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Harry Potter… and the Child with Autism

Junganew Blog, Motivational Mondays

As therapists, and moms, and people, one of our goal is to expose our clients, our children, and others to fine literature. My daughter did not enjoy reading AT ALL!  That is until Harry Potter came along!  She loved the movies, and asked to read the first book.  She has been hooked ever since.  She has since read every book at least 3 times…and more importantly, has unleashed a love for books…all kinds of books. I thought that if Harry Potter can impact my daughter so greatly, perhaps it can do wonders for my client who is diagnosed with Autism.

My client is now 14 years old. I have had the great blessing of working with him since he was 2 years old.  Throughout the years, he learned to sit and attend, to speak, to take turns, to follow multiple directions, and to engage in simple discourse. He has learned to read and write as well.  I know how intelligent this boy is.  At school, they are reading simple books with him, but I believe that we need to challenge our children regardless of any labels that are put on them.  We need to help them to reach their best…and go beyond. So, I introduced him to the first of the Harry Potter series.  I am proud to announce that my amazing client recently completed the first book.  Fortunately, I am not under any time constraints as can be a potential obstacle in the school system.  I work privately with this boy, and so we slowly utilized so many opportunities during the course of this book, to engage in language therapy.

First, I not only provided the book, but I provided many other tools as resources to facilitate comprehension and expression. Harry Potter FIlm was an additional resource which provided behind the scene pictures and readings.  We utilized the fabulous complement to the books, an online experience, Pottermore.  We used the Harry Potter cookbook, where we cooked and ate treats that were mentioned in the book.  With the support of clips of the film via Youtube, my client was able to grasp a visual understanding.  We played with the Harry Potter lego app as well as the Harry Potter chess game to ensure a full capacity of learning with multiple opportunities for exposure and feedback. As we read, we created a list of all the characters and places we were introduced to, as there are so many throughout this story. We color coordinated these items, and created a flowchart to better understand the layout of the story.  We used thinking maps to facilitate extending our imagination, moving from concrete to abstract ideas.  We discussed fact vs. opinion, fiction vs. nonfiction, and comparisons vs. contrasts. We worked on writing essays based on these language schemes.  Informative essays, persuasive essays, explanatory essays, were a few to say the least. We created advertisements, where we bought and sold items. My favorite piece that we worked on was our quote essays, where we took the wise words taught by Albus Dumbledore to make sense of the world we live in and how it relates to us and those we love.  Additionally, we discussed perspectives and twists at the end of a story. We began journaling throughout this process incorporating the new vocabulary we were exposed to in this reading.

When provided with a multiple choice test I comprised to respond to main events and ideas throughout the story, my client earned an 80%.  With a little cueing and reminding, he was able to achieve 100%.  This has been an extraordinary experience, and I am looking forward to book #2, where we can soon explore role playing, public speaking, and setting up for theater productions for his family and friends.

Harry Potter has been my gift…for my daughter and my client.  It has become the bridge I needed to cross boundaries where no one else dared to go. Let go of the limitations.  Expect great things from this upcoming generation.  When we expect greatness from them, they will soon expect greatness from themselves.  And it can all begin with a boy  who uncovers his potential and his internal power. His name can be Harry Potter or simply Thomas.