Today we had a breakthrough; we have one young man who we have spent all year, trying to convince that science is worth his attention. He’s done his work, but without any of the real enthusiasm and joy for learning we know he really possesses. When he leaves school, he’s desperate to be an animator, and we’ve made all kinds of links – some of which have been good ones and others a little tenuous; but none have quite cut the mustard. Then we found a clip on the end of Toy Story Three which shows the animator talking about why science is so useful. Bingo, we hit the jackpot! An hour spent watching part of the film (he’d seen it before) and the clip and his words were ‘Wow, I can’t wait to do Science now’. Sometimes it pays a little to go round the houses. We all need to understand why what we’re doing is worthwhile.
Lots of students with autism have a weak central coherence, which means they often struggle to see the whole picture and link things together. They may for instance see all of the individual components of a lesson, but not understand how these parts link up together. Or they may understand that today’s lesson was about halving shapes, but not be able to relate that to tomorrow’s lesson about halving numbers.
We can help our students to understand these connections by talking about them and explaining what these links are. Often we assume, that because the link is obvious to us – everyone can see it. This can cause huge frustration – and even for those of us in the know it’s sometimes only when a student asks ‘but what’s the point of this anyway?’ that we realise that we haven’t explained ourselves clearly enough.
Seeing the point of a task is important. How many of us have grumbled through or put off doing a piece of paperwork that we really can’t see the point of? It is therefore not surprising that if our students don’t see the point of what they are learning they are unlikely to be enthusiastic to work.
We’ve found one of the best ways to show our students the point of things is to show them how they link to things they are interested in doing. Sometimes this works the first time, and sometimes it takes longer. It’s important not to give up; sometimes it just takes time to find the right hook.
So over the summer, why not have a think. What makes your subject great? Why do students need to learn it? What real life links does it have? Let’s help our students make those links….