This week as we sat doing homework, I realized we were in a moment I once wondered if we’d ever see early on in your diagnosis.
Kind of a funny thought, right? Let me explain…
I know you should never compare your children, it’s not fair to you and it’s a dangerous game of self-doubt, questioning any and everything we’ve done as parents. Unfortunately, it’s a natural thing we all do in life. From the moment you’re born we are comparing your development to a chart that says when you should be reaching milestones.
We have no said “chart” here Addie.
There’s complete acceptance of this journey we are on, but with this journey it can seem like walking down a very dark tunnel with no lights. We only know we are heading in a direction, hoping it’s the right way. Sometimes this unknown can be daunting and emotionally testing. I’ve heard many times from our friends or just people we’d met with older children on the spectrum say, “our (son or daughter) was the same way” in referring to something that you may or may not have said or done. You’d see their beautiful kiddos and think, awesome - a glimpse into the future! A little light if you will! We’d eventually get to the age of those future comparison’s and you’d look and act nothing like they did. That glimpse we thought we had disappears like morning fog.
You see Addie, when you’re confronted with somewhere you’d imagined or thought you’d be and it looks completely different, is when your mind wanders. What will school look like for you? Will you have homework one day? Will we ever have a conversation about your day, using sentences? Read a book? Ride a bike? Even bigger picture – will you live independently or successfully use the bathroom unassisted? While all these thoughts creep their way in, I keep reminding myself this is a spectrum disorder, there’s no time line or milestone achievement chart, so no sense in ever trying to find those comparisons - because no two individuals are the same. Your time is Addie time.
We see your improvements and achievements however large or small they may be and are crazy proud of you every day!
Your wise Nana is always telling me to “parent the child you have in front of you now…no sense in worrying about what’s to come.” Surely, easier said than done, something I think not just special needs parents, but every parent needs to remind ourselves of.
You go to school, just like most kids your age, and we are blessed with an amazing program that helps you be the best “Addie” that you can be!
I think there’s a lot of curiosity about special education and exactly what goes on and how it differs from the average classroom. Our classroom is structured around the TEACCH Method (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication related handicapped CHildren) created at our very own University of North Carolina – Go Tar Heels!
The TEACCH method is not considered an actual therapy, but rather a therapeutic tool to help autistic individuals understand their surroundings.
Temple Grandin, one of our heroes in the autism community once said, “Neither living nor learning was good without order.”
You see Addie, many autistic children – such as yourself (and adults), have difficulty with receptive and expressive language, sequential memory, handling changes in their environment, or even transitions between simple tasks. The TEACCH method provides you with structure and organization (mommy’s two favorite things!) too help make all this a little easier.
This method relies on five basic principles:
This is the layout of your classroom. It has clearly defined areas like “Work”, “Snack”, “Play”, etc.
A picture schedule is set up which indicates to you what you are supposed to do and when it is supposed to happen. You thrive off visual learning!
This tells you what is expected during a activity, how much is supposed to be accomplished, and what happens after the activity is completed. Do this, then this, expect that. The goal of this is to teach you how to work independently. These areas are organized in such a way that you have little or no difficulty figuring out what to do.
Routine (Story of our lives ;) )
According to the TEACCH method, the most functional skill for autistic individuals is a routine which involves checking one's schedule and following the laid-out work system.
This refers to visual-based cues regarding organization, clarification, and instructions to help in understanding what is expected of you. For example, sorting all the yellow blocks into the yellow bin or putting all the balls in the box with a picture of a ball on it.
All this works in conjunction with the high but reasonable expectations your teachers put on you. This is not a playdate, this is school, and they know you CAN learn and do this!
So, while the method in which you are taught, your classroom setting being a bit different, in addition to having some pretty well-defined goals through your IEP (Individualized education Plan), you STILL have curriculum to follow just like everyone else, and yes that requires homework.
Practice, practice, redirecting, and persistence is key.
Addie, you are smart, VERY smart. Always remember that. You can do anything anyone else can. When it comes to homework that is no different. The execution in completing it may be different yes, but you’re doing it and we are blessed with a setting that is ready to really help you achieve that!
I haven’t met a parent yet that’s like, “Awesome! Time for homework!” and I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a struggle, but I’m happy to be here, in this moment, with you.
You CAN do this!