Most children from English-speaking countries have been taught the alphabet using very similar word association charts for centuries e.g. A is for apple, B is for ball or boat and C is for cat. But when it comes to people diagnosed with autism, what inspires them to learn, and what words they associate with letters, is often completely different and unique.
Chase Bailey, a 13-year-old with autism from Orange County, California, has created an alphabet based around contemporary food.
Like most teenagers he loves food, but he has learned many of his life skills through cooking and developing recipes. It was when his mother Mary noticed how animated Chase became when watching TV chefs as a young child, she realized he had a passion for food. Here was something she could leverage to provide a way for her son to better relate to, and understand, the world around him. Now Chase even has his own cooking show on www.chasenyurface.com and food remains at the center of his home-school curriculum.
Together with Mary, Chase has created a completely new alphabet association chart, based around some of his favorite foods*. Mary Bailey takes up the story:
“Chase and I thought creating an alphabet around food would be fun and it might help people like Chase. But I soon realized there is no one like Chase – everyone is unique.
So instead we thought we would curate a collection of autism alphabets on our website, or help people develop their own.
Some people might prefer an alphabet centered on cars or animals or flowers, just as examples. If we collect all of these different alphabets, we can provide a unique resource for the autism world.”
Chase and Mary are now asking people from all over the globe to send in their own alphabet or ideas together with their personal stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
Chase’s Contemporary Food Alphabet
A – Apple Pie
B – Bacon
C – Churros
D – Doughnuts
E – Eggnog
F – French toast
G – Gingerbread
H – Hamburger
I – Ice Tea
J – Jello
K – Kettle Chips
L – Lemon Chicken
M – Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
N – Nachos
P – Peanut Butter
Q – Quesadilla
R – Ratatouille
S – Steak
T – Taco
U – Upside-down Cake
V – Vanilla
W – Waffles
X – Xia (Chinese shrimp dish)
Y – Yogurt
Z – Zucchini Fries
In many ways, Chase is a regular 13-year-old boy. But he is different and exceptional because he was diagnosed with autism as a toddler.
Even before he started preschool, his mother Mary worked with physicians, therapists and educators to ensure that Chase would receive the kind of specialist therapy he needed to develop the coping skills to allow him to live life to the full.
However, when it came down to his education, it was evident that traditional methods of teaching were not effective in making information and concepts understandable and meaningful to Chase.
Using Chase’s own dreams and aspirations as her guide, Mary decided to leave her corporate position in management and embark on a journey she never could have imagined. This includes home schooling Chase and creating a life curriculum, designed specifically for him – a hands-on approach to learning through experiences that resonate with Chase.
Academic goals are intricately and inextricably woven into Chase’s everyday life, and are executed in ways tailored to reflect Chase and the way he’s wired and experiences the world. The goals are designed to go beyond academic life, extending into the realms of self-sufficiency, personal fulfillment, developing positive relationships with other people and philanthropy.