Visual-spatial teaching techniques have shown promise for helping autistic students, as well as others with special needs. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of my new book, Being Visual:
It was fall, the time for kids to be back to school and after-school programs to begin again. I was working in the Young Rembrandts offices, helping get the school year off to a successful start. We had recently hired a new group of instructors and, having been an instructor myself, I had the pleasure of helping new teachers start their first classes. I had been a long-time Young Rembrandts student as a child and now was the one helping the kids see shapes and apply color. All throughout class, I enjoyed their smiles and steady concentration, but the best part of class on this Thursday afternoon was a boy named Frank.
Frank was a child with high-functioning autism. His mother had enrolled him in the class with some concern about his ability to participate. When class first started, Frank was a little rambunctious, waving his hands and bouncing in his chair. He had some difficulty focusing and seemed a bit uncomfortable with the other children. As we got further into the lesson, he calmed down. His focus wandered a bit between steps but, for the most part, Frank was as engaged, calm and collected as the rest of the children. He did really well and seemed to enjoy his time drawing and coloring.
Later, while helping a child to the washroom, I came across a mom in the hallway, quietly watching our class. The tears in her eyes were enough to tell me she was Frank’s mom. A flood of questions and instructions came pouring out of her. “How is he doing? Is he behaving? Just say ‘quiet hands’ if he gets to be too much…” I assured her everything was fine, he was well-behaved and doing very well in class. A sense of peace come over her as she realized that her Frank, even with his learning challenges, was able to focus, be part of a group and be an artist just like the rest of the children.