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Autism in Early Childhood | April Webinar Sneak Peak

Written By: Ginny Norton

Publish Date: Apr 3, 2015

Melissa Burkhardt

In celebration of Autism Awareness month, Hatch has teamed up with Melissa K. Burkhardt, M.S. Ed., BCBA to bring you our third webinar of the Spring season: "Autism in Early Childhood: Evidence-Based Practices for an Inclusive Classroom". In this presentation, Melissa will be discussing her book Exceptionally Good Friends: Building Relationships with Autism and presenting practical, easy-to-implement and effective strategies that can be utilized in the early-childhood classroom.

But before we dive into next week's webinar, we had one immediate question for Melissa:

Why did you decide to write the book, Exceptionally Good Friends: Building Relationships with Autism?

I wrote the book, Exceptionally Good Friends: Building Relationships with Autism, as a response to a growing need I saw in society to help someone who may know little or nothing about autism spectrum disorder, as well as to assist both regular and special education teachers in meeting the needs of the increasing numbers of children with ASD now being placed in their classes.

I was inspired to write this book by the many children with autism I have taught in the inclusive pre-k and kindergarten settings over the past 20 years. I have always been amazed by the power of the friendships that develop between children. These friendships benefit all children involved. One day, I was simply observing the interactions on the playground between a young girl (neurotypical) in my class and her peer, a boy with autism. He was terrified of the slide, but she loved it. Her modeling and coaxing of him to join her finally worked, and he tried the slide for the first time. When he came down the slide, they shared a great moment with eye contact and high fives. He was rarely verbal, but he said, "I did it!" At that moment, an idea was born to write a story from both the perspective of a child with autism and the perspective of a neurotypical child, so that readers could get a look into the mind of each of the children as they experience the same events in very different ways. Readers can gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and joys the child with autism experiences daily, and can see the benefit of inclusion in building empathy, self-esteem, and leadership skills for peers of the child with exceptionalities.

As a teacher and a peer coach for 20 years in the public school system, I saw an increase of the number of students with autism (many not yet diagnosed) being placed in the classrooms of both regular and special ed teachers. Many teachers simply do not have the training or understanding of the unique learning and behavioral needs of a child on the autism spectrum, resulting in undue stress for both the child and teacher. In addition to the children's stories in my book, I added a resource area that features evidence-based, easy to implement, practical strategies for teachers, parents and therapists to help the child with autism experience success. Numerous resources are listed for those who want to learn more in-depth information on the unique learning and behavioral needs of the child with autism. All of these resources are related back to the story of Clay, the character with autism, so that the reader can identify the strategies being used. Teachers can learn so much from observing good teachers teach; this book is as close as possible to being in the classroom of an experienced teacher who has expertise in teaching children with autism.

Go ahead and register and a recording of the webinar will be sent to you. As always, our webinars are free and you'll be a ble to earn a certificate of attendance. See you then!


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