Better education for autistic students sought after

One of the hardest problems people have is understanding autism, not only in homes but in the education system.  Autism New Zealand national education manager Neil Stuart and Autism New Zealand national educator Tanya Catterall spent a day in Invercargill running their Tilting the Seesaw training for 19 Southland teachers with autistic students.

Family Works family/whanau worker and parent Shona Cook said the training in the region was valued.  From preschool aged to adults, Cook said different courses in the region were sought after.  “We talked (in the course) about how it’s our responsibility to help and understand,” she said.

Catterall, who has an autistic child, said with Stuart as the expert, and herself, educators got a rounded view of the condition and how to deal with it, she said.

The duo travelled the country every week to hold seminars, she said.  “The biggest thing is understanding autism.”  The programme made teachers uncomfortable so they would understand for themselves what it is like to have autism with analogies, metaphors and stories, she said.  “We try to make it light-hearted and fun … we are really big on play.”  Catterall said “the scary thing” was that New Zealand did not have statistics of autistic children and the severity of each person.  Autism New Zealand based its research off the United States, which recorded one in 68 children were autistic, she said.

Autistic people think things are a s fascinating as people, but it is sometimes hard to process everything going on, Stuart said.

Autistic children don’t have a sensory filter, so noise and sound could overwhelm them, he said.  But each child is different and the course was about understanding the scale of the condition.  “We know autism and the strategies but you know your child.”

By Rebecca Moore, taken from the Southland Times 28 March 2017.