Strength Of The Autistic Child In Auditory And Motor Learning!
A Yet "Untapped" Tool In The Life Of The Autistic Child...
And Why Learning Need Not Be Visual Only!
It had long been said that autistic children were visual learners. I believed they could also be excellent auditory learners as well, as long as the "lesson" provided a sense of completion... for example, calling out each letter and letter sound was how I taught Zachary phonics (see Phonics section under Teaching Language To The Autistic Child)... in a matter of days. He learned his phonics not by sight and reading the letters, but simply by me calling out the sound for each letter... starting with "A" and working all the way through the alphabet to "Z". Once Zachary saw the "continuity" in what I was doing... and that he knew the alphabet started with "A" and ended with "Z" it was no trouble at all to go through the entire alphabet... since he wanted me to "complete the task"... to get through all of it... stopping in the middle, however, was a problem, but only at first. Once he identified each sound with a letter, labeled each sound as an entity in and of itself, he was fine with "mixing" the letters around, etc. Zachary’s understanding of phonics was amazing in that once he himself could repeat the sound and associate it with a letter, that was all that seemed to be needed to “learn” the sound. Again, issues of sensitivity to sound, in terms of incoming sounds verses sounds he himself produced had played a role in learning phonics. It was “as if” Zachary committed the phonics to memory once he himself had produced the sounds!
What I did not realize until I was almost completely done with this book (literally, 2 days prior to the completion of this work) was that although it appeared only sound had been involved in teaching Zachary his phonics, I now knew motion had also been involved… the motion from his Alphabet Train Video. I was now convinced that in the autistic, the teaching of language was best not via visual stimuli, but rather, via sensory information that involved motion. The reasons for which I say this will become evident to the reader as he progresses through these materials. I did, however, want to provide valuable information as it related to teaching language based on motion. This was a workbook my sister-in-law had used with her autistic son to teach him language. At 11, years after this method had been used, he still made use of these motions in deciphering language.
I had never been one for “reinventing the wheel” and as such, I wanted to share with all parents the information for The Phonics Handbook, that book my sister-in-law used to teach her son language via motion.
The Phonics Handbook, by Sue Lloyd, published by Jolly Learning was available by calling: 800-488-2665 in the US or 0181-501-0405 in the UK.
The ISBN for The Phonics Handbook was: 1 870946 08 1.
There were also other handbooks and videos available for those who were interested. These included:
Phonics Video, twin pack ISBN 1 870946 66 9
Finger Phonics Books 1 – 7 ISBN 1 870946 31 6
I had only, personally seen The Phonics Handbook, but I provided these others as well as they were listen on the back of the materials I had. Anything that would involve using one’s fingers though to teach language, was probably something to look at!
The other thing I could suggest in teaching language to the autistic was, of course via the use of puzzles and videos – since both involved motion. The Alphabet Train in the Language Section had truly helped Zachary with learning the alphabet. It was a video he adored to this day… providing, motion in the form of spinning letters, sound as the letters were called out and the entire video was set to the music of Mozart, visuals as the letters were placed on a train and the sense of parts being made into a whole as each train car was loaded with individual letters. Given all this sensory information Zachary was best able to “make the connection” necessary in order to understand this all too critical first cornerstone to language!
Since the autistic loved puzzles and trains, potentially, both these concepts could be used to one’s advantage in teaching many concepts… I was already working on a couple for time and money based on very specific ideas I had in terms of how these concepts could best be taught… and had many ideas for teaching sentence structure, etc. based on that too, but, truly, when it came to learning, teaching the autistic child via puzzles, trains, motion, and indeed, perhaps even smell, was the way to teach language to these children! The phonics as I provided in the language section could then be used as a good reinforcement tool, but, based on what I had come to understand (literally 2 days prior to completing this book), I now believed the best way to go was to teach phonics via motion!
Once the connection between letters and phonics had been made, the two key critical basics to language had been decoded and Zachary could quickly move forward from there. Zachary loved to spell… he especially loved just “hearing the spelled out words” and often called many out for many to spell… he then repeated the spelling of the word. I did not have to spell out each word on paper. Zachary simply listened intensely as I spelled words for him. In no time at all, he was asking me to spell new words he had heard in order to "solidify them" in his mind... to understand the entity, the new word for what it was... a new part that could now be integrated into the whole.
The other reason I believed that partialities and decoding of one’s world were at play was because of a small experiment I did with Zachary. This was the "duck dog" experiment mentioned in Chapter 16 of my first book, Saving Zachary: The Death And Rebirth Of A Family Coping With Autism.
When I first came to the conclusion that "order" was somehow involved in underlying issues for the autistic child, I decided to do a little test. Since I believed the autistic child's world to be one of the autistic child attempting to "decode everything" to understand the whole, one of attempting to find absolute exactness in understanding how the parts fit together to form the whole, I wondered if Zachary would be puzzled if he heard something that was "out of the ordinary".
I pretended to be a duck. I started flapping my wings and saying, “Zachary, look, I’m a duck...quack...quack...quack...”. When I knew that he had seen me “as a duck”, I continued flapping my wings, only now, I began to bark. Almost immediately Zachary showed frustration. He started to “butt me” with his head and said, “broken dog”. There were those "words to cope"... the word "broken" being used to deal with a part of his world he simply could not make sense of and as a result of his frustration, Zachary physically tried to stop the frustrating situation by actually hitting me with his head. As soon as I stopped the duck-dog thing, he was fine. Later, I simply labeled this "mommy's duck-dog" and Zachary no longer had an issue with the simultaneous barking and flapping of wings. :o)
Thus, I could not help to conclude that although there were most likely some “truly sensory” auditory issues at play... issues helped by digestive enzymes that helped to rid the child of the natural opiate effect of casein and gluten (including trace amounts in children who are casein and gluten free), and issues related to vaccine injury to the physical workings of the auditory system, I believed that, as with vision, with hearing, too, there was more here than met the eye... that the actual way in which the brain processes "partialities" or "specific sounds" in life was definitely at play... and that any "unexpected sound" (including a barking "duck-dog") became an immediate source of frustration for the autistic child... until that sound was labeled and seen as an entity in and of itself. Truly, auditory learning and learning involving motion, especially, as it related to labeling parts to the whole were the greatest untapped tools available to the parent of the autistic child. :o)