Kishami Academy is a research school which means that teachers are students themselves.
Teachers learn from the people and students they interact with and engage in constant research to address difficulties and problems that arise in the educational, classroom, interpersonal, and emotional environments. They first research alone, then discuss their findings with the other teachers, and then apply what they have learned to the students to see if a specific change will help a student with learning or self-acceptance better.
Often, the things we have researched become mini-lessons in class as we share what we have learned with the students. Our students deserve to know about themselves and other people they will have to engage with throughout their lives.
Much of the applied research is created within our own classroom as teachers discuss what they have learned and how it might help the students, designing ways to apply new things, and then integrating them into our daily teaching skills as they prove to be beneficial to our students.
Other applied research is taken from books and peer-reviewed papers that have proven to be beneficial for students in other schools, states, and countries.
Here are some examples of research based learning being applied in our classroom:
- The use of gym equipment to assist the brain in growth and connectivity
- Our Bridging Program that aids in the interaction between brain hemispheres allowing optimum performance of the brain
- Differentiated seating
- Being allowed to wander while thinking and working on problems
- Following student questions on a subject to increase student learning and connections rather than sticking to a strict lesson plan
- Focusing on cultural and personal relevance of material rather than extraneous knowledge that is used only for testing purposes
- Technology used to teach students how to become competent in research and finding answers on their own
- A noticeable lack of worksheets and take home papers
- Limited homework. Reading is required 365 days a year because it is the most beneficial activity toward greater career advancement, educational success, and personal development.
Here are some examples from our own research:
- Chores to help students take pride in being part of the entire school setting
- Stimming is allowed and analyzed as we teach and help students find functional stimming that will be beneficial throughout their lives and in the careers they are hoping to obtain
- The use of schedules
- Periodic breaks to allow the brain to store information and reset for the next subject
- Meeting the student at the grade level they are at in all subjects instead of expecting them to be performing at their “age-level” grade
Parents are encouraged to enhance their students' learning by simple yet extremely effective means. These suggestions have been shown to make a vast difference in educational outcomes in over 30 countries--The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley 2013:
- TALK with your child. Ask them about what they learned today and inquire for details. Your interest lets them know that their education is important. Listening to them even if what they talk about isn’t related to education but is related to their internal dialog or external activities is extremely valuable to our autsitic kids as every aspect of their life is part of learning how to cope and manage living in our world.
- DISCUSS books, news programs, movies, newspaper articles, and daily events with your children. The give and take of ideas and connections through in depth discourse helps your child become a critical thinker and aids them in making connections between their lives and the larger world of ideas. It also helps our students cope with current events by letting them know their parents are also worried and knowing how parents deal with bad news helps students configure coping strategies of their own. Also, fiction stories help give students strategies to face the greater uncontrollable world while enhancing their creativity and imagination.
- ANSWER your child’s questions. They ask because they want to know. Answering them honestly tells your child that their curiosity to learn is important and valued and that the world they are curious about is one they have a right to comprehend. Especially our autistic students--they need to know that their questions are important enough to spend a bit of time with…for autistic people questions are often directly related to their self-worth, thus, if you respond with “when you're older,” “nothing,” “it doesn’t concern you,” and other dismissive remarks the autistic person feels that they are worthless and unlovable because you didn’t care enough to answer their honest questions.
- EXPLAIN yourself. When you say no, or when there is a rule or law to follow. Explanations allow your child to think and work through the reasoning and find their own logic. This lets them know that they are a valued individual worth trusting. Autistics really need to know the WHY of things to help their worldview make sense. Illogical rules and laws, inconsistent rules and expectations, rules that come out of nowhere all work to create chaos within the autistic mind. The chaos leads to “acting out,” meltdowns, “testing boundaries,” and other behavior issues that seem to come out of nowhere. Explanations for everything really help your autistic student understand you and the world around them.
- READ to and with your child, no matter their age. Ask and answer questions, discuss connections to emotions and life. This lets your child understand that reading is valued and an important aspect of learning and examining the life they are living. Reading is valuable for brain development and educational advancement because reading helps develop imagination and creativity; helps to understand sentence structure, plot, story line, sequences; and with recognizing grammar, spelling, and language usages. Most of this is learned without struggle while enjoying a book. VALID ways of reading: to your child, with your child, your child reading silently or out loud, listening to an audiobook and discussing it, comics, manga, picture books, fiction, non-fiction, online books, tangible books, and reading subtitles on foriegn films.