Tag Archives: Teaching

When I’d Grow Up…

Last Friday when I was at my parents’, we had a long discussion. We often do. My sister was frustrated that she still doens’t have a “real” job at 27. Neither do I at 29, but it doesn’t frustrate me as much unless others are talking about how much of a failure they are for not having a “real” (or “real” enough) job. After all, we measure what we want to achieve by what the people around us (want to) achieve.

My sister is the only memeber of my family with a college degree. Nonetheless, my father attended college and my mother would’ve wanted to attend post-secondary education at least, which she never got the opportunity for. Therefore, it was instilled in me that I need to achieve. I knew at an early age that I was later going to a high level high school and maybe even university. When I was twelve and starting secondary education, I wanted to be a mathematician or a linguist when I grew up.

It hadn’t always been this way. When I was in Kindergarten, probably I wanted to be a princess or a Mommy like every other girl in my class. Starting by first grade however, I wanted to be a writer and I continued to want to be a writer far into high school.

My parents did of course tell me that you couldn’t make a lviing out of writing, so I had various other aspirations throughout school. For the longest time, I wanted to be a teacher, switching form elementary education when I was myself in elementary school to various secondary subjects when I was in high school to finally wanting to be a college professor when I’d finished high school. I did have some bad thoughts about burning out while teaching and landing on disability, but never quite gave into these thoughts.

I also for a long time wanted to get married and start a family. When I was an adolescent, I for a while thought I was a lesbian. I can’t remember what I thought regarding marriage and children at that time. Of course, gay couples have been able to legally marry since 2001 here in the Netherlands, but this was the same time when I thought (as it turns out correctly) that I was on the autism spectrum. I thought this meant (as it turns out incorrectly) that autistics didn’t marry, so probably neither would I. In fact, I didn’t give a long-term relationship much thought until it happened with my husband.

As it turns out, I did study linguistics for a bit in 2007 and was planning on becoming a scientist in this field. It never worked out. Obviously, I never even attempted to become a teacher. I am however somewhat of a writer now, having had my first piece published in a book last June. I am also of course married and happily so!

Mama’s Losin’ It

Everyday Gyaan

Teaching Autistic Children #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day twenty in the A to Z Challenge on autism. Today’s post is all about teaching autisitc children. This post primarily addresses teachers, but parents and other interested people can learn from it too.

Children with autism often benefit from as structured an educational environment as possible. In fact, many behavioral therapists say you can’t overstructure with an autistic child. I do however feel that a child needs time to unwind too, because many autistic children have short attention spans and sensory needs. An ideal education mixes mostly structured teaching with free time (such as during recess) where a child is allowed to do whatever they want as long as they don’t harm anyone. For example, during a break, a child should be allowed to self-stim or to just stare out the window if they want.

A good education encourages the autistic child to maximize their strengths. Many autistics are good wirh art, while others are good at math or computers. If a child is academically able, they should be taught at an academically enriching school. Unfortunately, due to the way the educational system worked when I was in school, I couldn’t get an academically challenging education and get proper help for my social, sensory and behavioral needs at the same school. This has thankfully changed.

There are many strategies for teaching elementary school children with autism.


  1. Use the child’s special interests as a way to motivate them for schoolwork. If a school has a theme-based curriculum, or you’re using this as a homeschooling parent, you may be able to get your autistic child motivated for the theme being discussed at the time whether it matches their special interests or not. After all, some autistics (like myself) will fixate on basically anything they can fixate on. If your child only has one special interest, you could use time spent on the special interest as a reward for doing schoolwork and still incorporate the special interest in your teaching.

  2. For visual learners, it may help to use concrete, visual tools to teach math. My (non-autistic) sister had a pen which she could use to learn multiplication tables and use to scribble and doodle with at the same time.

  3. Handwriting is often hard for autistic children because of fine motor deficits. Nowadays, handwriting truly isn’t that importnat anymore, so allowing the child to type is recommended.

  4. Some autistics learn to read best by learning the phonics (traditional teachign method when I was in school), while others learn better by memorizing whole words. Comprehension is often harder for autistic children. You could use cards with a word and picture on them and show the picture/word card while speaking the word at the same time. The picture and word need to be on the same side of the card. This way, the child learns the meaning of words rather than just how to say them.

  5. For daily schedules, some children do best with visuals, while others do best with words, and still others prefer a combination of the two. Some autistics do not understand line drawings and will need photographs of real objects to understand what you mean.


Taking into account a child’s sensory needs may be hard, particularly in mainstream schools. For example, some children will absorb information much better when they’re stimming, but this is often seen as a distraction. An occupational therapist can advise the school teacher on a sensory diet for the child.

Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) and Floortime: Two Autism Treatments #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day eighteen in the A to Z Challenge on autism. Today, I will focus on two behavioral interventions for autism: relationship development intervention and Floortime.

Relationship development intervention (RDI) is a behavioral approach to helping autistic children reach the highest possible quality of life. The intervention was developed by Dr. Steven Guttstein. The basic idea behind the intervention is that dynamic intelligence, which is the ability to think flexibly, is required for a good quality of life. Dynamic intelligence includes the ability to appreciate different perspectives, cope with change, and integrate informaiton from multiple sources (eg. sight and sound).

The most important objectives of RDI are:


  • Emotional referencing: being able to learn from the emotions and subjective experiences of others.

  • Social coordination: the ability to observe and control behavior in order to participate in social interaction.

  • Declarative language: using verbal and non-verbal communication to express curiosity, invite interaction and share perceptions and feelings.

  • Flexible thinking: being able to adjust to changing circumstances and adapt one’s plans accordingly.

  • Relational information processign: the ability to put things into context and solve problems that don’t have a clear-cut solution.
  • Foresight and hindsight: being able to use past experiences to anticipate on future possibilities.


Autistic people usually have trouble in these areas, which leads to their autistic core symptoms. Typically deveoping children commonly learn these skills through interaction with their parents.

RDI uses the parent-child relationship to enable the child to master the skills mentioned above. An RDI consultant teaches the parents to modify their interaction and communication style in such a way that the autistic child will be supported to learn the missed skills.

I used to believe that RDI is the same as Floortime, but it turns out it isn’t. Floortime was developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan and relies on the idea that, in order to teach a child functional skills, they have to engage with their parents, teachers or therapists. This is precisely where some autistic children have trouble, particularly those who are very withdrawn. In Floortime, the parent carefully intrudes the child’s play, following the child’s lead, and tries to engage the child.

So what is the difference between Floortime and RDI? An important distinction is that, in RDI, the parent takes the lead in engaging the child, whereas a parent who uses Floortime follows the child’s lead. Both approaches require consistency and follow-through, so as a parent, you most likely won’t be able to combine the two.

Father’s Day

This Sunday is father’s day. In our family, we haven’t celebrated it since I was in elementary school and making little gifts for my father there. This is in a way good, because it is hard to think of gifts he’d appreciate – usually, when he needs something, he buys it himself. I remember one day in like 2006 or 2007 having a bad argument with my father over what I’d give him for his birthday. He was sure I’d buy him a pen or some other cheap excuse for a gift, and when I said I’d bought a reasonably-priced gift the year before, it wasn’t about the price but about knowing what he’d appreciate getting. I can now say I’ve sort of made up for this lack of consideration, because two gifts I gave him for his birthdays in I think 2011 and 2012 are still part of his reference library when discussing the area my parents live in.

My father was the one to insist most on socially appropriate behavior, in his own Aspie style. He could teach me in a kind of harsh way, but at least I learned basic social skills. He was the homemaker when I grew up. Besides, he was on my level intellectually, so, unlike I did with my mother, I didn’t outperform him verbally.

My father taught me to speak. He often told the story of how I’d touch his lips when we were riding the Rotterdam subway, and learned to speak that way. He also taught me my first academics. If my mother counted to four, I’d finish her sentence with a nursery rhyme. If my father counted to four, I’d finish off with “five”. To my mother’s credit, she was the one who taught me to read. At least, she was the one who made little books for me using huge rub-on letters.

My father taught me math. I remember learning squares and squareroots using little square shapes. I taught an acquaitnance’s fifteen-year-old daughter when I was around eight. My father also taught me geography. When I was around eight, we’d sit in the living room, map on our lap, and he’d teach me about various places.

When I got older, entering secondary school, my father seemed to push me the hardest. I recently found out that my parents had always agreed on my schooling, but it appeared that my father was the one insisting most on my reaching my academic potential. About half a year after I entered secondary school, my father took a job there (fortunately not as a teacher). It was good to have my father support me, for example when I wanted to participate in debating contests. It was sometimes tough, because he was in easy reach when I’d exhibit one of my quirky behaviors.

When I decided to postpone going to university for first one year and then two, my father was the one who was most disappointed, or at least, showed it the most. My father was the one essentially kicking me out of the house when I informed my parents about the second delay. This was, he said later, because I was verbally attacking my mother. My mother was the more emotionally expressive and manipulative parent, while my father was the more rigid, rational one. I inherited a little of both.

Post Comment Love