我的自閉症學生

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1993 / 2月

文‧黃美芬口述張瓊方採訪整理 圖‧張良綱


我從師專特殊教育系畢業從事特教工作已邁入第八個年頭。周遭的同學、同事們,因太辛苦、缺乏成就感,或不受重視……等不同因素,紛紛離開特教行列,轉教普通班。

我沒有過人的體力和智慧,只是非常看重自己的工作,在其中學習、成長,並找到工作的成就感,和豁然開朗的人生觀。


師專畢業、進入師院附設實驗小學時,剛好學校開創啟智班。學特教的我,自然滿懷熱情地投入。

接觸過各種不同智能障礙的孩子,唐氏症兒的熱情、善良,最讓我感到窩心。而其中最費力、最難教、也最容易讓人產生挫折感的,是自閉症兒。

慢慢緩和他們的情緒

一開始學校將情緒容易起伏的自閉症兒集中在「情緒障礙班」,以方便教學和管理。然而,情障班卻也是特教班堻Q公認最吵鬧、最頭痛的「恐怖班」。我擔任四年級情障班級任老師,直到他們畢業,跟班上五個自閉症學生相處整整三年。

五個孩子、五種特性,有畏縮、有被動,也有破壞性強的、自我傷害型的。經過一段時日的觀察和接觸,我漸漸學會了一些與他們相處的方法。比如:當孩子情緒激動時,絕不能高聲責備,要溫和地哄他,慢慢緩和他的情緒。當孩子跑讓我追時,愈追他愈跑,不追他,等他停下來,再走過去牽他,他就會乖乖跟我回來。

聽鄭信雄醫師說,自閉兒由於腦的統整功能故障,無法統合視覺、聽覺、觸覺、肌肉關節動覺,和前庭感覺。有一種「感覺統合訓練」採用運動器具,如滑板,提供感覺刺激,可以促進自閉兒腦的統整功能,對穩定孩子的情緒很有幫助。於是我將它列為主要教學目標,並經常與鄭醫師討論教學成果。慢慢地,孩子異常行為逐漸減少,情緒也較訓練前穩定許多,這曾令我興奮不已。

一切可能回到原點

但自閉症孩子與其他智能障礙孩子最大的不同是,智能障礙的孩子一旦學會了什麼,會保存著,但自閉症孩子的能力卻不一定能持續;今天學會了,不能保證以後就會了。也許是天氣改變,也許是生活環境起了變化,造成情緒不穩定,一切又會回到原點,先前的成績可能消失得無影無蹤。

畢業前,情障班的退化情形相當明顯。已屆青春期的孩子們,情緒變得相當暴躁,常常有人尖叫,甚至撕衣服。

我記得有一次下大雨、打雷,有人開始哭鬧、有人不安。一位曾因打破玻璃杯被爸爸處罰的孩子,口中不斷念著「不要打破玻璃杯」,卻拿起杯子往門外砸。

好的行為很難培養,不安的情緒卻很容易感染,情障班的自閉兒缺乏其他孩子多樣的刺激,再加上自閉兒之間少有互動,不僅教來事倍功半,甚至還有退化現象。

由於這次的經驗不很成功,學校改變了編班方式;去年起改採混合教學,將自閉症孩子和其他智能障礙孩子一起編入智障班,不再獨立設班。實施至今才第二年,但可以看出學生間的互動情況明顯改善了。

家長更需要教育

除了教育孩子之外,智障班的老師還要幫助整個家庭。因為孩子需要教育,無助家長更需要輔導。

有些家長很悲觀,覺得自己的孩子沒有希望。我會透過聯絡簿,或家長每天接送孩子時,告訴他,你的孩子今天做了什麼、有了多少進步。

曾有位孩子的母親不能接受孩子的不完美,夫妻因此經常吵架。丈夫於是在「要老婆還是要孩子」之間掙扎。於是我利用家長會時,讓這位媽媽跟其他家長聊天,互吐苦水,也互相打氣,也私下找機會和她聊天,這位媽媽終於漸漸走出了陰霾,接受了孩子。孩子畢業時,她還寫了一張感謝卡片給我,令我相當感動。

許多媽媽、阿媽,帶孩子來上課後,會留在學校幫我整理教室、掃地、擦桌子。上課外活動課,或感覺統合訓練時,也在一旁幫忙照顧其他孩子。這種熱心、充滿感謝之心的家長,在其它普通班是少見的。

來自家長的回饋,以及學校的獎勵——我在七十六、七十七年被選為「優良教師」,去年獲得台北市教育局的「教育愛」,今年四月又有幸參加特殊教育優良教師考察團赴美考察。這些鼓舞,讓我即使遭受挫折依然樂此不疲。

當他開口叫阿媽

去年我帶一年級新班,一切規矩都尚未建立,責任最重,也最累。

新班有一個多重障礙的女孩、一個智能障礙的男孩,和三個自閉症男孩。其中韋韋和誠誠是智商、行為能力較高的自閉兒。

韋韋長得俊秀可愛,沒有父親,母親又長年在外工作,由阿媽帶大。記得第一天入學時他阿媽告訴我:「這個孩子是啞吧,不會講話!」但我發現他可以發音,也許是文化刺激不夠,造成他不開口說話,因此跟他阿媽說:「我們來想辦法讓他學說話!」

剛開始孩子們都無法坐下來一分鐘,在教室亂跑,誠誠則不停喃喃自語:「回家聽錄音帶」、「回家聽葉倩文」、「回家聽×××」,不然就重播前一天聽的歌;韋韋則迷戀錄音機、錄音帶,不停的哭鬧著要玩錄音機、錄音帶,完全無視於我的存在。

如今,孩子們升二年級了,他們會認字、寫字,會從一數到一百,會簡單的算術,更重要的是,他們可以靜靜坐下來上課。韋韋從一言不發到會說簡單的對話,雖然他的聲調沒有高低起伏,但已讓阿媽驚訝不已。誠誠則咬字清楚正確,說話非常好聽。

有人說自閉症孩子不懂人際溝通,不會表達感情,但我卻欣賞這種孩子純真,不會做假。他們或許不懂得討好老師,卻常有真情流露的時刻。

真情流露的時刻

有一段時間我請產假,韋韋看不到我,天天喊著「黃老師」、「黃老師」。他雖然不能完整表達自己,但他阿媽知道他想念我,於是帶他來探望我,令我感動不已。

他阿媽告訴我,有一次韋韋要上學時,看到很久不見的媽媽回來了,他只是笑,並沒有開口叫媽媽。放學回家,韋韋立刻跑進房間到處找,阿媽知道他在找媽媽,跟他說:「媽媽又去上班了!」韋韋一聽,眼淚立刻掉下來了。

投身特殊教育八年了,從普通班的孩子叫特殊班的學生「瘋子」,跑到教室門口來看「熱鬧」、或者看到他們趕快躲開;到今天,他們雖少有接觸,但至少可以不再譏笑、躲避。學校裡的啟智教育似乎已經有了一點基礎。

對我自己而言,工作上的挑戰與磨練,孩子們的純真、家長的辛苦,給了我完全不同於以往的人生體悟。

久未謀面的朋友,都會為我的改變感到驚訝。過去我內向、寡言,凡事多愁善感、要求完美;而今我的個性有了極大的轉變,變得開朗、豁達,也更能以寬容的心,試著去包容世上一切不完美的人、事、物。

〔圖片說明〕

P.104

黃美芬常以與生活息息相關的情境,設計教學教材,無非是想讓自閉兒更「融入」現實生活。

P.106

阿媽曾經以為韋韋不會說話,現在俊秀可愛的他下課還能喊口令呢!

相關文章

近期文章

EN

My Autistic Students

edited by Chang Chung-fang /photos courtesy of Vincent Chang /tr. by Christopher Hughes

I graduated as a teacher from the department of special education and have been working as a special education teacher for eight years now. For various reasons, such as the work being too arduous or the lack of feelings of achievement and special attention, my fellow students and colleagues gradually drifted away from special education to go and work with normal classes.

I do not have any superior strength or intelligence, but just attach a lot of importance to my work. It allows me to study, grow, get a sense of achievement and have a clear insight into life.


A graduate in teaching, when I entered the experimental primary school attached to my college, it had just started up a special education class. This being my subject, I was naturally bursting with enthusiasm to get involved.

I came into contact with children who had all kinds of mental disabilities. Those with Down's syndrome were the most warm, gentle and willing to let me into their hearts. The pupils who required most effort, were the hardest to teach and most easily gave people a feeling of having been defeated, were the autistic children.

Slowly soothing emotions:

Right from the start the school put the easily disturbed autistic children into an "emotionally disabled class" so as to facilitate teaching and control. This class was also widely admitted to be a "terror" class, the most rowdy and troublesome of all the special classes. I took it from the fourth grade up to graduation, spending three whole years with its pupils.

There were five children with five very different personalities; they had their strong points and their weak ones, being both motivated and destructive. After a period of observation and contact, I gradually learnt some methods for getting along with them. For example, when the children were emotionally disturbed I would never reprimand them but would warmly coax them and gradually soothe their emotions. If a child ran amok, it was futile to give chase; the more you went in pursuit, the more the child would run. If, instead, you waited until the child stopped, then went over to get him, he would come back without any trouble.

I heard Doctor Cheng Hsin-hsiung say that, due to a blockage in the coordinative functions of the brain, autistic children have no way to link their vision, hearing, touch and muscular movements with frontal lobe sensations. There was one kind of "sensation coordination class" which used exercise equipment, such as skateboards, to provide sensual stimulation and facilitate coordination in autistic children. This was also of great help in stabilizing their emotions, which I made the most important objective of my teaching, often discussing the results with Doctor Cheng. Slowly the abnormal movements of the children decreased and their emotions became much more stable than they had been before the therapy, which made me very excited.

Starting all over again:

The biggest difference between autistic children and other mentally disabled children is that the latter can retain things better as they study them, while the ability of the former is less consistent; today they will study something but there is no guarantee that they will be able to carry it out later on. A change in the weather or in living environment can destabilize their emotions and necessitate going back to the beginning all over again. Former achievements might be wiped out without a trace.

Before the pupils graduated there was an obvious backsliding in the emotionally disabled class. The emotional changes in the adolescent children were also more stormy. They would often cry out sharply and even tear their clothes.

I remember once there was heavy rain and thunder and some of the children began to wail and others got uneasy. A pupil who had once been punished by his father for breaking a glass tumbler just kept on repeating "do not break glass tumblers" over and over, then picked up a tumbler and smashed it outside the door.

It was very hard to cultivate good behavior and all too easy for disturbed emotions to spread. The children in the emotionally disabled class did not have the variety of stimuli that other children have and they would very rarely do things together. Not only would the things they were taught be only half done, but there also appeared the phenomenon of regression.

Because the experiences of this class were not very successful, the school decided to change its style of integration. Last year we started to hold classes mixing autistic with other types of mentally disabled children and stopped the classes that kept them isolated. Although this method is only in its second year, there has already been an obvious improvement in the way the pupils work together.

Parents also need educating:

As well as educating the children, teachers of the mentally handicapped classes also have to help their families. Because the children need educating, the parents are in extra need of guidance.

Some parents are very pessimistic and feel that their children have no hope. I use a report book so that when parents' send in their children every day I can tell them what their child has done and how much progress they have made.

Once there was a couple who quarreled a lot because the mother could not accept that their child was not perfect. The husband was torn between "wanting his wife or wanting his child." I used the opportunity of a parents' meeting to allow the mother to have a chat with some of the other parents. They cried and let off steam together, and I found my own private opportunities to have meetings and talk with her. This mother gradually came out from the shadows and accepted her child. When her child graduated, she even wrote a card to thank me, which moved me a lot.

Many mothers and grandmothers bring their children to lessons and then stay on in the school, helping me to clean the classrooms, sweep up and arrange the desks. These women also help out by taking care of the children during the extra activities classes and sensation coordination training. Such enthusiasm and gratitude is rarely seen in parents of pupils in the ordinary classes.

There is feedback from the parents and rewards from the school--they chose me as "outstanding teacher" for 1987 and 1988. Last year I was made "education lover" by Taipei City's Department of Education, and this April I was lucky enough to take part in a special observation trip to America for outstanding teachers in special education. These encouragements have enabled me to overcome any setbacks with ease.

Crying out for Grandma:

Last year I took on a new first-year class. None of the ground rules had been established, so this entailed the highest degree of responsibility and the greatest fatigue.

The new class had a girl pupil with multiple disabilities, a mentally disabled boy and three autistic boys. Two of the autistic boys, named Cheng-cheng and Wei-wei, had comparatively high mental and behavioral abilities.

Wei-wei had grown to be a bright and lovable child. With no father and a mother who had gone elsewhere to find work, he had been brought up by his grandmother. I remember that the first day he came to the class his grandmother told me, "This child is mute, he cannot speak!" I found out, however, that he could actually make sounds; it was just that he had not had enough cultural stimulation. So I said to his grandmother, "We will think of a way to get him to talk!"

When the class first began the children would not sit still for a minute. They ran about in class and Cheng-cheng would keep on repeating to himself that he wanted to go home and listen to tapes or play a tape of the song they had learned on a previous day; Wei-wei was fascinated by the tape player and cassette and would not stop crying that he wanted to play with them. He was soon oblivious of my presence.

Now the children have gone up to the second grade and can recognize Chinese characters, write and count to one hundred and do simple arithmetic. What is even more important is that they sit peacefully in class. Wei-wei, from not speaking a word, can hold simple conversations; although his intonation is not very robust, he has already greatly surprised his grandmother. Cheng-cheng can copy Chinese characters clearly and correctly and his speech is very pleasant to the ear.

Sincerely showing their emotions:

Some people say that autistic children do not understand how to communicate with people and cannot express their feelings. But I enjoy the sincerity of these children; they cannot deceive you. Perhaps they do not understand how to smooth talk their teacher, but there are often times when they give a sincere show of their emotions.

Once I took maternity leave and Wei-wei did not see me for some time. Every day he would cry out my name over and over again. Although he could not completely express himself, his grand mother knew that he was missing me and brought him over to visit, which was very moving.

The boy's grandmother told me that once, when they were going to school, Wei-wei caught sight of his mother, who had just returned home after having not been seen for a long time. He just smiled, but did not open his mouth to say "Mom." As soon as Wei-wei came home after school, he ran into the room and searched everywhere. His grand-mother knew he was looking for his mother and said to him, "Mom has gone back to work!" As soon as Wei-wei heard this, he burst into tears.

I have been a special teacher for eight years--from a situation where the pupils of the ordinary classes would call those in the special classes "crazy" and run to the door of the classroom to take a look, or shun them, to today; although there is still little contact with the other pupils, at least they no longer avoid or make jokes about the disabled. It seems that the school's special education has already got some foundation.

Speaking for myself, the challenge of work and the process of learning, the purity of the children and the hardship of the families, have all given me a completely different idea of life from the one I held previously.

Friends I have not seen for a long time are all surprised at how much I have changed. In the past I was introverted and taciturn, melancholically seeking for perfection. Today my personality has changed dramatically: I am confident and outspoken, open-minded and have a bigger heart with which to try to embrace the less than perfect people and things of this world.

[Picture Caption]

p.104

Huang Mei-fen often uses circumstances closely related to real life when designing her teaching, so as to give students a better chance of integrating into society.

p.106

Wei-wei's grandmother thought he could not speak, but these days he can call the honors after class.

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