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World Autism Awareness Day and the Autism Advantage

6792992-free-light-blue-backgroundsThere is a pervasive misconception that people with autism are technology geniuses or Rain Man-Like savants. It is true that that certain studies estimate the prevalence of savant abilities in autism to be at 10%, whereas the prevalence in the non-autistic population,  to be at less than 1%, that is still a relatively small number of people on the spectrum with Savant-like skills.  How functional these skills are in everyday life might also be questioned. 

More critical are studies suggesting that the fundamental way that people with autism seek out information could enable them to process and think in a way that is unique from people without Autism.  This is why many progressive companies are beginning to recognize “The Autism Advantage” and  realize how a more neurologically diverse workforce can achieve better outcomes.

April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. While many people are affected by Autism, there is still a ways to go for people to embrace the Autism Advantage in a meaningful way – especially at the school level. There are clear advantages for kids with Autism to be integrated in a regular streamed classroom. In an integrated classroom, children with special needs have the opportunity to observe typically developing children, who can serve as positive role models. But we hear less about the reverse.  What are the benefits for neurotypical children in a diverse classroom setting?

Some obvious benefits  include learning tolerance, developing empathy and gaining an appreciation for diversity. But where the real advantage comes is being exposed to seeing the world in a different way that enriches your own understanding and enables you to look at problem solving from a variety of perspectives, thereby providing kids with additional learning strategies.  Inclusive classrooms are shown to provide all kids with greater academic outcomes (where neurotypical kids are provided with opportunities to master activities by practicing and teaching others) and prepares all students for adult life in an inclusive society.

On World Autism Day, we invite our friends to Light it Up Blue and show meaningful support for not just people who are affected by Autism, but people from all diverse backgrounds and recognize it is the sum of all of our parts that makes us stronger, smarter and enriches our lives.

 

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Getting extra help at school

At Light in the Attic Learning, our core philosophy is that each student is unique and, as such, can benefit from instruction tailored to his or her learning needs. With a one-to-one approach, it is possible to deliver this type of customized program however the realities of the public system do not often accommodate this approach. So what to do when you suspect your child requires special support? The Education Act requires that school boards provide, or purchase from another board, special education programs and services for their exceptional pupils. The catch phrase here is “exceptional pupils”. If you wish to seek out special support for your child, you will first need to get them identified as having an exceptionality.  This designation is only obtained through an Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) meeting.

The IPRC is composed of at least three people – one of whom must be a principal or supervisory officer of the board. The role of the IPRC is to:

  • decide whether or not your child should be identified as exceptional;
  • identify the areas of your child’s exceptionality, according to the categories and definitions of exceptionalities provided by the Ministry of Education;
  • decide an appropriate placement for your child;
  • review the identification and placement at least once in each school year.

If the principal of your child’s school has not already referred your child to the IPRC, you can request an IPRC meeting for your child in writing. Email is fine.  Within 15 days of receiving your request the principal MUST provide you with a guide to special education and let you know when the IPRC will meet to discuss your child’s circumstances.  It is your right to attend the IPRC meeting regarding your child and we highly recommend you do so.  You are also able to bring any representative, including private therapists, family members or support workers.

At least 10 days in advance of the meeting, the chair of the IPRC will provide you with written notification of the meeting and an invitation to attend the meeting as an important partner in considering your child’s placement. This letter will notify you of the date, time, and place of the meeting, and it will ask you to indicate whether you will attend. Before the IPRC meeting occurs, you will receive a written copy of any information about your child that the chair of the IPRC has received. This may include the results of assessments or a summary of information.

At the IRPC meeting, the chair will introduce everyone. In addition to the principal, there may be other specialists such as social workers, psychologists or occupational therapists. The IPRC will review all available information about your child to consider. If you have any private assessments or reports, it would be prudent to share them with the IPRC team at this time.  This is a time for you to ask questions, learn your options and join the discussion.

Following the discussion, after all the information has been presented and considered, the committee will make its decision on whether your child can be designated as “exceptional. If you agree with the IPRC decision, you will be asked to indicate, by signing your name that you agree with the identification and placement decisions made by the IPRC. The statement of decision may be signed at the IPRC meeting or taken home and returned.

If the IPRC has identified your child as an exceptional pupil and you have agreed with the IPRC identification and placement decision, the board will promptly notify the principal of the school at which the special education program is to be provided of the need to develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for your child.

Stay tuned for our next post, which will examine the wonderful world of Individual Education Plans and don’t forget that at Light in the Attic, we help parents navigate through the public education system to achieve the best possible outcomes for their kids.

For more information on navigating through the school system, feel to call David – 416-906-8533.

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How to create an educational ‘Roald Dahl day’ with your kids!

Roald DahlDo you wish you could encourage your children to spend time less time playing computer games and more time reading or playing outside?

The key is to set out a specific time when they can play the Playstation, treat it almost as reward for completing homework or for reading a few pages of a book. It definitely shouldn’t be the first thing they do when they get home from school!

In order to combat computer addiction we recommend planning a themed day based on a popular novel, it will make for a fun and educational Sunday afternoon!

As it’s Roald Dahl’s birthday this month, we thought it might be a fun idea (and a trip down memory lane for parents who read his books as kids too!) if you set aside a couple of hours with your children to pay tribute to some of his work. Pick a book a week, like Matilda, read it with your children, watch the film with them, then create some enjoyable educational (don’t tell the kids that) activities like the ones we’ve put together below:

1. Matilda visits the library regularly to find new books to read. Visit your local library and see what services it offers. Why not make poster to advertise the library?

2. Matilda reads ‘The Secret Garden’, ‘Great Expectations’ and many other famous books. Ask your kids to find out more about these stories and their authors.

3. Matilda’s friend, Fred, has a pet parrot which he lends to her. Encourage your kids to make a ‘guide’ to teach people how to look after a parrot (or another pet), a good idea if you’re thinking about getting a family pet too!

4. Can they write about their favourite teacher (like Miss Honey)?

5. Matilda reads a limerick out loud to her class. Find out how about limericks, explore different examples and try to write one with your children.

6. Ask your kids to write out a recipe for the chocolate cake that Bruce Bogtrotter was forced to eat in front of the school. Then make it!

7. Nigel uses a mnemonic to remind him how to spell ‘difficulty’. Can you think of other tricks to help you spell complicated words that you could teach your kids?

8. In the chapter ‘Miss Honey’s Cottage’, there are lots of complicated words (e.g., mysterious, phenomenon, precocious, self-consciousness). Encourage your children to look them up in the dictionary as you’re reading the book with them.

9. Encourage your children to listen to the audiobook version of the story. Can they retell the story to you?

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