A Bright Start For Children With Autism

A Bright Start for Children with Autism

Training for Early Childhood Educators through Ministry of Education, Bay of Plenty

Recently Autism New Zealand and The Ministry of Education, Bay of Plenty have collaborated on a joint project to better support tamariki with autism at Early Childhood Centres in Rotorua and Tauranga. The project was funded through SELO (Strengthening Early Learning Opportunities).

The project consisted of a one-day learning session, followed by a visit to each participating centre and a celebration/evaluation afternoon.

Over twenty Early Childhood Centres for each area were invited to attend a one-day introduction to autism and how to best support their children. Many of the centres attending had children with autism or children they suspected of having autism. During the day, they learned about autism and how to create more opportunities to engage through play, and how the sensory and multi -faceted, ever changing environment in the centre may impact on the child. They practiced making visual supports to make access to activities easier and help the child understand their day a bit more, and looked at aspects of challenging behaviour and how to look at this behaviour in more depth to create plans to prevent behaviours or to teach new ones.

The centre visits for up to twenty centres in each area allowed the Autism New Zealand facilitators the opportunity to demonstrate how to engage with the child and to answer individual questions relating to particular children. The facilitators helped staff create meaningful, relevant visual supports which could be implemented right away.

For the final session, centres took part in brainstorming solutions to situations that the facilitators had seen on their visits. The centre staff then gave end of programme feedback about what they had learnt during the course. Whilst eating cake of course!!

Here are examples of the feedback received:

Change in the adult thinking

“We see things more clearly from his perspective now. We think differently about how he sees the world.”

Implementation of visual strategies

“The tools have helped all the children. We introduced some visuals that a parent could use at home, I made the board with the child and when mum came he was able to tell mum how to use it. I tried the visuals by myself then when I was sure they worked I shared them with the other staff.”

Involvement of parents

“The parent perspective made me think how I could support our parents more. I’ve been making stories for the mum and dad at home.”

The visits

“It was amazing watching [Neil Stuart]. I had tried, but didn’t really get it until I watched. [The child with autism’s] engagement with us has increased hugely. We’ve learnt the same catchphrases and he responds to them all. He runs into our arms now when he arrives at kindy.”

Greater engagement with peers.

“I wanted to know how we could engage him with his peers. You were easily able to demonstrate that and now we have games where everyone’s included.”

A speech therapist from the Ministry of Education office who had attended the day course and came to the Celebration, also commented:

The impact on the community is huge for us. We go into centres that have been on the course and we are all talking the same language. It’s so much easier for us to support.”

Such was the success of the programme, the Bay of Plenty wish to continue working with Autism New Zealand in 2017 and we are already planning for our next intake of Centres.

2017 Dates
Venues to be confirmed, times are approximate and may change slightly depending on venue.

Initial Workshop – 1 February, 9:30am – 3:30pm
Centre Visits – Either 16 or 17 February, times to be arranged with the Educators
End of Programme Celebration – 23 February, 2pm – 5pm

Te Puke/Papamoa
Initial Workshop – 1 March, 9:30am – 3:30pm
Centre Visits – Either 15 or 16 March, times to be arranged with the Educators
End of Programme Celebration – 22 March, 2pm – 5pm

Te Puna/Tauranga
Initial Workshop – 3 May, 9:30am – 3:30pm
Centre Visits – Either 17 or 18  May, times to be arranged with the Educators
End of Programme Celebration – 2 May, 2pm – 5pm

Taupo/Turangi, and Rotorua
We are yet to confirm dates for Taupo/Turangi and Rotorua, but may be scheduling them in August and November respectively. Please check the website or sign up to Autism New Zealand Membership to receive email updates when new dates are confirmed: http://www.autismnz.org.nz/about_us/join

To find out more and to register, please click this link:www.autismnz.org.nz/training_programmes

Or contact Morgan Ryan, Education Coordinator, training@autismnz.org.nz