Reflecting upon everything I learned, Michelle’s work is all about blending inquisitiveness and humour to discover and learn about the minds and needs of our autistic children and students. To not rely completely on labels alone when we teach them and to take the time to get to know our kids and figure them out. Treat the symptoms, not the label. Most importantly, to teach our kids to “think with their eyes” because eyes have thoughts behind them. There is an intent behind eye contact and as most of us know, autistic children do not make eye contact with others. If they can look at you or an object with their eyes, they are listening and communicating. Michelle believes that language and perspective taking must come together in order to be a good communicator. The biggest thing that impacted me was Michelle’s comment of “are we looking at things too behaviourally?”
Working at the autism centre I cannot help but confess, that yes we do. Our centre does look at things this way. In all fairness, our kids range from high functioning to lower functioning kids who have the tendencies to become violent. Michelle’s work is more effective with higher functioning and often incredibly intelligent/gifted, verbal autistic kids. Some of our kids are somewhere in middle. Bright, willing to learn and hard workers who need constant redirection from their own rich, inner worlds. Many of them are non-verbal. In my opinion, our centre needs a variety of teaching methods. Michelle’s would definitely become an asset for some of our higher functioning kids. The autism centre must have been feeling the same way. At the end of the school year the staff held a couple of meetings to review our kids with the programs Behavioural Consultant. Many times the consultant brought up Michelle Garcia Winners name. Now I see why. I hope that the centre is successful in adapting as much as they can, Michelle’s work.
Some recommended books written from Michelle Garcia Winner:
1. Think Social, A Social Thinking Curriculum for School-Age Student
2. Thinking About YOU, Thinking about ME: Philosophy and Strategies to Further Develop Perspective Taking and Communicative Abilities for Persons with Social Cognitive Deficits.
3. Worksheets! For Teaching Social Thinking and Related Skills
4. Sticker Strategies: Practical Strategies to Encourage Social Thinking and Organization.
5. Strategies for Organization: Preparing for Homework and the Real World
Other great books I found at the workshop:
1. The Hidden Curriculum: Practical Solutions for Understanding Unstated Rules in Social Situations by Brenda Smith Myles, Melissa L. Trautman, & Ronda L. Schelvan.
2. A “5” Could Make Me Loose Control!, An activity-based method for evaluating and supporting highly anxious students by Kari Dunn Buron.
I didn’t find this book at the workshop but purchased it elsewhere. It was also mentioned at the workshop:
1. Exploring Feelings: Cognitive Behaviour Therapy To Manage ANXIETY by Dr. Tony Attwood.
To those who have or work with kids with autism and related disorders, I highly recommend that you add some of Michelle’s work in your repertoire of autism resources. Her approach is personally, right down my alley. She approaches all of her students humanely, authentically, fairly, utilizes lots of humour and works from a team approach. Her work is a breath of fresh air!