Saturday 26 February 2011

Conferences....and Blue Men

Been running around like a headless chicken this week.  Partly sorting out stuff for the Bright Futures conference in April and partly getting a display stand ready to take to the National Autistic Society conference next week.  Apparently they’re expecting over 550 delegates so am hoping to get lots of footfall past our stand.  Am getting ready to talk my leg off about developmental interventions and the ‘remediation not compensation’ message and hopefully recruit some delegates for our conference.

The highlight of the NAS conference for me will be a breakfast briefing by Tony Charman, who will be talking about ‘Developing a research partnership between schools and scientists.’  I’ve got a research proposal to evaluate the provision at our school all ready to go.  My application to fund the research is almost finished and Tony has kindly agreed to act as one of the supporting researchers.

Tony is head of the Centre for Research in Autism Education (CRAE) - a partnership between the Institute of Education (IOE) and Ambitious about Autism (formerly TreeHouse).

CRAE was established in 2009 to improve the research evidence available to support effective intervention for children and young people with autism. The partnership works to produce research that will influence health and education policy and practice in the UK and internationally.

CRAE’s work includes:

  • Gathering evidence on the effectiveness of the current best practice teaching methods for children with autism
  • Carrying out research on barriers to learning and how to remove them
  • Investigating how autism education practice can be evaluated more effectively
  • Developing specialist training courses for people involved in autism education
  • Devising new programmes for qualified teachers to gain a recognised specialism in autism
So…..autism education….barriers to learning…..partnerships… can see why I will be getting out of bed early J

On the other hand, there are a couple of presentations/workshops that I will have to actively avoid, for fear of turning into the Tasmanian Devil in frustration at their subject matter.  One is a presentation on autism interventions entitled ‘Don’t just do something – stand there!’ Words fail me……….

At the end of day 1, there is an evening debate entitled “Advances in brain imaging technology will significantly enhance the lives of people with autism” which should be interesting.

I find the focus on brains in autism a tad scary sometimes – that is, if the focus is on the brain to the exclusion of the mind, which, sadly, it often is.
 I’ve recently tried to get back into Daniel Siegel’s book ‘The Developing Mind’.  I can only hack it for so long before my brain explodes – I find it very complex and it really challenges my mental capacity!  What it has done for me though is to highlight how very intertwined our emotions are with our thinking and with the creation and development of our minds.  Emotion is what motivates us to act – ‘e….motion’. 

So, let us delve briefly into Daniel’s book - hold onto your hats (and brains and minds)………….

He writes about how an initial stimulus evokes a state of alertness…our brain goes ‘Something important is happening….pay attention!’  Then the value systems of the brain kick in to appraise the stimulus and we start to feel a sense of ‘this is good’ or ‘this is bad’…...basic emotions.  We can see from this that emotions are the beginning of how the mind creates meaning.

He discusses how non-verbal communication is essentially the vehicle for expressing emotions.  So we can see again that when someone has difficulty ‘reading’ the emotional messages in non-verbal communication, they will miss out on crucial meaning in a social exchange.

Dr Siegel has a new book out called ‘Mindsight’.  In it, he discusses how we can actually change our brain circuitry by becoming mindful.  By mindful he means being aware of our internal states, thinking and emotions.  Just for fun, here is Daniel talking about his book…..with a little help from the Blue Man Group.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Zoe,

    I just wanted to say that your blog is a great resource on RDI and through your personal experience you have presented it in simple, practical language.

    Keep up the good work!!