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Book Excerpt: Seven Keys to Unlock Autism
Posted: Fri 04/13/2012 12:00 AM
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
- Albert Einstein
Elaine Hall founded The Miracle Project in 2004.This transformational program had a simple yet visionary goal: to provide a loving, accepting, nurturing environment that celebrates and honors the unique and often unrecognized abilities of young people with autism and address other special needs by guiding them through creative workshops and artistic programs. In 2006, a documentary ﬁlm, Autism: The Musical, was made that featured The Miracle Project and its methods. In 2007, Autism: The Musical premiered to rave reviews at the Tribeca Film Festival and was shown on HBO in April 2008, garnering two Emmy awards. Today, The Miracle Project is internationally acclaimed and uplifts thousands of children with autism.
To achieve this result, Elaine developed a speciﬁc, seven-pronged training program for her staff that consisted of educators, therapists, theater professionals, and carefully selected volunteers. Most had no previous experience in working with children with autism. The beneﬁts of this training were clear to see. By learning to connect with the children and accept them for who they were, each trainee created relationships that infused the children with joy, conﬁdence, and love. The trainees also bloomed as their newfound relationships increased their senses of empathy and compassion and brought them meaning and fulﬁllment.
Diane Isaacs, an accomplished television and ﬁlm producer, experienced the beneﬁts of The Miracle Project ﬁrst hand. As she traveled coast to coast and around the world, from Africa to Asia, she saw the pressing need for effective personal tools for those living and working with autism. She became determined to disseminate the inspiring Miracle Project’s protocols using her multimedia experience. She joined forces with Elaine to bring you the Seven Keys to Unlock Autism.
How do Diane and Elaine know that the seven keys work? Because they have trained hundreds of people who started out with little or no knowledge of how to work with children with autism and were, through this program, immediately able to interact with them and understand them. The seasoned professionals trained in these protocols uniformly assert that they learned more about relating to children with autism through the seven keys than they learned in twenty previous years of teaching.
This book is designed to bring the seven keys to educators. Elaine and Diane recruited Lisa Johnson, a special education pioneer, and other special educators to provide hands-on teaching experience.They also enlisted those whose voices are rarely heard: students and teachers who have autism. One of the great things about the seven keys is those who implement them have discovered that the enlivening transformation occurs in the lives of their students and in their own lives.
Foreword by Stephen M. Shore, EdD
(Assistant professor of special education, Adelphi University; Person on the autism spectrum)
When the teacher is ready, the student will appear.
These were the ﬁrst words that came to mind as I talked with Elaine Hall and Diane Isaacs about their book, Seven Keys to Unlock Autism. Borrowing from the ancient wisdom of Buddhist philosophy, which holds that students need to ﬁrst be open to new ideas, thoughts, and experiences before truly learning, this book is about how teachers can open themselves up in both mind and heart to their students on the autism spectrum.
Beginning with a refreshing look at the autism spectrum, Elaine and Diane reframe kids with autism as simply different, rather than disordered. Certainly there are many aspects of autism that can be disordering and we are duty-bound to provide support and intervention in these areas. However, the goal of intervention should be to help people with autism achieve as fulﬁlling and productive lives as possible with their differences—not in spite of, or in an effort toward, elimination of this condition.
Suppose a teacher has just been informed that a child with autism is joining her classroom. Typically, a deﬁcit model would be employed—the bulk of the teachers preparation would be accounting for and focusing on the challenges the student. However, if the student were introduced as an individual with signiﬁcant strengths in visual processing and logic or has an unusual talent for vocal imitation, imagine how the educator’s intentions, expectations, and preparations change. This book provides the tools for teachers to appreciate children as the individuals they are, recognize their strengths, and pave the way for building productive relationships so each and every student can receive the rich education that he and she deserves.
Like a polished diamond, this brilliant book educates readers in seven vital ways to open up to what students on the spectrum have to offer us in terms of personal growth and pedagogy. This guide is chock-full of wisdom and exercises that can be implemented today—activities that are profound in their simplicity and their effectiveness, such as the idea of “rebooting the day” to start afresh as needed, at any time, to bring in positivity. These seven essential keys unlock for readers a greater awareness, acceptance, and appreciation of the gifts waiting to be reaped from relationships with people having the fascinating, sometimes vexing (but rewarding in the end), condition we call autism.
This must-read guide is a powerful resource for parents, therapists, educators at all levels of experience, and others who want to learn more about supporting people with autism: appreciating and understanding who they are while simultaneously unlocking the keys for greater fulfillment on the part of all involved.
The seven keys prepare readers for successful relationships with people on the autism spectrum. Only when the teacher is ready—when an educator is open to accepting and appreciating students with autism as they are—will the student appear, ready to engage in miraculous personal growth, and to make the world a better place for all.
Reprinted by permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from Seven Keys to Unlock Autism: Making Miracles in the Classroom, by Elaine Hall and Diane Issacs (DVD Included). Copyright © 2011 by Elaine Hall and Diane Isaacs