Regular readers of the blog will long know that I am a huge proponent of allowing a child as much access to their special interest as possible. Special interests are processed in the same part of the brain that neurotypicals process love, and therefore release endorphins which allow children and young people to relax, therefore reducing their anxiety levels.
Incorporating those special interests into every day life can therefore be transformative.
If a child is relaxed it makes activities they normally find challenging, much easier and potentially even enjoyable. New pathways are then formed associating those activists with success, and potentially even pleasure.
As a teacher, I have seen the effect that this kind of teaching can have on children and young people in my classroom, but this week I saw for the first time the after affects of that kind of teaching when my child came home.
The Lion, is as the picture suggests, an enormous fan of Pokemon.
On the flip side he finds change, and new people in his classroom incredibly challenging. Historically, a new person in his room has meant huge meltdowns at home after school and lots of anxiety about returning the following day. It has been by far his biggest fear.
This week, however his very skilled team, set about changing that. A teaching assistant who he only sees occasionally sat and made him a Pokemon mask, enabling him not only to accept her presence but to actively engage with her.
He ran out of school, not anxious but excited. He ran out of school as Pikachu. He was calm, confident and enthused.
Via the use of his special interest they had transformed a situation that could have been challenging for the Lion, for his team and later for us as a family and turned it into an enormous positive for all concerned.
You see that night when we got home, there was no meltdown. The mask continued to be worn, as he completed his phonics homework and read his school work. He was excited, to teach Pikachu how to read and calm enough to do exactly that.
For those of you interested in how to incorporate special interests into your teaching there are lots of posts on here full of ideas, in the autism section of the blog. This post isn’t about that, this post is to show you that the impact of how you teach has far reaching effects that last long beyond the school gates.