There is a recurring question in connection with development of autistic children that is posed by parents and even the teachers: when is it safe to say that an autistic child has mastered something? When he or she repeats it a hundred or thousand times?
The question is not quite adequate, but we need a tiny supplementation and it will be better. Does an autistic child know the answer outside the customary place and time as well – that is when daddy wants to boast with his knowledge? So, little Johnny will be able to greet daddy's boss not only before the entrance door, but also on the tram at 5 AM or before the local shop in the pouring rain.
It is sad, but true: the possibility for practicing this is rather scarce in the school (especially after the 3rd and 4th grade). I and my wife always try to create situations within the framework of education that truthfully imitate the expected adult Lives of our autistic pupils.
These endeavours cost a lot of money, or more precisely: they cost more than the amount allocated for it. While you may supplement only the dry and prescribed curriculum with free books...
You may supplement the teachings of Life from funds. In the period 2013-2015 we implemented a Comenius project on the treatment of the problematic behaviour of autistic children with colleagues coming from seven countries. The call for tender and the flat rate subsidy made it possible for the students of all partners to travel to another partner throughout the project period that lasted for two years. The others did not undertake such an adventure, however, we knew that the majority of our students will not have another chance like that in their whole lives. Thus, right at the beginning of our 2-years work, more precisely when we were informed by Tímea Kármán on behalf of Tempus Közalapítvány on the success of our project application, we started the preparation of our guys to a travel involving flight.
Considering the fact that the mobility of students was not a prerequisite in the project, we had to persuade ourselves on assuming such a responsible task – where the only reward would be the gratitude of the children and their parents.
We write about children who barely communicated two or three years ago, who could not tolerate crowds, who got hysterical when others touched them, who went to school by the supporter bus, who slept only in their beds at home and two of them enrolled into our class at the beginning of the project.
They were the ones whom we planned to visit the German school with. We trusted ourselves, our work and thereby our students.
We shall not discuss our day-to-day work and development right now. We only present our activities aimed at their air travel to and back from the destination; furthermore two fundamental issues that help you in understanding our work better – which is needed for each and every person living with autism.
Our most important task is to provide them a calm atmosphere wherever and whenever they are with us. This shall be provided to them mainly at school; however this may be needed in the theatre, in the shop, in the apple orchard, when their parents are not with them.
In order to provide this serenity we need to know who they are going to be with, where they will be and what type of activities they are going to carry out. This is what an order of the day is good for. For some, it may be written, for others it is illustrated with pictures, for others it is mixed, but that is not the point here. The point is that they should understand their orders of the day. They should know that after they wake up they wash themselves, dress up, eat breakfast and go to school. Without an order of the day they may be anxious, have tantrums, and bite their hands until blood appears or kick their mothers. If the order of the day is adequate, we already built a solid basis for calmness.
There is nothing special about this. If you think about it: you also have an order of the day. You make a list in your notebook or you make and entry into your mobile phone’s calendar, or simply memorize it. Even the work day of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán would not be successful without his order of the day.
We talked quite a lot about flying. We acted out take-off, landing, standing in the queue and frisking. We read about these situations, we watched cartoons and we made drawings. Upon having our flight tickets reserved, we practised the seating, consuming the snacks and making good use of the flight time through situation games.
We rehearsed these activities: for a few occasions, we went to school at dawn, then we took long walks with back packs, we climbed our jet way, we looked around in the crowd at a marketplace and stood in the queue at a post office.
The most important task was (almost identical to the “real situation”) when we visited Aeropark and Liszt Ferenc International Airport. There we could observe how an airport is operating. We performed a frisk before the gates with the children. We saw the planes take off and land from up close, we heard the roar of the engines, a fire-fighter officer introduced us to “Panther”, a top class fire truck, and we observed several out-of-operation planes up close. The guys liked it very much when the passengers and the pilots waved back at us at some occasions.
There was an abundance of experience on that day – so it was quite exhausting at the same time. At occasions like this the “gaps stemming from autism” appear – these are the ones that parents can address day-by-day.
We drafted the order of the day with the children and we thoroughly discussed it. This way, when we went “live” everything was running smoothly. They checked the events that were over in their maths exercise books, and then they read the two upcoming points. We managed to fly out and in without attracting attention.
You may pose two questions to yourself: why is it beneficial for me when an autistic person is able to fly, meaning that he is conforming to the situation on the plane? Because your plane will not be delayed because of the autistic person, it will not perform an emergency landing and this person will not disturb your through a long journey, lasting several hours. Why should an autistic person take a flight?