My final semester as an undergrad was crammed with experiences you might expect of someone full of excitement, optimism, and a lot of what-am-I-going-to-do-with-the-rest-of-my-life thoughts. Aside from the typical pre-graduation nerves, I—as a childhood education major—was about to reach the height of all of the lesson plan and unit plan writing, fieldwork observations, and hours of late-night studying: the student teaching experience.
In this guest post by special education teacher and Jay and Ben co-author Katharine Swanson, she explains how the book can be used as a tool when reading with children with autism.
During Autism Awareness Month (and all year round), teachers and parents alike think about the importance of educating their child with autism in the most effective way. The most effective method of instruction varies from student to student and is as wide as the spectrum itself. However, one universal method revolves around written words being broken down into picture symbols to represent words and sentences.
In my experience in the classroom, students benefit from texts and questions being broken down into pictures to make them more visual and concrete. People with autism tend to think in visual, concrete ways. The added visual element enhances their comprehension of the material being presented to them. Therein lies the main benefit of a book like Jay and Ben. The story is simple and already broken down into manipulative picture symbols to help students of all levels comprehend. The picture symbols with the book are removable and can be manipulated as needed for different students.
Over the weekend I listened to a band called Flame perform at a fundraiser for my youngest son’s school. The school offers a socialization program for special needs kids which my son, who is seven years old and autistic, goes to on weekends. What was unique about the ten members of the band is they all have some form of developmental and/or physical disability.
At the fundraising event, my son was supposed to sing “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley with the other kids in the program, but he is sensitive to loud noises so he refused to go on stage. While he was sitting on my wife’s lap, I noticed him singing softly to himself during the song, which was good to see since he is usually non-verbal. He even applauded when the song was over.