Indian Township

Geri Reynolds



Indian Township School teachers and aides took advantage of the time change and jumped ahead with a staff workshop on Monday, March 11, while students gained a day to adjust to this time of year.

The workshop, Autism in the Mainstream Classroom, was presented by Dr. Anita S. Charles, a professor from Bates College.  Her expertise is compounded by the fact that she is raising an autistic child finishing his senior year in high school and who is bound for college.

 Dr. Charles’ presentation was a mix of information, storytelling, and role playing.  Anita shared the experiences of her son by simulating what happened to him under different situations.  She stated that when you live with autism, you have a hurricane inside you every day in that the anxiety is constant.  Where we as individuals might have things happen that give us that aching pit in our stomachs once in a while, people with autism have it all the time. Some of her examples helped the participants to understand that avoiding being vague in discussions and questions were needed, and that it is much better to prepare a child in advance rather than last minute.  Doesn’t this sound like things that might work with all children?

She also shared her experience for reaching out to parents.  It is important to get to know the parents and the child first, since knowing that teachers value their child goes a lot further than being told what is wrong.  Building trust goes far.  Asking parents what they want, keeping close contact, and working together for the best interests of the child sets the stage for what a child really needs – independence.  Working together is the only way to figure out how to help children with autism.

A couple notable items that Dr. Charles used in her presentation were the Youtube video of a young poet, a website for learning about autistic behaviors, and her own story.   Matthew Richards shared his poem, Misdiagnosis, which talks about having autism from his own perspective.  The website that she mentioned was a valuable resource for viewing specific behaviors that children with autism might exhibit.  She ended the presentation sharing a powerpoint slide show of the educational history of her son which highlighted his strengths and areas of need, while recounting the steps that occurred to determine what was affecting her child.  She made it a point to recognize the teachers in her son’s life that were so powerful to his success.  The most remarkable thing for me was the fact that since his diagnosis, every educational step has been to help him be self sufficient so that he can speak up for himself and be able to take care of himself in many ways. 

Earlier this year we had a guest speaker, Deb Lipski, who was diagnosed at age 45.  She shared first hand what a life of autism was like.  One thought of hers has stuck with me, she said her motto was, “God does not make mistakes,” that there is a reason for every one of you.  After the benefit of these two presentations, a lesson learned for all of us is that everyone is unique and special.  We all have problems, but if one dwells on the negatives, one misses the joy of what makes us special.  Also, in this day of “people behaving badly,” we can apply some of the techniques used with autistic people and find the out the causes for a child’s problem, rather than discipline without knowledge.