I recently contacted the people at Amanda Bennett Unit Studies to see if they knew whether children diagnosed with autism were successful with their studies, especially children my son's age. He was diagnosed with autism at the age of four so we have dealt with a LOT of ups and downs for the last six years. I've learned that certain ways of teaching him works really well and certain ways works really poorly. I've also learned that certain techniques designed for all children do not necessarily work either! I don't recall the company telling me whether or not they knew that children with autism were successful using their studies but they did offer to let me try two of their products of my choice with our son. In exchange, I would write my opinion and experiences with them. I decided that I would write two different articles, one for each because I choose to try one of their Download N Go products and one of their Unit Study Adventures. Since the Download N Go is only supposed to be a one week study and the Unit Study Adventures is designed to be a four week study, I choose the one week study and let our son choose the four week study. One reason for this is because I have been wanting to introduce our son to composers of classical music along with their music and I thought that if I let my son choose the longer study, that he would want to learn the materials more than something I would possibly choose. So, we have completed the one week study during a break of the longer study and it's time for me to write about the experience. Here goes:
Creative Composers is a one week study about five composers and their works with some information about the orchestra and the instruments included in it. There is SO much information included that you could easily make it into a two week study as long as you don't do all the the materials that are suggested or possibly longer if you really want to study JUST those five composers intently using ALL The suggestions included in the study believe it or not!
When we first started our study, our son didn't like the music he was being introduced to although I had played classical music a lot in the past while he was working on his schoolwork. The study depends on a lot of internet use so since some of the information is You Tube videos, since our internet is not exactly the fastest thing on the planet, I found a site called KeepVid.com that allowed me to download the videos to my computer so we could watch them without the long hesitations that kept happening when we tried to watch them. This meant that I had to download the next days videos I would be using during the night before because they did take quite some time for each download. Each day had several videos so although I didn't mind doing it, it did become a slight inconvenience over time.
The lapbook that is included with the study is really nice but I also had to download it before starting so it could be cut out and put together in preparation to starting our study too. Some people may be able to just print it out and let their children do the cutting and putting together but since our son doesn't like to do much cutting, I usually do it when we are doing a lapbook and have him help me put them together as we make the lapbook. This time, I decided that since I wanted the lapbook put together in the order that the activities happen, that I would go ahead and put it together and let our son add some decorations to it as we went along if he wanted to. The different parts of the lapbook don't require a lot of writing like so many other lapbooks we've put together in the past. In fact, some of the information our son wrote only required the name of the composer to be written down. Other parts needed a little more information but not that much per day. Once that part is completed, it a nice little booklet with some wonderful information about each composer. I wish the lapbook had included blank pages that you could fill in about other composers so you could use it if you continue learning about other composers once you have completed the study. I think I may be able to make it on my own down the line though.
A game is also included with the study. I kind of wish there was a pocket included so we could store it in our lapbook. Since one isn't included, I plan on making one since our son and grandson enjoy playing the game. One problem we had is that there are so many pieces, the boys won't play the entire game. I actually split the game into parts that have composers on them and parts that have instruments on them so we really have two games instead of one which actually works better. That way, each boy can play a game on their own if they want.
When we started our study, our son didn't like the music AT ALL! He thought the music was boring and he told me he wanted to go to sleep. I was really disappointed because I really enjoy this kind of music. In fact, my plan when we started the study is to keep on learning about different composers one day a week using this study as a sample. I was sweating bullets at this point! As each day went on though, our son started liking the music more and more. Even our grandson would come sit on my lap and watch the videos that are included that show fireworks while you listen to the music. Sometimes, some of the others too. I think it's safe to say those were both boys favorite parts of the study in fact, fireworks to music.
There are some really great sites that are included with the study. My favorite site that is included with the Amanda Bennett study about classical composers is http://makingmusicfun.net/htm/mmf_music_library_meet_the_composer_index.htm. Not only does it include information about the composers included in the study, it also includes information about a lot of other composers I would like to continue studying. It also offers some really nice downloads, like word searches, pictures to color, and an employment application. I know, I know, an employment application? My son and I would pretend to fill it out for the composer in question, as if he were applying for a job with an orchestra here in the US today.Ages ago, when I first started thinking about teaching our son about classical music and their composers, I got a membership to http://classicalcomposersmonthly.com you can also find them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/ClassicalComposersMonthly. Every month, the people who created the site pick a composer of their choice. When you get an email from their site, letting you know a new composer page has been created for the month, you simply click and log in, then you are taken to a page with a picture of a painting or drawing of the composer and the years the composer was alive with a brief biography of the composer below that. Then, lower down are links to other sites, short videos, and music downloads. Short but sweet with a lot of valuable information. A very valuable source if you are studying this topic in my opinion! If you would like to get an idea of
what the site offers, they have several freebies about different people, a Handel composer resource, a Monet artist resource, and a free sample of Fine Art Pages. Just go to the site I mentioned a couple sentences ago. I used a bunch of the material I've collected from the site and already had downloaded since becoming a member of the site that saved me a whole lot of time downloading some of the other videos. Especially because some of the videos that are included with the unit study by Amanda Bennett aren't able to download with the KeepVid site that I use for some reason. Most of them are simply the same music they suggested, just done by someone else. So I really only substituted the person performing, not the piece they suggest you listen to. The rest of the composers they have done in the past will be a wonderful starting point to studying more composers. Course Classical Composers has also included links to the other site Amanda Bennett mentioned so I guess it really is a good site for someone who is teaching about composers to use.
So, what is my opinion of a child with autism doing a Download N Go study by Amanda Bennett? Well.... The studies are short and sweet so if your child gets bored learning about a topic he's not targeted on, like my son is with dinosaurs, it's a good way to encourage your child to learn about something new. You could always do one lesson in the study a week instead of doing the entire study in a week I suppose! They cover a wide range of material while also targeting one subject. We learned some geography and history that our son didn't notice he was learning, which I loved! If your child is targeted on one of the topics of the Unit Study Adventures, then one of those may be great for your child to do instead. I wonder if I could get them to do one on dinosaurs? Hmmmm, something to think about. lol