Friday, April 6, 2012

Seven Keys

SEVEN KEYS TO UNLOCK AUTISM: Making Miracles in the Classroom
By Elaine Hall and Diane Isaacs
“Groundbreaking” and “miraculous” are two words that can be used to describe the founders of The Miracle Project’s newest book SEVEN KEYS TO UNLOCK AUTISM (Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley; November 2011; $18.95; Paper; ISBN: 978-0-470-64409-6), which takes readers through seven integrated steps to best access and make meaningful connections with children with autism spectrum disorders – one of the most challenging aspects of the disease.  It’s based on the acclaimed author’s approach (Elaine Hall and Diane Issacs) that was featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Autism: The Musical.
Authors Hall and Issacs believe that ALL children can grow through creative expression, and it was this belief that not only inspired The Miracle Project (a multi-platform socialization program that enables children and teens with autism and other special needs to express themselves through all creative arts) but also the SEVEN KEYS TO UNLOCK AUTISM.  This book shows teachers and parents how to bring out the best in kids with autism, nurturing their self-expression and boosting their social skills.
The book’s journey began in 2004 when Hall founded The Miracle Project, bringing to life the visionary goal of providing a loving and accepting environment that celebrates the unique and often unrecognized ability of young people with autism by guiding them through creative workshops and artistic programs.  From there, the Project skyrocketed, going from program, to inspiring a musical, to the Tribeca Film Festival and then finally capturing two Emmys and becoming an internationally acclaimed program that uplifts thousands of children with autism.
The “SEVEN KEYS” came to life when Hall had to train a staff that had very little experience working with children who had autism.  She realized she needed to develop a method to help her staff connect with the children, and thus the SEVEN KEYS were born.  Throughout the years, Hall and Issacs have watched staff member after staff member develop the skills that allowed them to create meaningful relationships with all the children in the program, as well as benefit from having these relationships in their lives – growing in compassion and understanding.” (Book Press Release)
This should be required reading for all teachers. Each of the seven keys are simple to add to not only the classroom but the home. The authors hold the idea of stop trying to change the child and let them lead.  When you enter their way of seeing and experiencing the world you can begin to understand. One you understand you can implement ideas not only to help them but to make them part of the group.
An example in the book is the kid who cannot sit still do to sensory issues. Not only does the teacher give him an exercise ball to sit on she rather than placing him at the back of the room places him at the front. He now is part of the group and as he begins to participate the movements begin to slow down, while they never stop the exercise ball allows him to bounce and move as needed without disrupting anyone.
Another great example from the book was concerning a child who does not speak. Find ways to make them part of the group ask questions that require everyone to raise their hands, such as who agrees with Sally’s answer. This allows the nonverbal child to be a full participant in classroom activities.
For the home follow the child’s lead. Really think about what is important. Is it really important to improve Johnny’s handwriting when he could use a computer? Are the therapy goals something the child wants or something the parent wants? Allow them to be part of IEP’s and other meetings concerning them.
Above all the keys come down to listening. Each key has a section describing the key, a section explain the stop, and a section explaining the unlock. The keys are really about opening the teachers mind to a different way of doing things. In the process of opening your own mind to a new way of thinking the connection will come.
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