Pinellas county, FL – A 10-year-old boy with autism Ben Fain has learned to control his meltdowns by doing Lake St. George Elementary’s weather forecast. The idea to use his interest in weather to motivate him came from the school’s behavior specialist, Corey Boyd, when he realized Ben mentioned the weather in their after-meltdown walks.
In years prior the main school of thought was that letting students with autism indulge in their focused interests would curb progress. But with success stories like Ben’s, it’s easy to see that the indulgence of focused interests may be the key to getting students on the spectrum to open up and grow.
Proof of this can be found in Ben’s early years. Before he did the weekly forecast he had meltdowns regularly. The texture of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches overwhelmed him and eye contact was near impossible. When the meltdown happened, teachers and staff didn’t know how to handle it, which forced Ben to sit in a dark room. Thankfully, with the realization that autism was on the rise in his school, conditions for students with autism improved. The school founded an autism awareness club, had teachers research the learning difference, and held training sessions.
Instead of being stuck in a room, Ben was now melting down under his desk and then taking walks with Boyd. It was in these walks that Boyd discovered Ben’s love of science and weather. Ben was hesitant to do the weather at first, but later warmed up to the idea. This is where the motivation came into play. Ben could only do the forecast if he didn’t meltdown or act out the week before. If he did, he couldn’t do it. The progress he’s making is clear.
“He really had to work for it,” Michelle Maulsby, one of the school’s ASD assistants told Tampa Bay Times,”You could see him, learning to contain himself.”
When his classmates met to watch Frozen last year before the winter break, Maulsby was blinded by a hug from Ben, something she didn’t think he’d ever do. He also has filled in for other student actors when they can’t make it, which greatly improves his social skills.
Ben isn’t the only one who is getting motivated by esoteric interests. Another student loved to read and was often given more time in the library if they had a trouble free week.
The original article by here.in the Tampa Bay Times can be read
Contributed by Audrey L. Hollingshead.