Teaching children with autism a special, exciting challenge

Norshahila Omar (right) with Nurul Ain Mohd Ilias (centre) and Azlini Mohamed Sidi teaching the children at the Nasom centre in Kuantan. -NSTP/ MUHD ASYRAF SAWAL

KUANTAN: Teacher Norshahila Omar arrives at her workplace at Kubang Buaya here knowing that a fun-filled day awaits her albeit some tense moments with her students which occasionally drives her up the wall.

The 29-year-old joined the Kuantan branch National Autism Society of Malaysia’s (Nasom) in 2009, and just when some assume that teaching a child with autism may seem a daunting task, Norshahila has made great strides in her career.

The mother-of-one said she was startled when she first stepped into the centre as the autism children had various characters, there was communication barrier and it was tough to understand them.

However as time passed, she began to fall in love with the children and her job, and was always looking forward to teaching them as she felt that she could make a difference in their lives.

Norshahila said although she was strict during lessons, she will sometimes pamper and love the children like her own as the students feel more secured and listened attentively when people provided them with more attention.

“When I first joined here, there was one student was refused to listen and one day, when I became angry and raised my voice, the student was shocked and started to listen to me. So I guess that did the trick…you have to act depending on the situation, and study your students closely as it will help to understand their mood and behaviour better.

“Each student has his or her own strengths and weaknesses. Some may be excellent in memorising but find it tough to read or spell so we as teachers must be prepared for all situations….we have to be patient, be a good listener and give them space to express themselves,” she said when met at the Nasom centre here yesterday.

Norshahila said there were some autistic students who were unable to speak when they first arrived at the centre but eventually begin to speak and could now form sentences.

“One student arrived to centre when he was four and could not speak a single word…we was only babbling. But at the age of nine he started to talk and even sing songs, and now he can arrange sentences and write on paper. His parents were very excited and happy for him.

“In school, there are students with various characters…one loves to laugh all day long for reasons only known to them, one gets angry when the classroom lights are switched off and one will suddenly break down in tears when his parents decide to take a different road to school. As teachers we must be able to ensure the student does not get carried away with his feelings but try to focus on the lessons and activities in the classroom,” she said.

She said there were different methods handle the children especially the young ones and those in their teenage years.

Norshahila said as teachers they had to be always creative to attract the students attention and the first approach during lessons is important to leave a lasting impression on the students.

She said some of the students aged between 10 and 19-years-old were now involved in baking classes and multi-coloured tie-dye artwork which was something the students looked forward to.

“At times when they refuse to listen, we will promise them a small reward which will make them a little eager. For example, when a student does not want to mix the dough for cookies, we will tell the student that he or her will be allowed to use the computer if they successfully complete the task.

“Usually when they hear the word baking, everyone will know their responsibilities in the kitchen and start doing the necessary including wearing their apron,

arranging the plastic jars and trays, and cleaning the table. Once they enjoy doing a certain task,it is easy for them to learn and understand,” she said.

eanwhile, Nurul Ain Mohd Ilias, 29, who joined to teach at the centre here some three months ago, said earlier she sometimes felt a little down when a student threw a tantrum or refused to listen.

“You have to understand their character to ensure they pay attention during lessons….each student has a different character and sees things from a different perspective.

“When we want the student to study but he or she does not understand, then we should give them some space or something else to work on for example painting. Some children are rough and pinch the teachers but that is part and parcel of the job,” she said.

Nurul Ain, who is a Master of Education (Visual Arts) holder, described teaching the children here as fun as they were adventurous and prepared for new challenges.

“I previously taught in Kuala Lumpur which was attended by both normal and autistic students. The challenges here are different but I am enjoying it and the best moments are when you see the children under your care making progress either in education or living skills.

“You cannot be too strict with them. Put yourself in their shoes to understand them better….some might make slow progress but its our role to bring out the best in them. I always believe that teaching the child will help create happiness for the children’s family (when the child shows progress),” she said.

By TN Alagesh.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2019/05/489355/teaching-children-autism-special-exciting-challenge

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