Last four-months, I had an opportunity to teach science for elementary and secondary level in one of international schools. I met diverse students with high interest in learning about natural phenomenon. I taught five classes, from Primary 3 to Secondary 1. In one of classes, I met two students with special needs (SN), one has Asperger and another one has Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Some teachers told me that they already got treatment and now they already much better. First, let me explain the condition from both of my students and how do I communicate with them during lesson hour.
My student with ASD could not stay focus during class, he walked around the class and sometimes bother other students (simply he just wants to play). However, he has such great effort to get involved in classroom discussion. He already could make an eye contact with me (most of the time) and able to follow teacher’s instruction.
Another one, my student with Asperger shows strong interest in science. He has one closest friend with whom he wants to talk a lot. He is kind of attention seeker, yet he is very genius in explaining particular topics to me. He simply wants to be heard and wants to share anything in his mind. Sometimes, his friends like to bully him when he does such silly things.
Being their teacher during these past four months is a blessing for me. I think I learn more than them. When the class was crowded and uncontrol, they have their own way to cheer me up. They are just, sometimes too honest and too active.
One fine day, I had to review all the materials to prepare them for the final exam. I started the explanation from the very first chapter to the latest one – I asked them to take a note sometime. While I was explaining, my student with autism syndrome asked me to stop explaining, he said he felt dizzy – it can be seen from his eye’s contact and movement. He threw tantrum, he shouted at me, he threw eraser and stationary to me – he overwhelmed with all the materials. At that time, I said to him that he could miss some chapters and get rest for a while – he refused, he got angrier by planning to throw a chair to me. I got help from some teachers to calm him – I couldn’t explain my feeling back then. Less than 30 minutes, he forgot what he did and talked to me like nothing happen.
What I learned from that experience is that, a theory of differentiated instruction is a way difficult to be implemented than to be learnt. I should have understood my special need students’ physiological condition, what dos and don’ts – what kind of conditions that can trigger their tantrum, how much amount of materials that they can accept, how to connect and draw abstract concept into concrete knowledge, how to make them learn and how to afford accessibility of all knowledge.
Note: I wrote this post before I read any materials related to autism or teaching students with autism, so it sounds very general. I will be sharing my experience teaching English as Second Language (ESL) for ASD students.