Alton School Uses New Autism Teaching Technique
ALTON, IL (KTVI)– A simple, gentle music exercise program used in the Alton and Granite City school districts is helping kids calm down and focus in school and at home.
“MeMoves” is a DVD that provides music and demonstrations of geometric arm movements. It was created by the mother of an autistic child who researched the role of music and movement on the brain. But teachers find it works for children of all abilities.
Mindy Radcliff of the Alton District’s Early Childhood Education Center in Godfrey conducted a research project with her preschool classes. She found a 71 percent decrease in “off task” behavior.
“I saw that my children had more attention. They were able to attain attention during story time or finger play which is their academics or puzzles or writing.” Radcliff believes the simple motions help prepare the kids to focus on learning.
The DVD music presents soothing sounds and the video shows children and adults slowly drawing shapes in the air. Children in Radcliff’s classroom imitate the movements of those on screen. The short, two to three minute, session is used at the beginning of the day and sometimes after a recess.
Brian Dowd, an assistive technology specialist for several area school districts, works with special needs children and their teachers. He brought the MeMoves program to Alton to test it out when the Wisconsin firm Thinking Moves began to distribute it in January 2010.
“We put it into a kindergarten classroom. Kids coming off the bus were wild and crazy. After five minutes they were calm, calm, focused, ready to get going on their day so it was really exciting to see that happen in the class,” Dowd said.
The program is being used in ten to 15 different classrooms in grades preschool through middle school.
MeMoves can also be used at home to calm children and help them approach a stressful experience like going to a doctor or even bedtime.
Meghan Wooldridge, an Alton district parent believes the program is helping her son, Gus who is autistic. The district began early intervention programming with Gus at age two and a half when he was not speaking. The district added the MeMoves program to his class when he was four and still not verbal.
She began to see a marked change in his behavior. ” It just makes him feel good; I think it keeps him settled. It makes him happy. He likes to concentrate on the movement I think,” she explained. Gus has been using MeMoves for about 18 months. He is now speaking and is in a normal classroom. “He still gets speech therapy, but he can communicate and people can understand most of what he says.”
Radcliff noted some children become overly excited or tend to move a lot which hurts their concentration in class on even simple tasks. But the MeMoves program “enables them to calm themselves and to focus.”
The MeMoves program can be purchased for about sixty dollars. For more information go to http://www.thinkingmoves.com/index.html