Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Round 3. . .

I've been blogging of late about my younger son, E. (Rounds one and two, here and here. If our family lives on the spectrum with P and I on the Aspie side of the ledger, and my husband on the (possibly) ADD side, than E is somewhere in the middle. In the alphabet soup of "diagnoses", he has NLD. What I know is that he's a bright, articulate, motivated kid who struggles with organization and output.

Yesterday, he came home with his interim progress report (midway through term 2) for his 4 core classes, Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, and Science. He is currently failing Language Arts, Math, and Science.

Looking at the components of those failing grades, I am struck by a pattern. Work that he had handed in: A's and high B's. F's (automatic zeros) for missing assignments. If it were not for the missing work, he would be doing extremely well in all subjects. (Well, except Math, but that's another conversation for another time.)

So, one could look at that pattern and name it laziness. I can almost hear the conversation: "E. has so much potential. If he would just apply himself. . . "

Let me tell you something about my younger son. He isn't lazy. What he is, is hampered by a brain that doesn't multi-task and doesn't shift attention (transition) rapidly. What limits E the most is his impaired executive functioning. He has little ability to employ systematic strategies, so whatever he does, it's like he must start from scratch each time. That's evident whether he's looking for something in his room, searching for a homework assignment in his backpack, or organizing for homework assignments.

Penalizing him for his lack of organization and his poor executive function will only drive a dangerous cycle that will ensure continued failure for this child who has enormous potential.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Success builds on success

I had a parent/teacher meeting this morning with my older son's special ed resource teacher. P is now a 9th grader at our (large) public high school. The building itself is overwhelming. To an outsider looking in, it looks a bit like the Escher painting . Then, it's enormous--2,000+ students. I had all sorts of worries even before thinking about the curriculum and the challenge that might provide.

The things we worry about are almost never the things that actually happen.

P. came home with a first term report card with mostly A's and a few high B's. This with a demanding schedule, including 2 languages (French and Chinese). His teachers uniformly consider him a delight in class and his math teacher has recommended that P move into honors math. (We're still considering that.) To top it all off, P was nominated and accepted for a peer mentor program where students are called to orient transfer students to the high school.

I was floored. Not because I didn't think P capable. He is and I know that he is.

It's because the early years were such a struggle. He was in such distress all the time and as a parent, I felt helpless in the face of his depression and anxiety.

Teachers complement me all the time on what a wonderful job I've done in parenting my AS kid. I'm uncomfortable with that kind of praise. I parented my *child* in a way that respected him and responded to where he was. Not because he is an 'Aspie', but because that's what I needed to do as a parent of any child. P has had one huge advantage: I lived through the anxiety and the stress, the sheer confusion of feeling out of phase in the world. And all without the benefit of recognition and assistance.

Early on, my husband and I made a decision to make home a safe haven. There was enough stress in his daily life, at school, with peers, that he needed a place to simply *be*. That was home.

I keep harping on this, but managing anxiety was the single biggest factor in P's success. Anxiety is the terrible background noise that interferes with every aspect of an Aspie's life. It is a set of blinders. Full arm and leg shackles. A prison cell. As long as his anxiety level stays under control, P can be his happy, goofy, gentle-giant self.

I hope and pray that P continues to feel safe, loved, and supported; that he has the grounding he needs to keep moving forward in his life.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Round 2. . .

In my last post a little over one month ago, I talked about my younger son's difficulties in middle school. We are now one marking period into 6th grade and week by week, the picture is becoming clearer to me.

His report card was all over the map--a mixture of A's and C's. On the face of it, that's not such a bad thing--a "C" is, after all, considered a passing grade. However, it's the pattern of the component scores leading to his quarterly grade that is one of the issues.

My son struggles most with organization. Both personal organization (aka--his backpack is a rat's nest) and cognitive organization. In assignments that have a high degree of structure, he does well. *Even if the work itself is fairly abstract.*

If the assignment is highly unstructured, than he will struggle with it. It's often not the content. Most often it's that he doesn't understand what is being asked of him. If I can get to him and look over his assignment before he's used up his reserves, I can often rephrase the question and the lightbulb clicks on.

When I see how like swiss cheese his individual marks are, then I understand there is a problem. For example, in Math class, he received A's and B's on his homework assignments, but did extremely poorly on quizzes. That brought his term grade down to a C. He didn't understand *how* to study for the quizzes, though he seems to understand the content when I ask him to show me his work at home.

The same thing occurred in Social Studies. (I discussed the geography problem in the last post.) In addition, students receive a 'O' on homework assignments that are not turned in on time. My son constantly misfiles assignments in the wrong binders and then can't find them to turn them in. One or two zeros can torpedo even an otherwise perfect term.

Understand, it's not the grade I care about. What I care about is that the stresses of this year have turned my eager, school-loving son into an emotional wreck. He's anxious and depressed and often explodes at home into anger.

This is what I need the school to help ameliorate.