Bringing the Topic of Autism into the Classroom
By Jodi Murphy, Geek Club Books
I am sure that most of you by now have heard the term “autism awareness” and you probably know that there is a national autism awareness month every April. It was so declared by the Autism Society in April of 1970 and its intent was to educate the public about Autism Spectrum Disorder. So for 45 years, we’ve been raising awareness. It’s not surprising that there’s a growing trend within the autism community to evolve that term into “autism acceptance.” So many of us—parents and autistic individuals—feel that we need to move the public past simple awareness into greater understanding if we ever hope to create compassionate, accepting communities.
In order to make the shift from awareness to acceptance, we must start by educating children about autism—and do it in a way that helps them make a human connection. If we do it in the right way, they’ll be able to see past any kind of differences only to discover that we’re all pretty much the same at heart.
Since 1 in 68 children are on the autism spectrum, it’s likely that every school, maybe even several classrooms, has an autistic student. For those students, and to create an inclusive classroom environment, the topic of autism must be discussed. But how do you do it in such a way that you can capture and engage students and inspire them to learn more? I believe that the key is reaching them through mainstream pop-culture methods which have an educational foundation. This is what has me so excited about Bluebee TeeVee, Autism Information Station.
Laura Jiencke, the compassionate CEO of Kayle Concepts and creator of Bluetooth™-enabled Bluebee Pals, recognized that there is a unique opportunity use her “pals” as more than toys. Bluebee Pals are being used in speech and language therapies and special needs classrooms with positive results. Many children find it easier to respond to her talking plushies.
Laura’s collaborating with my creative autism nonprofit, Geek Club Books and Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC). We’re using Bluebee Pals immense appeal to create an original webisode series called Bluebee TeeVee, Autism Information Station. The show’s host, James Sullivan, is also the script writer, filmmaker, and editor. Jonathan Murphy, a professional voice actor, is developing and performing the character voices for each of the Bluebee Pals. Oh, and did I forget to mention that both these young men are on the autism spectrum?
What better way to learn about autism than from someone who is autistic? Both James and Jonathan have worked really hard to overcome some of the challenges they faced growing up with Aspergers Syndrome.
“I was bullied and isolated in elementary school,” says Jonathan. “I was different and the kids use to tease and taunt me. When my parents finally found a great school for me where I was liked and accepted…my life changed dramatically.”
Both James and Jonathan are excited to be using their special talents to help children understand what autism is all about.
“I don’t want what happened to me to happen to other kids. We have to talk about it at home and at school. Nothing’s going to change unless we do.”
Each episode of Bluebee TeeVee will be about 5 minutes in length and focus on one autism-related topic. Episode 1 will answer the question: What is autism? (There’s even a Frozen reference!) Other episodes will tackle friendship, bullying, safety, communication, siblings and more.
Though the topics are serious, the content will be delivered in a friendly and respectful way—and a little humor thrown in for fun. Our hope is that these quirky but informative ‘Mr. Rodgers meets Bluebee Pal’ webisodes will spark questions and create opportunities for open discussions about autism. QSAC is preparing parent/educator guides to go with each episode for those who want to delve deeper into a particular topic.
The first episode is coming soon. Teachers With Apps endorses Bluebee TeeVee and will be one of the first to announce its release.
Jodi Murphy is the founder of Geek Club Books, a 501c3 charity with an autism education and empowerment mission. They produce interactive children’s stories as apps, curriculum, digital media, and blog content to change perceptions and end stigmas surrounding autism. And they hire autistic talent to do it! She is also co-founder of Zoom Autism Magazine, a new digital magazine that focuses on autism through many lenses. Jodi dreams of the world where those on the autism spectrum are valued and given every opportunity to share their gifts with the world. Sign up for Geek Club Books mailing list for free apps, resource guides, curriculum, audio stories and more: www.geekclubbooks.com/email-sign-up.