I’m sure we can all remember times when we have had to study information that just did not fit in with any of our interests. Can you imagine if almost all of your studies were that way?
During this last year, my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. We are learning so much about how he thinks and his unique way of looking at the world. One of the key traits that has really stood out to me the most is the idea of special interests.
Aspie kids seem to have a very narrow set of interests that they are extremely focused on. As in they really aren’t interested in anything else. I’m sure you can imagine that this hyper-focus can make it difficult to get him excited about topics outside of this range.
In my son’s case, his special interests are animals, dinosaurs (I know it seems redundant after animals, but it really isn’t), and weaponry (which sometimes morphs into different sub-interests – right now, it’s Vikings).
As we were coming back from his last doctor’s appointment, I had an epiphany! What if I could filter all subjects through the lens of his interests in order to get him fully engaged in the subject matter? I was so excited – I couldn’t wait to get home to start investigating what was available out there. I couldn’t believe how many resources I was able to dig up with just a little bit of Google time.
The first subject I started with was Math because my son is very easily frustrated by word problems. They are just too abstract and the topics rarely interest him. I was so thrilled to find two resources that would be a perfect start.
- Super Teacher Worksheets has a Math Story using a safari as the backdrop. They have other topics available as well – although you must be a member to access some of them.
- iLiveMath: African Animals is an app that uses African animals as the stars in every word problem (along with some fabulous pictures). They also have different topics available such as transportation, agriculture, and several other animal versions.
Then I moved on to Language Arts because I don’t think you could find a more abstract subject if you tried. Fortunately, there are many ideas out there.
- The Best Children’s Books.org has lists of books based on different topics (ie. Parts of Speech, Word Families, Synonyms, etc.) and I went through the topics looking for books that used animals as the central focus.
- Pearson Education has a lesson plan on how to use Animalia to teach the parts of speech and alliteration.
- Teaching with Kid’s Books has great lists on books to use to teach things like Allegory, Imagery, Alliteration, and Creative Writing Models. I just went through the lists looking for those books using animals. Check them out for more Language Arts topics as well.
My last subject to look into was History. What if I could use animals to frame events in history? Once again, Google offered a wealth of ideas.
- History.com has an article on War Animals: From Horses to Gloworms that was a good start to get an idea of how to incorporate animals.
- Then I looked at Medieval Game Animals at Medieval-Castle.com.
- Because I am not too sure on the validity of Cracked.com, I am only using their list of 7 Random Animals that Decided the Course of History as a starting place for further research.
- I was surprised to find several old magazine articles on Animals in World War 1.
- Amazon was also stocked full of ideas for historical fiction using animals as the central character as well as great history books like Animals Marco Polo Saw (series), Saving the Baghdad Zoo, and Fly, Cher Ami, Fly!
I think that every child, Aspie or not, would enjoy learning through the prism of their interests. What do you think? Are there resources out there to go along with your children’s interests? I’d love to hear more about your experiences. Won’t you share them with me in the comments?