My first involvement at Letzhop started with teaching the Sesame Street English (SSE) part time. I enjoy teaching the English language as it is my cup of tea. It is a very new experience for me, surrounded with younger children as I was always been with teenage students for the past few years. Yet, this experience has been very interesting. I was later offered to teach full time at Letzhop. Consequently, the responsibilities shifted into something bigger, I am not only teaching SSE but also the ABCs, Islamic Studies, Mathematics and many more.
Apart from teaching young children the preliminary subjects, one of the other challenging yet fun tasks that I am handling here at Letzhop would be the Autism kids. I didn’t know that the centre offers Autism program at first as I was only here during weekends. My first encounter with the children was very difficult. I have neither experience nor idea on how to handle Autistic children but day by day, I learn on how to handle them. I observe the Autism teachers – the experts. I learned that in order for you to ensure a smooth day in class with them, you need to know what are their needs and interests. Don’t ever force them – pushing them doing things according to your way won’t help them, neither would it help you.
Here at Letzhop, Autism children will go for behaviour classes and therapy. As for first-timers, it is normal that you will hear them crying and screaming during the therapy. It is a way of how they overcome their fear and discomfort of a new place and environment. After a while, they will definitely be more calm and relaxed with the teachers. With Autistic children, teachers will have to use a similar teaching approach with the non-challenged children, demonstrate, assist and be involved in the activity rather than give a verbal instruction on how to do things. For example, a simple colouring activity – we sit and assist our children to do the colouring because we know, if we are to tell them, “Okay, now, colour the ball, red”, and the children will just do whatever they want and that is not anything that has to do with colouring. Teachers will then go back to, what are their needs and interests – not all of them like colouring. Surely, there is also other factor like, children with the condition lacks of reciprocity or joint engagement (Do You See What I See, 2011) in which, they lack the ability to engage others and communicate socially using non-verbal cues such as pointing, smiling, or making eye contact in a social and language development.
Eventually, after a few months of observing and teaching, it came to my realisation; Autistic children acquire the English language uniquely. Despite of the behavioural challenges that the Autistics are going through with every day, almost all of them understand English well and are prefer to speak in the language. They memorize vocabularies extensively, recognize the alphabets from A to Z and are always confident to say the alphabets aloud.
I must say that my earlier challenging involvement with the centre and the Autism children gradually changes to a dynamic, meaningful learning I have ever had with Letzhop. I am willing and still learning by mingling with them and the teachers so that I can learn and explore more about the little knowledge I had about them previously and that I can share it with others. I wish to also change the people’s sceptical perception and fear of Autism. They are after all, are indeed very special.
Teacher EdiaLETZHOP Selayang
Do you see what I see? Retrieved August 4, 2014, from Autism Speaks: http://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/do-you-see-what-i-see