Taking aim at autism
It was a first for Paget Primary School’s Active Learners. The interschool tournament pitted them against the best archers St George’s Prep had to offer. Few would have guessed the Paget students only took up the sport a year-and-a-half ago.
Special aid teacher Freda Trimm thought it the perfect way to wrap up April as Autism Awareness Month.
“Students on the spectrum have deficits when it comes to social interaction,” she said.
“Archery has helped to foster their social skills even more, thus having the competition between St George’s Prep and Paget Primary — which is excellent. It teaches them patience, hand-eye co-ordination; it helps with their posture.”
Ms Trimm has eight students in her multigrade classroom, aged 5 to 10. Sende Semos of Indigo Archery meets them every Friday for an hourlong training session.
“When it was first introduced, they were very impulsive; just running up to the line, wanting to shoot,” the primary teacher said.
“Now they know they have to wait their turn. They follow all the commands. As the months went along, they got even better. Listening to the commands, knowing exactly what to do. Now, they can tell you what is required of them.”
She hopes to get it written into the national curriculum.
According to Ms Trimm, the Active Learners’ improved social skills prepared the way for the April 27 tournament — the first time that they competed in archery with another school.
She called the event “spectacular” and “awesome”.
“What a way to end Autism Awareness Month,” she said. “Paget could see how Prep works with the bow and arrow and Prep could see how Paget works with the bow and arrow.
“Sende has a gift — her patience, her kindness, the time that she spends with the students. She’s very much interested in them and they take to her as well.
“I’d like to see the programme be a part of the curriculum for all the students on the spectrum. Their parents are elated to have something like this. Finally, they found something that will benefit them.”
Archery is growing in Bermuda with more than 100 children involved in the sport.
Ms Semos sees 56 children each week. Her uncle, David Semos, matches her numbers in other programmes.
“Non-school archery is also thriving with more adults taking aim,” she said.
Ms Trimm introduced archery as part of the autism programme at West Pembroke Primary School five years ago after seeing Ms Semos teach the sport at a camp. “I hesitated because I’m not specialised in that way,” Ms Semos said.
“It’s all intuition and passion that’s driving me. I noticed how different they were and how they learnt in their own time. They couldn’t make eye contact, but they heard everything and they applied it and it was successful.
“Their abilities develop while they’re not doing it. It’s interesting. I tell them something one week and they couldn’t do it and the next week they have it mastered without even touching the bow and arrow.”
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