Teachers and Playworks coaches team up to help children with autism succeed

As much as we try not to… when we have a bad day at work, we often bring our bad mood home. And when we are having a bad morning at home, we don’t always kickstart our work day with a positive attitude.

Children have this problem every day when transitioning into and out of the classroom, particularly children with autism. To succeed in the classroom, students need to feel good about themselves on the playground. Conversely, when students are having a good day in the classroom, they bring that positive attitude out to recess.

We see this every day at Playworks working with great teachers, like Shannon Gibson, for example. Shannon wrote a letter to Coach Carlvert Green about one student they both help to succeed.

Dear Coach Green,

I wanted to let you know how pleased I am with the amazing changes and progress I have seen with my student this year, David.

David began second grade far below his peers, both in academics and maturity, although he was older than them having repeated first grade. He was only reading about 20 words per minute, struggled to sit in his chair, had unreadable handwriting, received blue slips for disobeying school rules on the playground on a daily basis and showed no understanding of consequences for his behavior or actions. Most disturbing to me, his teacher, was during a meeting to discuss his standing in second grade early in the year, David stated he did not like me or school.

Daily I would meet David's parents at the dismissal gate and try to communicate with them in my high school Spanish the tremendous problems I was having with David in class. They too seemed to share my frustration and were clearly uncertain about how to turn David around.

This second semester, I gave David a reading workbook, set attainable goals with him, and to my surprise, David eagerly accepted the challenge. Frequently, David would meet his weekly goals in a day or two and ask for another incentive chart in order to keep going. As David's reading became more successful, his self-esteem changed dramatically, too. What I didn't know at the time, was the work you were doing with him on the playground.

After walking laps together one more, David begged me if we could please play Handball for the remaining five minutes. A bit surprised at David's interest, I said yes. David knew exactly which ball to get explaining to me why it bounced better than the other balls. Getting to go first, David commanded the game. He knew the rules, displayed coordinated ball handling, and problem solved with other students when differences arose. I was stunned and shocked. I realized, as I was watching this "changed" kid, that he wasn't the same David from last semester. He respected our classroom and school rules, he sat in his chair, he vigorously attacked his assignments seeking praise upon his accomplishments, no more blue slips from the playground, grades were improving and David was confident.

That very same day, David did something I thought I would never see. He drew a picture for me – a picture of him and me, he seated on the rug, me at the board teaching him. It was a moment I shall not soon forget. I have since received several more pictures from David, always of the two of us.

In addition to the success on the playground and classroom, David's speech teacher says David has made tremendous improvements in the areas of self-worth and behavior necessary to work with a small group. Behavior reports that often came back with sad faces were replaced with happy ones and David bursting into the classroom with joy to show me his accomplishment.

Thank you for your work with David. I believe together, we have achieved a miracle of success. It seemed both our work with David, me in the classroom, you on the playground teaching him skills, sportsmanship and the popular game of handball has changed David the person.

Now, when I see David's parents at the gate every day, I just give them a thumbs-up because as far as David and I are concerned – all is well.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Coach Green, you are an inspiration.

Ms. Shannon Gibson,
Bennett-Kew Elementary
Inglewood, CA

It is with support both in and out of the classroom, that David, a student with autism, dramatically improved, making progress academically, socially and emotionally and become a happier child.

*This student’s name was changed to respect his privacy


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