Welcome to International Autism Awareness Week at Sotogrande International School

Monday

Over the coming week, students and staff will be engaging in a range of activities to help us understand more about Autism.  We know that 99% of people have heard of autism, but The National Autistic Society (UK) found that only 16% of people on the autism spectrum felt that the public understand them.  So our focus this week is to raise our level of understanding.  

Please dip into our blog this week to see some of the activities the students are involved in and to learn more about autism.  There will be contributions from teachers, parents and of course our students.

If you would like to find out more and get involved please email sdavies@sis.gl or chat to one of our student support team.

Tuesday

Welcome back to the blog, today we’d like to thank one of our parents for sharing a poem they wrote for us.

My child, my teacher …….

I feel blessed to have brought into the world such an inspiring individual. A child with a completely unique outlook on life who teaches me something new every day. About myself, about others and about life.  A child who will stop to admire the veins on a leaf, who will pause to listen to the wind in the trees or watch a beam of sunlight fill a room with dancing specks of dust.

I have nurtured a child, always described by others as quirky and different. A spirited child, free of social expectations and boundaries. A child who would sleep in a cupboard, who would swim in a pool fully clothed, who would befriend a snail….and why not? Who says my child can’t.

I have raised a child who hates restaurants, cinemas, swimming pools, crowded streets, the playground, the assembly hall, the classroom. At first, my child would run about like a whirling dervish and would be known as “that child”.  The child prodding another, pushing someone off a beam, splashing someone in the face or filling someone’s hood with stones. It was the only way my child knew how. The only way to cope with the hustle and bustle, noise and confusion.

autismI have the patience of a saint, finding a way through all the obsessions, the never-ending monologues, the ever-lasting interests that know no limits, no boundaries, no awareness of time, no knowledge of day or night, no need for sleep nor food.  My child, my teacher.

I have trodden on eggshells, waiting for the explosion when a plan changes at the last minute, when a tiny expectation isn’t met (someone sits in my child’s usual chair, someone tells me something that my child had planned to tell me himself, my child wants to show me something “now” and I can’t look). Anticipating the storm, the upturned clothes line, the washing strewn all over the floor, the bin kicked, objects hurtled through the air, doors slammed, roars of frustration, the anger.  I have battled down the hatches and waited for the storm to pass, protecting anyone else aboard the ship.

Many storms have passed and the sun is now shining down on a parent who has learnt from all the towering waves, rough seas and thunder clouds, who has had the courage to lay a different path to follow, a path where self-taught creativity and exploration are encouraged, where learning takes on an unconventional form, where social rules and expectations are taken with a pinch of salt and where expectations are shifted. A route through, where conformity is rejected, obsessions are encouraged, and the difference is embraced. A journey of tolerance, acceptance and celebration.

The sun is now shining down on a child who is thriving, a child who is fiercely determined and passionate.  A child who is happy.

My child, my teacher

Wednesday

The school is buzzing with discussion and questions about autism, what it means, how does it impact on people’s lives. Students from Early Years to Diploma have been engaged with a variety of activities, all promoting ‘understanding’.

Mikado the therapy dog

autism

Yesterday and today Edu from M3, as part of his community project, has been giving presentations to some of the primary classes about Mikado, a therapy dog who he is currently socialising for Fundacion Bocalan in Madrid. When Mikado is fully trained he will be joining a family, here in Spain, to help a child with autism. Please take time to read Edu’s presentation.

Reminder for Friday… All students will be invited to WEAR BLUE FOR SCHOOL.

Thursday

There are so many things to include in today’s blog, the PYP & MYP Treasure Hunts have been a great success in generating discussion, questioning, and developing our understanding.

A big thank you to Marija Segale (D1 Student) who, as part of her CAS, gave an insightful ‘TED-style’ talk this morning to the D1 students around autism, sharing facts, opinions and thoughts of how communities can be more inclusive.  She has also written a play around autism, which I hope can be performed in the near future. Thank you Marija for your time, energy and perspective.

Marie Pierre (Learning Support – Asperger Specialist) has kindly shared some information about Donna Williams’ perspective of her school life.  I can remember going to a number of Donna’s lectures when she was visiting the UK, she was so inspirational and provided such insight into autism and its impact on individuals’ lives.   Listening to Donna and others on the spectrum has been instrumental in forming my working practice over the years. I cannot see autism as a disorder, just a different way of thinking; thank goodness for that difference, what a dull world it would be full of neurotypicals (whatever a neurotypical is)!  It’s our role as educators, parents, colleagues, friends to help unlock each individual’s potential.

Please take time to read Marie’s article for our blog. It’s interesting how terminology in education has changed over the years,  moving away from the medical ‘deficit’ to a more inclusive social model.

We have a number of books in school suitable for all ages and would invite you to dip into these if you are interested to learn more; if you would like to borrow one please speak with Anne in the library.

We are looking forward to seeing a wave of blue arriving at school tomorrow as we invite the school community to wear Blue for School.

Thank you

Friday

Thank you so much to the whole school community for your engagement, enthusiasm and energy are given to our Autism Awareness (Understanding) Week.  We hope that we have gone some way to demystifying autism and what it means for individuals and their families. If you haven’t yet managed to access our blog each day, please do go back and take a look;  Tuesday’s poem has resonated with so many people around school, whilst Edu’s work with Mikado helped our younger students understand a little more about the potential difficulties experienced by some children on the autism spectrum.  We are very grateful for their contribution, thank you!

Through discussion with our students, we have learnt that not all communities are as inclusive, aware or understanding of autism; interestingly some students who have previously studied in other countries have talked about experiencing ignorance, denial and exclusion around learning differences.  We have a lot to be grateful for here at Sotogrande International School, where our students walk side by side, part of our everyday school life. It’s shown us that by creating the right environment, making it ‘autism friendly’ all children, despite how they think or perceive the world around them, can be successful in education and benefit from the enriched curriculum on offer to them.

Thank you for supporting Blue to School today, we are sorry we couldn’t turn the sky blue too!

From the Student Support team we thank you all for your support this week and wish you all a very Happy Easter Holiday!

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