How To Be The Most Effective Teacher For Your Autistic Student
I struggled to connect with her.
She resisted every move I made.
We had pockets of good moments, where she was calm and attentive. But they didn’t last for more than a few minutes.
This little girl could read logos and sounded out words she had not seen before.
She would read them once but not respond when asked to read again.
Her parents wanted to know how to teach her to identify and read words.
They worried about the lack on inconsistency.
I tried every trick I knew.
Trust me, I’ve accumulated plenty over the past 25 years.
But this little one had me stumped.
She rejected every overture.
I spoke to her, like I do with all my students.
“How can I get through to you?” “Show me how you learn.”
“Please may I enter?”
The answer was a resounding, “No.”
I let it rest. I had to respect her wishes.
She had had a long day and had already been through an assessment, earlier that morning.
I explained what I was trying to achieve to the parents.
And how I was unsuccessful.
I wanted her to participate in her own learning. I didn’t just want to shove it down, like an unpalatable dish.
I promised them I would try again the next day.
I reflected on my failed session that evening.
I could visualize connecting with her in varying frameworks the following day.
The next morning, during my yoga class, Leena ji (my yoga teacher) had to shake me out of my reverie.
“Aap kya soch rahe ho, Kamini ji?
(What are you thinking?)
I shook my head and smiled sheepishly.
She understood. She had seen through plenty of my thought processes!
I came up with a plan of action.
This time, I got straight to the job.
Little Diya sensed my determination.
She herself was calm and collected.
She let me guide her from one challenge to another.
I tested my hypotheses and figured out how to get through to her.
By the end of the session, I was able to explain a ‘strategy’ to her willing and eager parents and Consultant.
What if I had not persisted? Who would be the loser?
I would be the loser, not Diya.
Getting through to a child on the Spectrum, excites me.
When I crack the code, I emerge more fulfilled and humbled.
For they show me an aspect of themselves which was thus far hidden.
Time and time again, they reinforce the truth: “Don’t try to teach us conventionally. Each of us learns a different way. Are you willing to stay with us and learn?”
“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”
– Ignacio Estrada
I took the challenge, dear friend. Are you ready to take the challenge too.