Social Success at Home
- Friday, April 18, 2008
day while still in the midst of the school placement crisis, I was grocery shopping
with Luke. The younger siblings had not come along this time; it was just the
two of us. That was when the Lord spoke clearly to me about what it was we needed
to do. You see, grocery shopping used to be a nightmare. Taking Luke out at all
would sometimes be a nightmare! We’d had more than our share of painful and
embarrassing experiences. Luke’s progress over the years had been so gradual that
I often failed to appreciate how far he’d come, but this day was different. I watched
him, enjoyed him, and took it all in. He was calm. He was cooperative. He followed
directions. He was helpful. He spoke politely to the cashier. He walked alongside
me, not running ahead or falling behind. Here he was, exhibiting the exact
opposite of everything they were telling me about his behavior at school. Had a
teacher or professional therapist worked to accomplish these goals? No. We’d
simply lived life together, day after day, through understanding, consistent discipline,
and training—and here we were, with far to go, but quite a long way from where
we’d started. That was when I got it. I knew what I was meant to do. The Lord
had indeed heard and answered our prayers, by showing so clearly the path He intended
for us to take.
family life completely changed after we pulled Luke from school. My stress
level dropped through the floor. No longer did I have to rush to prepare special
lunches each morning (Luke is on a restricted diet). No longer did I have to
coerce sleepy children to get dressed in a hurry. No longer did I have to pray our
way through insane morning rush hour traffic because I refused to put him on a
school bus. No longer did I have to write nasty emails to teachers and aides
who were ignoring Individualized Education Program requirements. And as an
added bonus, the children went through that entire winter without getting sick
even once! The calm in our home was so thick we simply breathed it in deep
while playing “learning games” (as the kids called them) on the couch in our
pajamas. Basically, we just took a few months to recuperate. Luke started
playing with his siblings again, and he began enjoying “school” again (I did
not use a curriculum, just covered the three Rs
and pursued his interests through unit studies on bugs and critters and such).
He’d always loved learning, and it was good to see that glint back in his eyes.
True, I was overwhelmed at times about the years ahead and how this would all
play out in the long run (sometimes I still am!). But in truth I was so
relieved after what we’d been through that no amount of worrying could convince
me that “school” was better than HOME. That point was settled.
Well, back to the present. Luke is 8 years old today. He is a thriving second grader doing grade-level work, despite the obstacles. His specific challenges involve various “symptoms” of Asperger’s syndrome: verbal and auditory processing delays, struggles with working memory, attention challenges, general “busy-ness” (sometimes negatively referred to as hyperactivity), literal-mindedness, dependence on routine, and social “naivety.”
We have several methods for helping him deal with these challenges; I’ll share just a few. Luke’s mind requires associative learning—I must find some way to connect new information to a “file” already stored in his mind. Without associations I might as well be Charlie Brown’s teacher, harping, “Wah wah wah wah wah.” This process looks different for every lesson but often involves having him do something related to the lesson (experience) or using a piece of media (a DVD or computer game) before presenting the “formal” material. One recommendation I will offer is a website called time4learning.com. Their service does have a monthly fee, but I have found it well worth the investment. Luke enjoys the interactive lessons, and after he completes them on the computer he is better able to attend to and make sense of my lesson on the same topic.
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