Pushing Boundaries.

The first week back to school after Christmas break was a good one.  There was no homework. The little guy asked about doing homework every day.  When I told him there wasn’t any, you could see the relief on his face.

That was last week.

Homework is back.  In addition to things simple for him, like reading, he was given  mixed up sentences to put back in order.  I feared this sheet of paper.

Maybe that fear does not make sense to you.

Homework time is difficult.  Not typical kid, don’t-wanna-do-it difficult.  It’s different.  There is still don’t-wanna-do-it, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  One of T’s biggest struggles is language.  He has speech therapy 2 hours a week and works language programs with ABA every day.  Then, kindergarten gives him papers labeled “challenge” that are sentences out of order.  This kid’s life is a sentence out of order.  They had no idea how apropos the word “challenge” was.

We sit down at his kiddie table.  There are more “toys” than space in my house.  Inevitably, toys end up on the table.  Once we sit down, he is usually engaged in scripting, grabbing whatever toy is on the table.  He asks me the same questions.  I have to give the “correct” response or he will ask over and over until I do.

Round One:  I have to “break through” the scripting to get his attention.  Not a big feat in itself but time consuming.  If I try to “break through” in the middle of a script, his “chain of events’ is incomplete.  It cannot be incomplete.  Meltdowns occur with incomplete sequences.  He may respond without melting but that is an anomaly that gives false hope, soon dashed if I attempt a repeat performance.  I’ve lived that repeat performance meltdown.  Add an additional 15-30 minutes on to homework time while making it through screaming, crying, panicked meltdown status for cutting off his thought flow.

 Round Two:  Giving the instructions for the particular worksheet or project.  First, I have to understand the homework.  This is kindergarten, people.  Yet, there have been times, I’ve been stumped by the directions.  Then, I have to explain what to do to a child that doesn’t understand the written one given with the paper.  I have to craft an explanation that includes examples…  Then, I have to do it so that he will listen to my explanation.

Round Three:  The distractions.  The TV must be off.  The iPad and Nintendo DS must be put away.  Books have to be out of reach.  Everything should be out of reach.  But even with everything out of reach, he finds it more interesting to stare at a scratch in the table than do his homework.  Frankly, the properties of lint are more interesting than his homework.

When objects are not the distraction, then his own mind will provide it.  “What color is Neptune?” he asks, as I explain how he is to pick the smaller word out of a larger word (Circle all in ball).  An average worksheet will have 10-15 “problems” which require pencil or coloring to complete.  When he gets through one, then we go through the whole process from “focus” to finish again.

If writing letters or numbers is involved (almost always), then we have an added level of discontent.  My son can write but hates it.  He’s awkward and has trouble with spacing.  He knows if the spacing or line placement is wrong, it will be erased and he will have to start over.

With the mixed-up sentences, he tried to copy the sentence out of order.  I had to keep telling him it was not right.  I’m still not sure he gets it.  He could say it correctly orally but could not transfer that skill to paper.

Round Four:  T needs constant reassurance that he is doing things right. He wants perfect the first time.  Yeah, don’t we all?  But if he makes a mistake, his confidence level goes to zero.  He will not even utter a complete sentence after a mistake, for fear he is saying it wrong.  I have to help him regain confidence while correcting mistakes so he understands the whys.

I want him to get it.  I will not yield to the fact that he has struggled to write letters out.  I push him.  Not for perfection but for adequacy.

He has a disability but he still has to make it in a non-disabled world.  Should I say he doesn’t have to try harder than everyone else and he should get a pass?  He’s always going to have to try harder to get to where other kids get naturally for some things and not try at all where other kids have to struggle.  Where he does and does not struggle are usually polar opposites of the typical kids. The struggles outnumber the non-struggles by far.

An added step with my child is knowing how much is too much.  What is his limit?  How much can he do?  How much should I leave him alone and how much should I prompt or even show how to do?  This takes experimentation.

We all know that feeling of frustration.  I want to tell him it’s okay, or it’s good enough, and he can just leave it.  But I can’t.  I have to help him see what’s wrong.  To accept the critcism in a good way.  To see that, despite the struggles, he can still reach the goal, even if it takes longer.

Autism is a whole spectrum from high functioning to severely disabled.  T is on the high functioning end of the spectrum.  He does not have other types of learning disabilities.  What I see is that his autism does not make him less capable of doing the work.  It makes it harder to get it done.

This is the time of his life when he is building foundations upon which everything else will rest.  I have to help push his limits now and teach him he can succeed.  Because he can.

And when he succeeds?  He’s proud. And so am I.


About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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11 Responses to Pushing Boundaries.

  1. Ok… now I’m terrified of Kindergarten. Thankyouverymuch.

    I have NO IDEA how I’d get Little Miss to do that kind of homework. It sounds maddening!

  2. kcunning says:

    It’s perfectly okay to let the coordinator at your school know that homework isn’t happening yet. Jake, at five, would NOT DO IT. He would cry, scream, hide under the table, refuse to look at the paper, tear the paper up. I took a video and showed it to his teacher who agreed: it was too soon. We figured out what he would do (reading to him was always a good thing), so we stuck to that. I figured out a few non-obtrusive activities we could do (like making lists and understanding order by cooking with him, or making lists of things we needed to do before we could play).

    The next year, we tried again. This time, he was fine with homework. Sat down, did it over a glass of milk, then put it away. Now, he doesn’t need any prodding from me.

    To parents of neurotypical kids, you can request this as well. I knew several parents who flatly stated that their child was not going to be doing homework past whatever attention span the child had. The teachers shrugged and said okay.

  3. Kelly says:

    Holy cow. I am scared spitless of how this will work out for Ted. Dear Jesus.

  4. Flannery says:

    I despise homework time. And yes, the work they are bringing home seems way beyond what we were doing in kinder and first. But maybe I’m just old, and my memory is failing??? I’ve set up an elaborate reward system to try and get through homework each night. And on each page, at the bottom, I write in how long it took him to do the work. I want the teacher to know that it took a hour to do one page, and another one was only 10 minutes.

  5. Lana Rush says:

    I simply cannot imagine doing anything like this with the Bird at this moment in our lives. We have so far to go before we can even attempt this. Yes, she knows her letters (and I’m pretty sure she knows numbers 1-10). She can put letters in alphabetical order. She’s getting her colors down.

    But picking up a pencil and doing a worksheet? Maybe one day, and if so, Lord help us all….

  6. Lizbeth says:

    Our teacher has left it up to us to determine what he can do. I do what I think he is capable of. Some days he can do everything and begs for more, other days we don’t even open the backpack. I then let them know how things went so they know what we’re struggling with and how we need to accommodate him tomorrow. It seems to work.

    I try to push him but it has to be within limits. Limits that he sets. Sometimes that’s hard to remember. 🙂

  7. Broot says:

    Can you set up a separate table and chair elsewhere in the house (away from the toys) that is only for homework and therefore create a new script? Along with one of those picture stories that explain that table and chair are always for homework?

    You know, my NT children are older than kindergarten and they’ve never had to put a sentence back in order. That seems confusing and looks more like a “make work” project. I’d be challenging that homework with the teacher – what, exactly, is this supposed to teach them?

  8. eof737 says:

    That picture at the end is adorable… It’s not easy staying focused on homework… so kudos to T! 🙂

  9. Denise says:

    We tell parents kids should work on homework about 15 minutes a day per grade level. It sounds like homework is VERY time consuming! I’d talk to his teacher!!! Looking at the green frog worksheet, I really wonder what the purpose of it could be? Is to practice handwriting skills,or editng skills? Maybe there is a different way for Tay to practice the same skills.
    5-7 year olds are very ego-centric, they can only write something they way THEY say it. No wonder this assignment is so hard for Tay!
    Call me if you need me!
    I love Tays picture in his tie!

  10. Grace says:

    Homework?? OMG, can we talk??

    Thursday night, Ryan’s homework was to cut letters out of old magazines and paste them on a piece of paper to spell all 10 of his spelling words. Like he’s a mini-kidnapper preparing a ransom note. Of all the crap I have lying around, you would think I had some old magazines. You would be wrong. So I pulled the weekly sale papers out of the trashcan, did most of the letter-searching and ALL of the cutting and pasting myself. It still took us 40 minutes. And Ryan spent most of that time playing with the cat instead of helping me.

    Homework is hard enough on our kids (and us), is it too much to ask that the teachers take this into consideration??

    I love Flan’s idea of writing how much time it took at the bottom of the paper. I’m stealing that one.

  11. Tessa says:

    I understand what you’re saying perfectly. We have to always straddle the line between what is too frustrating and what can be overcome with a little pushing. It’s so hard to figure out what they are really capable of and what is just too much, always keeping the bigger picture of the future in the back of our minds. It’s tough.

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