So the title of this post is very different than what I usually write. I tend to use analogies from movies, or children’s games to relay an idea or thought concerning our children. However, this past week has been a hard one and I realized that sometimes we as parents of autistic children are not just dealing with therapists, doctors, special educators and the greater world, but we are dealing with our children and their perceptions of themselves. Now why then would I use a war analogy to discuss our children. Simple, because sometimes, just sometimes, our children are in a battle with their own issues and unfortunately they need more than a lend-lease program to win that war. Those from the peace-nik camp don’t write comments about the need for gentility and diplomacy. It doesn’t always work and sometimes in this fight you need to pull out the big guns, stand your ground and never retreat and never surrender. Sometimes there comes a time, when your child needs to learn that THEY have to stand and be counted among the fighters. Nevertheless, there can come times when the blitz bombarding your child so overwhelms them that they have a hard time moving to the next day or even the next moment. They become so stymied in their quest for survival that they forget how to survive. That is where you come in. I guess you can tell what kind of week it was.
Our children are confronted with many issues. Collegeman and highschoolboy have obsessive compulsive disorder. No not just the rigidity associated with autism, they have that too. But they also have the stand alone issue of OCD. Now how does that play itself out? In the case of collegeman he has always percevered through any issue. If it was hard for him he worked on it relentlessly. Now that is not always good, because his perfectionistic OCD would lend him to be upset about not getting 100 percent. He would not be happy with a 95. He would study til all hours for a test and rewrite papers at least ten times or more before we made him stop. For his senior project in high school, Collegeman created over 100 powerpoint slides and had almost 200 citations. Great if you are doing a PhD dissertation, over done if you are 17 years old in highschool. The good thing about collegeman is that with therapy and us constantly supporting him as to what is necessary and what is overdone, he has been able to organize his world much better. In fact, just recently instead of getting upset about an up coming exam, he decided that he had studied enough and that he would just have to see how the exam went. He decided that once he understood the professor’s style on the exam if he had problems on the midterm, he would just know what to expect for the final and be better prepared for next time. Well you could have blown me over with a feather. It may take time but it is sinking in.
Now highschoolboy on the other hand has the other type of perfectionist issue. If he can’t get it right away or has trouble he just shuts down. You have to fight with him constantly over some academic endeavor until you are so sick and tired you think you have nothing more to give, but then he decides ok its time for me to do this and he does it. Example: highschoolboy would not learn to read. There was no learning disability involved here, he just did not want to read. He does not like to make errors. I was really worried that it would never happen. Well midway through first grade, he decided that it was time for him to read, so he did. Infact he read at such a level that he was off the charts when they tested him for his reading group at the end of the school year. It’s the way highschoolboy always has functioned. When he was little and didn’t like the clippers at the barbershop he set a date for himself when he would let the barber use them and he stuck to it. Never had a problem since. Unfortunately, right now, highschoolboy is having one of his perfectionist moments, like with the reading episode. In fact, he is worrying alot of people at school because they all know that he can do whatever he is asked to academically and at a rather high level. I can’t tell you how many calls I have gotten from teachers. Definitely not complaining, this is a good thing that the teachers are making sure we know exactly what is going on with him. They have volunteered extra time to help him and we have brainstormed ideas how to get him reengaged.
What actually happened is that higschoolboy did not do well on some tests. No he was not perfect. But instead of pushing forward he has retreated and we are afraid he has gone into surrender mode. He has become demoralized. He put in effort and it came to naught. The issue that we are trying to confront with him is that he has to come to the realization that it might not have been enough effort. Just because he thought he had done alot doesn’t mean for that particular moment that it was enough effort. So we sit him down, actually hubby sits him down because he is till in "my mother is an idiot" mode, and tells him how he needs to study. He explains that he needs to take notes as he reads, and to sit away from the computer desk when he does noncomputer related homework. What was really good is that the math tutor also told him the same thing. Yes, she is female, like me, but she’s not his mother so he will listen to her. I have asked the school to remind highschoolboy that he is to take his own notes in class. You see, the aides have been taking notes for him. While a note taker can be a bonus for most children, it is important that your child not learn to rely solely on the TAs notes. TA’s notes should be a supplement not an instead of. The children need to write their own notes if for no other reason then to keep themselves aware in the class. Staring out the window and letting someone else pay attention in a class you do not like is not learning to function in the real world. We know that there will always be parts of a job that you do not like. Someone else cannot do it for you. Better to learn that now then suffer setbacks later as an adult.
So how does someone take notes? As you read write down the main idea of the paragraph or section. Even make a notation as to which page it was on. Then you can refer back to your notes when you answer the review questions. Such notetaking also helps to understand the material as you read it and it helps with memorization. Next when you take notes in class, make sure to write down at least the main idea that the teacher is talking about. You don’t have to write every sentence verbatum, noone can do that unless you studied speed writing or stenography, but atleast get the main gist of the conversation. In math write down the problems and if you can’t finish them before the teacher begins the explanation then go back to it later but move on with the class. The same for science. Now, it is possible that highschoolboy’s processing is slow for the pace of the class right now. But he should be used to the tenor of the classroom by now. It’s not his first year of higschool. In fact he has done pretty well over the last two years. Classroom expectations are not new, just new subjects. However, sometimes you have to kick it into back into gear. It’s time for highschoolboy to ratchet up the war machine and fight the good fight.
So we have dealt with the need to study harder, the need to take notes, and the need to be engaged in a class you don’t like. We have given highschoolboy the tools in which to accomplish this task. We have told him how to go about taking the notes, paying attention and studying. Hopefully he will do better on his next set of tests. He just took two exams yesterday. He studied very diligently. We were actually very proud of him for that and told him so. I hope that he will be pleased with his grades so we don’t have to go another round of no retreat or surrender. But we will reengage the enemy if we must until the deed is done. Then we can move on to the next battlefield, you know that there are always new battlefields. But, I do hope that this theater of operation has been concluded. However, that is up to highschoolboy whether he will push forward and fight his inner issues and decide that like reading or getting a haircut, that this is the day to go forward. That today is the day to stand and be counted.
Until next time,