up in our heads for ourselves. Sometimes we need to tell our ASD children the story of who they are, of their abilities and what they mean to us. Even our sense of "self-respect" is a story we have told ourselves (or have had imposed upon us by others. So the ability to tell a story is very much bound up with being human. At its most basic level, we need to tell others about things that have happened to us, how we feel etc. In the school where I work, if an incident occurs in the playground, some ASD children have problems explaining what happened (the sequence of events, who did what to whom and who responded etc). They don't have a sense of narrative. Instead, they just resort to the standard response of "it wasn't me", while other more verbally able pupils can fabricate a very intricate story to back up their innocence. So narrative, I think, is something we should try to instill in all children from a very early age. And continue working at it over and over.
  14. A parent survey of the narrative interests and skills of children with autism, their siblings and peers: Preliminary Findings March 2013 Dr. Evelyn McGregor, School of Education, University of Edinburgh Funded by the British Academy Summary Parents of children with and without autism were surveyed about the ways in which they and their children engaged with reading and storytelling at home. Initial findings suggest that children with autism do take an interest in different forms of reading and storytelling, some of which is shared with their parents, and this is not reduced in those with language or memory difficulties, though the children with autism are less likely than other child groups (sibs and peers without autism) to read on their own or talk about stories without prompting. Parents work harder at engaging their child with autism than the other child groups. All the child groups like fiction, and enjoy humour, pictures and lively characters. Where children with autism tend to focus on individual items and details in a story, other children focus on the plot and characters’ feelings. Forms of reading do not differ much between the groups, but some children with autism enjoy fantastical stories or comics. All the groups write and tell stories, including over half of children in the autism group. All have skills in the elements of storytelling, though the skills of children with autism are less developed. Overall, findings indicate that children with autism are more engaged with a range of reading and storytelling activities than earlier research seemed to indicate, with parents providing active encouragement and support. Introduction Storytelling ability uses many of the key skills that are restricted in ASD and even very able children have difficulties. It has been assumed that the children have little interest in storytelling, but pilot research has questioned this assumption: it reports that children engage often in spontaneous narrative at home, describing experiences, listening to, reading and creating stories. Understanding the context in which that interest is awakened and maintained is key to improving communication. The study aimed to address this topic through a questionnaire survey of parents of primary schoolaged children with autism. Parents were also invited to fill in a questionnaire about the interests of a non-autistic brother or sister, to compare them. Finally, parents of children where there is no family autism were included, to provide a between-family comparison. The survey asked about interests, activities, and story-telling skills, with the aim of understanding how they might be linked. The survey spanned a range of ages to map developing skills and interests and any changes in parental involvement as children get older. The questionnaire consisted of 30 questions about (i) the child’s characteristics, reading skill, related abilities and their style of storytelling; (ii) the aspects of books and storytelling that particularly interested the child; (iii) the ways in which the parent and child engaged with stories. Parents returned 336 questionnaires, with 78 about children with autism (ASD group), 53 about their siblings (Sib group), and 205 about typically developing children in families with no autism (TD group). Parents were recruited through the children’s schools and parent support groups for families with autism in Scotland and other parts of the UK. Describing the children Age and Gender: The children’s ages ranged from 2 to 17 years. Of these, 214 were male, 124 were female and one child’s gender was not given. The sibling and typically developing (TD) groups were evenly balanced for gender. In the ASD group 90% were male. The ASD and Sib groups had a higher average age at 9 years than the TD group at 7 years. This was because the TD group were recruited solely from primary schools, whereas the groups for the families with autism were recruited both from primary schools and parent support organisations, and some parents with older children wished to take part. For this reason the data analysis reports on the full samples on some aspects, and on the age-matched children (under 13 only) for other aspects, where matching for age might be important for comparing across the groups. There were 37 children under 13 in the Sib group and 67 in the ASD group. Difficulties with language or memory In the TD and Sib groups, parents reported that 4% and 8% respectively had difficulty with language, compared with 60% of the ASD group. For memory, in the TD and Sib groups, parents reported that 2% and 6% respectively had difficulty, whereas 39% of the ASD group did so. If a child had difficulty with language they were more likely to have difficulty also with memory. Engaging with Reading Introducing books and reading: The parents typically introduced their child to books before their first birthday: 76% of TD children, 63% of ASD children and 67% of Siblings engaged with books before 12 months. Similar findings from an Australian study suggest this is not unusual. Responses indicated that children with autism learned to read a few months later on average than the other child groups, at around five and a half. Almost a third of the children with ASD who could read did not read on their own. This compared with one sixth in the other child groups. If the children did read on their own, around two thirds did so every day, and that applied to all groups, and equally to younger and older children. Reading together (under 13s only) The survey responses showed that about 40% of the parents in each group read with their child every day. Asked who suggested reading together, 59% in the TD group said both they and their child were likely to suggest reading together. This compared with 37% in the Sib group and 39% in the ASD group. It was more common in these two groups for parents to suggest reading together (44% for ASD children and 37% for sibs) than in the TD group (23%). So it appears that parents in families with a child with autism needed to encourage shared story reading more than was the case for TD children, but a large minority of children with autism and sibs nonetheless were asking for shared reading. What the children liked to read Parents were asked what kinds of reading material their children liked. Across the groups, the most popular choice was stories. The TD children showed the strongest preference (91%) but parents rated 71% of children with ASD and 76% of their sibs also having a preference for fictional stories. Factual reading was not so popular, but across the groups the greatest preference was among the TD children (38% compared with 16% for sibs and 20% for children with ASD). Both of these findings go against the perception that children with autism have no interest in fiction and strongly favour books of facts. A few parents of children with autism were very clear that their children were only interested in factual reading, but others liked fantasy, mythical, magical, action comics, and football reading. Age differences in reading interests Different kinds of reading appealed to different age groups. Fictional stories were popular with all age groups, but particularly under 10-year-olds. Those with autism were less interested as they got older. The most popular age for liking comics was between 8 and 12 years, and for newspapers 8 years and upwards. Factual texts were popular with 8 – 10 year olds, and the over 13s among the sib group; and rhyming books and poems were favoured most by children under 6. Sharing the interest (under 13s only) The majority of the children talked about the stories afterwards, with parents reporting that around 30% of the ASD and Sib groups and 17% of the TD group did so if the parent initiated the talk. Parents reported that the child initiated talk in 49% of the ASD group, 61% of the Sib group and 71% of the TD group. This shows that the TD children were more inclined than the children with autism to talk about books, sharing their interest. However, almost half of the parents of the ASD children reported that their children did engage in talk about their reading, indicating some spontaneous interest in this activity. What children focused on (all ages) For this open question, the three groups had some similarity in focus: some in all groups responded to humour, and to bad behaviour in the characters, to events, and pictures of animals. Older children liked comics. Some parents in the ASD group reported working very hard to engage their children, who were not naturally interested in books, or not interested in sharing them. Some parents described their children growing to like or even love reading. Although there were some similarities in the focus of interest, there were also differences. Unlike the ASD group, many of the TD and Sib respondents noted their children were interested in the story plot, in what might happen next, in how characters felt, in how the characters or events might be similar to something in their lives. A few children would speculate about what might happen if the story character came to their house – or if they entered the world of the story. They seemed to set the story or the characters in a wider context, linking to them or what they knew. Writing and Storytelling Writing stories (all ages) Of the children who could read, 68% of parents of TD children, 64% of the Sib group and 48% of the ASD group said that their children wrote stories. Parents noted that the most common form of stories the children wrote was fiction, and there was no real difference between the groups (TD group, 73%, Sib group, 86% and ASD group 63%). A higher proportion of children with ASD than the other two groups wrote about, or re-wrote stories they had read. Around half of the TD and ASD children wrote stories for themselves and 73% of Sibs did so, according to the parents, and about half the TD and Sib groups wrote stories about personal experience and wrote for family. However, only a quarter of the ASD group did so. So overall, a sizeable minority of children with ASD wrote stories, mainly fiction, but they wrote mostly for themselves, not others. Telling stories (under 13s only) Parents were asked if the children ever told stories. Among under 13s, 78% of the TD group, 65% of the sib group and 65% of the ASD group did so. The children’s stories took different forms: The majority of children told their own fictional stories and there was no difference between the groups. More than half of the children re-told stories they had previously read or heard and there was no difference between the groups; 60% of TD children, 48% of the Sib group and 40% of the ASD group constructed their own fictional stories, according to their parents. The gap widened for telling stories of personal experience, with 72% of TD and 80% of Sib groups but only 37% of children with ASD doing so. Nonetheless, as with the written stories, a significant minority of children with ASD told stories in a number of forms, and the majority told some form of story. In conclusion, contrary to the assumptions based on research on formal narrative skills that children with autism do not have an interest in narrative or storytelling, the findings of the survey suggest that children with autism do have an interest in a range of aspects of storytelling. This includes reading or sharing books with parents, reading on their own, writing stories and telling stories. There are differences in the ways in which children with autism engage with storytelling compared with their siblings and children from families without autism, in the level and focus of their interest and the purpose of these activities for them. However, the findings provide scope for further research and possibly intervention on the contexts within which children with autism engage naturally with storytelling. Thanks I would like to thank the many parents who took part in this research. I really appreciate the time they were willing to give to complete the survey, often giving valuable additional information that I will be able to incorporate into the full report. It will also help me to plan future research in this area. I also wish to thank the staff and organisers from the many schools and autism support organisations in Scotland and other parts of the UK who gave their support to the research, again giving time in busy schedules to send out questionnaire packs to parents or pass information via emails and newsletters. Finally, I am most grateful to the British Academy for providing funding for the research study. Evelyn McGregor March 2013
  15. Every one of us is born totally dependent upon others for all our needs. If we live long enough, every one of us will return to that state of total dependency, either in the geriatric wards of a local hospital or "in care" of one sort or another. But we don't like to think of ourselves in that way. We like to see ourselves as independent, separate and autonomous. It's one of the myths in our society. In reality, none of us is completely independent of others. Everyone requires the services of others in the community, requires shoes, food, transport, telephones, etc, etc, which he cannot supply for himself. And that's not a bad thing at all. Mutual interdependency fuels our social and economic success as a society. The myth of the "normal" person as independent and master of his own fate is a persistent one. But it's clearly wrong. And if we think about it, we wouldn't want everyone to be like that.
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