curriculum, First Nations School, autism, social cues, diversity, social stories, heterosexist software, Indigenous people, diverse family, Pow-wow, cultural curriculum, activist labour, PECS cards (picture exchange communication system), communication system
Tara: Do you feel your family is represented in the curriculum? Um, and then we’ll, uh, talk about the same thing with the First Nations school.
Jess: I’m not really sure, because Fred’s learning I think is not necessarily based around…
Evan: Like sociology and stuff.
Jess: Yah, it’s more sociology I think more a connecting to people. Um rather than, um understanding the world around him, because that’s not something that he’s able to connect to yet. So he’s in grade one. I mean as he progresses through his schooling that’s definitely something that an autism program can look at, is the development and seeing how a family is made up and that it’s not always the same.
Jess: But right now I think he’s focusing on how to relate to people on a one to one level.
Tara: So it’s about, um, interrelationship rather than content that’s important right now.
Tara: I think that makes sense.
Evan: I think, too, for, like for him and I’d say I think for a lot of the students in the class, like, the way that they cognitively function it doesn’t strike them as weird, so in the way that like in our daughter’s class her friends are like, “what’s going on?” and I mean it’s been okay. But asking those questions I don’t even know if there’s that recognition of sort of social cues, right?
Evan: Because I mean, really, like diversity falls under social cues so that idea of “oh this is wrong”, or “this is different” I don’t think plays into it, which makes a really unique perspective.
Tara: That’s so interesting.
Evan: One thing that I did notice, though, is that when we were looking for, like, accessibility things around Social Stories, you know, things like Word Maker, and a lot of technology for social cues, they all featured, like, heterosexual families.
Evan: Uh, so there were no, um, there weren’t even really single parent ones, racial diversity was really hard to find in them, definitely there were no representations of indigenous people in any of the social story planning software that I could find. So sometimes we’d have to be a bit creative.
Tara: Tell us about that. What did you end up doing to work with that software?
Evan: I think, I finally found software where you could, like for making PECS cards, you could make them like yourself, and then print them out, and so I mean we had an entire set of PECS that, you know, had our diverse family members in it and, with photos, things like, you know, when you’re going to a pow wow, here’s what you’re going to see. ‘Cause the school, when he was at First Nations School has a pow wow every year. Um, and so being able to put like those cultural pieces in, and so, I mean, I appreciate the flexibility of it but at the same time it was so much work that I think other people wouldn’t have to go through on top of, you know, just trying to parent.
Tara: So, rather than parents having to, um, adapt the software so that their families will be represented, that’s something that teachers in the school could take on as a curriculum project. For my students who may not know a little bit about the software that you’re talking about, can you just describe it a bit and how it’s useful to you and your family?
Evan: Yah, I think –so a lot of the things that were available like through organizations would be just sort of printable sheets that you could laminate that had visual cue cards. Um, and they were always like “here’s mom, here’s dad, here’s, you know, brother and sister”. The software that I found, was a website, and it’s also really cheap, it’s like four dollars, and you literally just upload photos and it can like type in what the label is for each one.
Tara: And how do you use the cards, how are they helpful to your son?
Evan: Um, at the time we were using them for all our social planning for the day, so a clipboard that we carried around everywhere, and a binder that had like 300 PECS cards that I made. And we just his entire schedule from getting out of bed to going to the washroom, brushing teeth to this is where you’re going at school, this is your program for the day in the school, this is when you need to take bathroom breaks between you know different subjects or classes down to you know, swimming lessons. Yah, we had a whole laminated set, like for swimming. I mean everything had to be on a card because if it wasn’t on a card it was interrupting the routine and…
Tara: So you used the cards to help keep your son moving through the school day.
Evan: Yah. Yah, to transition between things.