About Me

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I am a special education teacher in England, working in a mainstream academy with a centre for children with learning difficulties. I teach a class of 7 students of secondary age with profound and multiple learning difficulties. These include autism, visual impairment and sensory integration disorder. I love love love my job. It inspires ,enthuses .and lifts me and I never intend to retire. :)

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Saturday 9

I am doing this a day late but better late than never.As I am behind with most things in my life I am simply reverting to type. I used to worry about playing permanent catchup but now.....well I've accepted it as an inevitable part of my character.

Are you the type of person who jumps into new ventures or do you prefer baby
Hmmm difficult one.I do jump into new ventures but if things don't flow along swimmingly I can give up and then need re enthusing before I can start again.This is a flaw in my character that I am currently trying to deal with ie allowing my mind,where I get fired up and enthusiastic and full of good ideas to become united with my actions,which are a little slower in following!

Who do you think believes in you the most?
Definitely , definitely God! He always takes us and turns us into what He wants us to be if we are willing.So despite my weakness, my laziness, my faults ,and the numerous times I've let Him down, my Lord and Father believes I can change and He can use me and I can be good at anything I want .Hurrah!

When was the last time you were on a stage?
LOL when I was a teenager at school. I was in the drama group, mainly because I had a major crush on the teacher who ran it. We put on "The thwarting of Barron Bolligrew" in which I was the Secretary, a part with no words and only one appearance. Sigh! And so died my hopes for a career on the stage.

Tell us about the worst boss you every had?
Oh my goodness, there are so many to choose from. The headmaster of the first school I worked at was a dozy guy who appeared to know nothing much about teaching,or managing.For many years he was having an affair with the deputy and they would ensconce themselves in his office doing what I will leave to your imagination and sending one of the teachers out for provisions.This was before national curriculum and offsted you understand, hence he got away with it for years. My last head was a bully. She was head of a high school in a very rough area, Children came from families who neglected them, often with no breakfast and not washed ,maybe abused.There was a lot of violent and defiant behaviour.This head let the students away with murder and bullied the staff.She drove many good teachers away and created a little group of young and easily manipulated people around her as her senior management. She has moved on to terrorise another poor school.

Of all the clothes you own what do you feel most comfortable wearing and why?
Jeans jeans jeans! I like to look nice, but in a comfortable beach bum kind of way, like the clothes produced by Fatface.If I find a tshirt or jumper that I love and feel really suits me I wear it to death, until it falls of my back from over use. Currently I have a navy blue long baggy jumper that serves this purpose. I have 2 pairs of jeans that suit me best, by John Rocha,and Monsoon.

On what television show—either past or present—would you like to make to make a guest appearance, and what role would you play?
I would like to be a contestant on a humorous quiz like" have I got news for you"[on Paul Merton's team] or QI or from the past "Call my Bluff"

8. St. Patrick's Day is on Wednesday March 17th. Do you celebrate and wear green? Drink Green Beer? Ignore it?
Do you know, I have NEVER even noticed its passing before! Its really not a big thing here in the UK. I've never known anyone who talks about it either. It must be the states that makes a big thing of it cos its only since I've been on facebook and twitter and have American friends that I've heard of it.Quite why America would celebrate an Irish festival remains a mystery. Can anyone enlighten me?

If a leprechaun told you that you could have any amount of money from his pot of gold but it had to be a specified amount for a specified item, how much would you ask for and what would it be for?
Under normal circumstances it would be 1000 pounds for a new laptop as this is on its last legs. But I think it would have to be 10,000 pounds for solicitors fees which I envisage having to pay for a good few months yet.

If the NCAA Men's or Women's Final Four basketball tournament was played in your hometown arena or within easy driving distance from where you live, would you try to attend one the three games?
No way! Or any other game for that matter. I did once go to a football match with a boyfriend. Doncaster versus Scarborough and Donny won. He said I had brought them good luck as they never won ,but it didn't persuade me to help them anymore lol

Saturday, 6 March 2010

what do your bookmarks say about you?

My Mother said that you can tell a lot about someone by what's in their bookshelves, or indeed if they have any at all.I remember being very embarrassed by her on any visit to a new friend as she'd immediately peruse their shelves intently and,even worse,take one out and say "I'm borrowing this ok?" I never felt able to tell her how socially unacceptable that was!

My bookshelves have 3 main themes:God and spiritual growth;work,that is,autism and special needs; and literature that is,in turn separated into already read and waiting to be read.I tend to have one on the go from each group at a time. I'm currently reading "Landmarks" by Margaret Silf.I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone who wants to grow in their relationship with God and become more like Him. It has brought me through a very difficult part of my life,still trusting.For work,its "the out of sync child", a fascinating insight into sensory integration disorder,which really only touches the iceberg of this enormous subject and wets my appetite for more information.I have already diagnosed myself with certain sensory integration problems, a subject I may touch on in another blog :).I am also reading Neil Gaiman,having finished Coraline, and moving straight on to Anasi Boys.

Anyway, I started thinking in this technological age of ours you could say the same thing about which websites people bookmark.Not of course as accessable as a bookshelf which may disappoint my dear Mother,but they would certainly show whats important to you,your interests,your priorities and pleasures.
Of course my bookmarks reveal the same things initially. I have a huge work folder which contains useful ideas websites [for planning my teaching],educational blogs which can be incredibly helpful,and recently ideas that would help me in lecturing mainstream teachers about ASD. For example, that notorious AutismSpeaks video as an example of what NOT to believe and the "I do not suffer with Autism statements".
I frequently visit the Northumbrian community website http://www.northumbriacommunity.org/ where I get much prayer support and friendship from the forum members.Sacred Space is a website that leads you into prayer for 10/15 minutes at work when you need a little pocket of peace and God's presence in the day's stress.http://sacredspace.ie/ In contrast a ship of fools is a half serious half hilarious website that brings Christians together to discuss thorny issues but also rate religious jokes as which is the funniest and advertises the most ridiculous christian websites and religious kitsch.http://www.ship-of-fools.com/index.html I have trouble with Christians who can't laugh at themselves.

Another main theme in my bookmarks is humour and my search for a good laugh.I currently love http://www.engrish.com/ and http://notalwaysright.com/.[basically a laugh at other peoples extreme stupidity] http://mstaken.com/blog/ has many laughable examples of celebrities making fools of themselves and it was here I discovered http://themessage-board.blogspot.com/ ,a very talented lady acting out the utter craziness of brides to be talking with each other.

The main thing in my bookmarks is the blogs I follow, which seems to get bigger on a daily basis! Many of the blogs I follow are written by parents of autistic children or teachers or people with aspergers.It helps to keep me grounded, and not lost in the theory of autism and education but aware of how it impacts daily life for them and their families.Not only that but I love making new friends and a blog can help you get to know someone far better than facebook or twitter's short updates.For a moving and funny blog about her autistic son,which is beautifully written read http://mamabegood.blogspot.com/,whilst http://asd2mom.spaces.live.com/ Elise's sons are older and her wisdom and wonderful descriptions of advocating for them is a joy to read. For plain crazy people [in the nicest possible way,of course!]read http://blog.winett.com/ and http://neuroaster.wordpress.com/

so whats in your bookmarks? Will anyone be brave enough to tell me? please do.

oh and I forgot the shopping websites!LOL One of my favorite activities.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Never assume anything when dealing with autism

I have been looking forward to today for a few weeks . We were taking our
two classes of students with complex needs to The Alan Shearer Centre .
Only open for 3 years it boasts three state of the art sensory rooms;
the white room, the UV room and the blue room, a huge ball pool and
sensory cave . Even without the students I wanted to go and have fun!
I , of course, thought this would be a great opportunity for them and
they would be lost in wonder at all the strange and exciting

My class has five students. Two are in wheel chairs , with limited
physical ability and profound learning difficulties. The other three
are mobile [in fact very mobile!!] and have severe autism and
additional severe learning difficulties . These last three have the
sensory integration problems that accompany autism. I have just started
researching sensory integration problems in greater depth and found it
to be a fascinating minefield of information. So many different ways of
experiencing SID and in fact within just one student differences are
evident. For example they may be sensory seeking of tactile experiences
, but very defensive towards other sensory modals

I have a pretty good understanding of the individuals within my class,
I know what motivates them , that being the very first thing I make it
my business to find out . I know the level they're .functioning at and
the variations in levels according to subjects. I know what makes them
happy and what makes them sad or angry and the ways they communicate
those feelings. Oh yes,I know what makes them tick!

Well today held a few surprises for me!
S a wonderful child , usually happy , spends much time flapping paper
before his eyes. He enjoys trips out and as long as a familiar person
is around can be kept happy.He gets excited easily and jumps up and
down squeaking with happiness and laughing uncontrollably! He does
have times when he's anxious , and during those times he needs to flap
paper even more, searching for more books , leaflets, IEPs , anything
he can find. When hes got enough, in his opinion, he sits on the floor
with them spread around him . He also has an obsession with tidying
when anxious. No, I can't call it tidying as he pokes things in little
spaces, behind cupboards and drawers and under tables to get them out
of his sight but leaving these pockets of mess for us to tidy later. De
cluttering is a better description. The more anxious he is, the more he
declutters. He has been known to try and tidy my arms behind my
back!And the number of things that end up in the bin: shoes, cups and
other useful items of daily living are put there so S can no longer see
them.S is never happier than when elbow deep in shaving foam, sand,
water or any other tactile experience Knowing how active and energetic
S is he started today's experience in the ball pool. The balls lit up
and changed colour and there was a moving projection of planets on the
wall. Despite S love of tactile experience, he took an instant dislike
to the ball pool. Grabbing two handfuls of my hair he left me in no
doubt of that fact! Soon he started looking around for paper to flap
and pulled the fire instructions of the wall, shouting in fear and
anger . This continued into the sensory cave until he settled in front
of a colour changing infinity tunnel.
Things got worse from there! We took him next to the white room [meant
to be relaxing] which had bubble tubes, colour panels and music,fibre
optics and interactive light displays and I started to see things from
S's view. The room was small, had too many people in, extremely hot and
the music was loud which was vieing for attention with the people
talking to each other. All the equipment was on at the same time as we
were told not to touch the controls and S was EXTREMELY overstimulated.
Everything, visual and auditory was screaming at him and it was too
much for his overloaded sensory system to cope with .S sat in a corner,
turned his back on everything and flapped frantically. Bless him, we
had brought S to his own personal Hell
Now J is a sensory seeker and spends most of the time seeking more and
more stimulus, of all kinds, movement, tactile, smell. His particular
form of greeting is to smell you! He loved the sensory cave full of
different textures to touch and walk on . He enjoyed throwing the balls
out of the ball pool and at us! He enjoyed the white room, sitting
happily among all the equipment. However when he'd been led to yet
enough room he put a jumper over his head and shut down. The sensory
seeker was all sensed out!
A was the student I was going to keep an eye on. He is sensory
defensive, prefers not to look at anything, prefers not to move and
hates tactile experiences especially on his hands. I was prepared to
take him outside if necessary. However, big surprise! He had a ball. He
loved everything from beginning to end . He sat in the ball pool and
smiled, he sat in the white room and smiled more , he sat on the
vibrating platform and giggled and in the swing he shouted excitedly.
So how well do I know my students? I think I made three erroneous
assumptions . Firstly, that because it sounds like an exciting place to
me I assumed it would be for my class. I failed to think about it with
their minds and the effect it may have on them. Then because a child is
a sensory seeker he can have too much stimulation . I assumed all
stimulation would be good stimulation. I also failed to recognise that
defensiveness in some sensory modals doesn't rule out extreme enjoyment
in others.
Today has been a great learning experience. Its given me ideas to use
to motivate and stimulate A towards progression. I have realised that S
needs clutter free rooms because he gets overstimulated and flaps to
block out the discomfort this brings . I can make adjustments to his
learning environment and methods to accommodate this need. I will have
only one or two pieces of interactive equipment on at any one time when
we get our own state of the sensory room.Education is always a learning
process, not only for the students but for the teachers . Most
importantly I shall endeavour to plan our trips with my" autism mind",
always considering the effect on them.more than whether it will fit the
curriculum or it seems like a good idea.