Home' Teacher : May 2011 Contents 70 TEACHER MAY 2011
the cornerstone of which is the volunteer's
acceptance of the child's behaviours.
The key developmental goal is socialisa-
tion, driven by the child's own motivation.
The child's learning is based on construc-
tive play. Volunteers do not intervene in or
judge the child's unusual behaviours. Nor
do they direct the child, rather nurturing
the child's trust so they feel safe, trusting
and stimulated to interact more, which is
their key challenge.
In the three years Evan has been on the
Son-Rise program, he has gone from being a
child who did not respond to his name, was
non-verbal, never looked anyone in the eyes
and spent his time in repetitious, exclusive
actions, to a child who has taught himself to
read, is fully verbal, curious and asks lots of
questions, is happy and loves spending time
I've also learned much about myself and
developed into a more confident person,
which will greatly assist me as a teacher. I
originally thought that I would be teaching
Evan, but in truth I've actually learned from
him that a non-judgemental and accepting
attitude works wonders in reaching children
with special needs.
What have I learned?
In a classroom where the whole environment
may be a distraction for a child, attitude is the
key. We need to teach children to believe in
themselves and each other by giving the gift
of believing they have unlimited potential.
My main tips?
Try not to be forceful and stop an autistic
Try viewing the disrupting behaviour
in another light by asking, 'How can I
help this child in coping with the envi-
Consider that every single thing an autis-
tic child does is for a reason, to take care
of themselves because they are receiving
Dig deep and really get to know the child
by asking questions and working out strat-
egies with them that will make their school
experiences comfortable and inclusive.
Be flexible in your teaching and give the
child alternatives in order to prevent or
overcome sensory issues. For example,
you could set up an area in your classroom
where a child can go to either regroup or
complete their work. You could create a
calming zone using a play tent or blankets
and beanbags where any child is welcome.
Strategies for students with special needs
can easily be blended into the classroom by
allowing access to all students. This kind of
inclusiveness also ensures that no extra or
unwanted attention is caused for students
with special needs.
My eternal thanks go to Vermont Pri-
mary School. It was my experience at this
fantastic school that led me to enjoying
many invaluable months working with Evan
and his family.
I'm imagining that you're reading this
during your morning tea or lunch break,
and you're about to return to your class
where your positive attitude towards every
single student shines through. I hope that
my ow n small experience encourages that.
The main thing I've learned is that my
attitude is far more powerful than any other
skill I've ever been taught. My mission, like
you rs, is to continue to learn about what I
can do to provide the very best education
possible to all students, including students
with special needs because they deserve the
chance to thrive and reach their full poten-
tial just as much as the next child.
Suzie Alev is a fin al-year Education stu-
dent in Melbourne.
Pictured, Suzie Alev with Evan . Photo by
To learn more about the Son-Rise pro -
gram or to become a volunteer, email Ari
Katsogiannis firstname.lastname@example.org or
Suzie Alev email@example.com
Walton, H. (2008) Addressing autism.
Parent and Citizen Journal. 59(3): 41- 43.
I'm imagining that you're
reading this during your
morning tea or lunch break,
and you're about to return
to your class where your
positive attitude towards
every single student shines
through. I hope that my
own small experience
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