Raising Matilda - Crib sheet for ASD kids in main stream
I received a lovely message recently from a teacher who is about to start the term with a child in her class who has PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance). I was asked for any pointers I could give her, that might help her teach and understand her student.
First and foremost, I congratulated her on her initiative. Whilst I understand that teaching is indeed a vocational trade, how wonderful to reach out to someone who may be able to help a pupil in her care. Lucky pupil I say!
I have been meaning to do a ‘Matilda Crib Sheet’ all summer. I should have prioritised this way sooner, but there it is. I explained that I was writing up a sheet for Matilda’s future teachers to tell them all about her. Not a dictation as to what they must do, more of a guideline on what will help them create a relationship with my daughter, that will enable them to successfully teach her.
That’s what it's all about you see, Matilda has to trust you, trust is paramount to her. One strike and you're out. A shout, an accusation, if you make her feel like she has no choice but to leg it, its game over. It makes future lessons almost impossible and school refusal the likely outcome.
So this is more of a Matilda Greenwood An Essential Teachers Guide, than a crib sheet I guess!
My greatest concern is that these members of staff will take one look at it and be all ‘holy cow!’ Like I've said before, Matilda is the piece of clothing that looks better on than off. On paper a plethora of complex needs, in person ‘a lighter up of rooms’.
Chatting to a friend this week, we agreed that it would be useful for any teacher with a new class, to have a succinct, A4 page on their students. Perhaps only ten points of information on your child to assist the teacher on what makes your child tick. Where his or her strengths or challenges lie. A crib sheet for your kid. Just that. Guide lines, not telling a professional how to do their job. This is to help not hinder.
I am all about communication, knowledge is power, surely a heads up could help?
‘My son/daughter struggles with eye contact’.
‘My s/d is slow to process xxxx’. ‘
‘My s/d has had a difficult summer due to xxxx, this may affect his/her ability to focus’
This isn't meant to be an opportunity for parents to be all ‘My child has the football skills of Rooney, he/she must be in the A team’. No no! Just as much helpful info as possible, from the human who knows that person better than anyone else.
It may be cast aside, it may simply not be required. Or it may give that one piece of essential information that enables a teacher to reach a child in such a way that makes a real difference. The impact that gets them to the next level. The impact that, in adulthood that pupil remembers. ‘Thank heavens for Mrs/Mr XXXX, they gave me the ability to believe in myself, they made the difference’.
Please find Matilda’s crib sheet below. To any teacher or parent who has a child with issues like my Boo, I hope it helps.
To everyone, good luck with the new school year, exciting and scary times! Stay strong, we’re all in this together.
Matilda Greenwood's Crib Sheet
Matilda learns best by visual aids. i.e. If it is shown to her physically, she can then mirror it. She will struggle to follow instructions that are verbally explained.
Use indirect language where possible. i.e. ‘It’s fractions day today, would you like to choose which ones to start with?’ If she is given options, she is much more likely to be up for the challenge as she will feel in control. Also if you start with something you know she can do, it may help.
Sentence starters which may help (found these on the PDA website)
‘I wonder if we can…’
‘Let’s see how we can make this work…’
‘Shall we see if we can beat the clock…’
‘Maybe we could investigate….’
‘Who do you want us to help us today….’
Try and avoid the following starters
‘It's time for you to…’
‘You’ve got to….’
‘You need to …..’
Give her as much notice as possible of what is expected of her/what's going to happen. This will give her time to process the info and give her the sense of being in control.
A visual timetable/lesson plan. 20 mins doing X. 20 mins doing XX etc. It doesn't have to be fancy, but if you pop a couple of mermaid stickers on it, she may pay more attention to it!
Due to her ADD, she has the focus of a fly, so she is best sitting at the front or near the front of the class.
Matilda’s anxiety of that day will dictate how she is going to do in class. Mrs S will be able to tell if she's up for the challenge or whether she'll go through the motions.
Matilda LOVES getting things right, so throw her a bone sometimes. Ask her a question you know she will get right and it's likely she will be more focused for the rest of the lesson.
Matilda also loves praise, even for the smallest thing. This will help hugely with your relationship with her.
Matilda loves prizes, stickers, any form of a visual ‘well done’! It's the first thing she will talk about when I see her after school.
Matilda is approximately 18 months - 2 years behind in maturity. When you are talking to her, imagine you are speaking to a 9-10 year old.
Make the boundaries of that lesson VERY clear. This is what we are allowed to do, where we can go, the pencils you can use etc.
Where possible Matilda works well on a chrome book and has one of her own if that helps.
Matilda is really funny! She loves to laugh and make everyone laugh, so where you can, use humour. It will help you with your relationship with her.
Matilda needs an exit space/exit strategy so if she feels overwhelmed she knows theres an escape route without a problem.
Sand timer/sound timer - so she can see how long she has left of that task, she's so visual.
This is where it gets tricky. We appreciate at some stage Matilda will need putting back in line. But it has to be managed in a different way to other kids. Firstly, please, please don’t shout. Its not unfeasible that she’ll never trust you again.
Please keep calm. If Matilda gets an anxiety panic attack she will either run or be upset in front of her class mates, either of which could damage her friendships. Her friends mean the world to her.
If you are able get Mrs S to take her out of the class and explain the problem, then she can face the consequences later on a one to one basis.
Matilda will be upset about getting into trouble, but she has to learn to stick within the boundaries like everyone else. These rules and boundaries need to be outlined very clearly. But rather than a ‘you are not allowed to do this’ way if you address the whole class with any rules or regulations that she has to abide by, she will not find this threatening. Mrs S can then make sure she has understood.
The most important thing I think, for you to understand, is that the classic teacher to pupil relationship of authority versus submissive, simply will not work with Matilda. She cannot comprehend this. She is not being insolent. Matilda finds it difficult to grasp why someone older than her is ‘in charge’ so to speak. Matilda sees all of us on a level playing field. I actually think this is a huge positive for the most part, I can truly say hand on heart, that Matilda doesn't see age, sex, race or religion, to her we are all equal. Quite possibly her greatest attribute.