Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"I'm Stupid"

It broke my heart.  Ben never talked about school until about grade 5, but once in the first grade he just couldn't hold it in.  He came home from school, flipped himself on the couch, and just started crying uncontrollably as I held him.

"I'm stupid", he sobbed.

  It had something to do with Math, I know that much.

It's hard for me to remember now, just how different Ben was when he started off. 

I WOULD say he was handicapped when he was 3 years old.  He obtained special services starting at age 3 for speech, OT, and developmental preschool services.  MRI's snd EEG's were run, and I remember seeing x-rays of his brain in there somewhere.  Those were scary times. He continued to receive Speech and OT for 6 more years.  At about grade 4, his speech was more fluent and no longer echolalic.  Before that time, he always conversed in echolalia, or "tv-talk", as we called it.  He had his own laugh, but he was just as likely to use the laugh of a friend, or someone he heard on t.v.  I lived to make him laugh HIS laugh.  It wa so infectious to me, that I must confess I would do anything to hear it! I told myself it was shared communication, the opposite of autistic communication.  It connected us in a way no other talk could.  To this day, we speak in a special language to each other, not always in words, the primary emphasis being not communication of ideas/facts, but absurdity.  I digress...

Chaoticidealism's post about Autism and Disability made me think of the old days. Frankly, I had forgotten how Ben had started off, so different from his peers. He qualified for special schooling and therapy as a preschooler,and all 9 years in public school.  It seems now we are homeschooling, I"m not always reminded of his "differences". Surely his disability didn't disappear when he left public school, did it?  It always seemed to disappear in the summertime, too...Now, it's like summertime all the time.  Maybe it's wrong to cut him so much slack, but it felt so much like child abuse when he was in grade school, and even at that, it was never good enough.  He might work 4 or 5 hours on homework a night, but up until 5th grade, he never missed an assignment, even though he was unmedicated at night, as he was to stay out of a full time special ed program during the day.  That'd been even further abuse in my give ritalin to a kid for homework when he didn't sleep at night the way it was.  And then, of course, he'd have needed a sleeping pill.



It's a sin.

Everything that was done, therapy/drugs/homework help...was done to make Ben fit a mold he had never fit from the day he was born.  Why did I try so hard to make him 'normal' when he is SO much better at being Ben?  I mean, we were punishing ourselves as well as him, as he is so damn good at being who he is, that, somehow, I do believe he's going to make it in this world! But only by being who he is. 'Cause it's too damn much work to be somebody you're not...not.worth.the.trouble.

I've been thinking lately I"ve been being too easy on Ben.  Mavbe I should be insisting on super high standards like the public school wants but can't seem to get out of our kids, mostly  boys.  I WANNA be a TIGER MOM!

"You could never be a Tiger Mom, mom.  You're too nice!"

And I think of my own mother, who gave me unconditional love, and never asked more than she thought I was able to give.

"You know, I always thought it was a sign of weakness for mom to be so kind.  But  I think it takes much more strength to be kind." And only love is patient and kind.

We as mother's don't need to be mean.  The school will do that for us, and not even on purpose.  It's just what happens when you try to make people something they aren't.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

For being visionary, we're awfully verbose

There is a discussion going on over at a blog by a neurologist at Cracking the Enigma I don't really belong there, I'm just a nerdy housewife. So I'm a just gonna let my opines out here:

What is it about the DSM that pisses me off? Everything is seen as a defect instead of a difference. Oh, days of tying up left hands, BEGONE!!

So auties line up cars as children. Visualize cars in the real world. How do you "see" them?

How about lining up cans in the grocery store? If you think visually, you also represent your reality visually.

There is a bias via the auditory thinkers who need social interaction--they learn by hearing-- versus the visual thinker who does not. In the dictionary you come up with: impractical, impracticable, fancied, illusory, chimerical, unrealistic for synonyms of visionary, which I always thought of as a high complement. The antonym is practical ( from earlier practic, from French pratique, via Late Latin from Greek praktikos, from prassein to experience, negotiate, perform) People who think in words do have a bias. Negotiation is key,  If one doesn't think within the framework of words and with others, they are defective. 

In my estimation, these same defective people also tend to be inventors, progressives, activists, artists, writers:  people who live outside themselves in order to help or change humanity. The thought, rather than the interaction, is imperative.  No wonder this world is overwhelming  to autists.  They, in reality, live in a different world. In the autist world, words are a tool, not a necessity. Feelings and perceptions, the engines of sentient  responsiveness to the world, do not need words. In order to interact with those feelings, order to find a place in the world,  those thoughts must be given the structure of language. If you can't develop language to a degree to be able to interact with those who prefer are seen as difficult, strange, cold, needing "fixed" when in essence you are only being true to yourself.


In another vein, I had become interested in alternative ways to teach my son how to write an essay.  I can remember 30 years ago, mind-maps were beginning to be the rage in special ed classroom.  I could never quite understand what they were.  We used  Roman numerals and the alphabet to give structure to our notes, our papers--making an "outline" was key.  The mind map is a very different, and very visual way to structure a paper.  (You do know most bright kids in special ed are there because they don't learn the way schools teach.)

Here is an excellent, excellent example of a very visual mindmap. It is about the life and times of William Shakespeare.  PLEASE, do go look at it.  You will love it, and you will gain a good understanding of a visual representation of an outline.  It is fantastic, but I couldn't copy it here. It reminds me so much of the great comics Ben used to draw.

Lord help those who think kinesthetically, probably the least studied way of teaching. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ben's essay about essays

When I write an essay, I want to be clear on the topic that the essay is about. In the case of a political essay, I would want to make sure that each side of the issue being discussed is represented as equally as possible. My essay would try to be serious. But if it ever got too serious unnecessarily, then a completely absurd yet related to the topic joke would be written in. If an essay were to get too silly however, I would scrap it and start over. unless it were an essay about Monty Python’s Flying Circus, in which case it would need to be very silly. However, if I am to be writing a technical essay, I am to be very serious about the whole thing, because any silliness on the part of the essay writer could result in a catastrophic mechanical failure for the reader. When writing an essay, I believe that one should do the research beforehand in order for said essay to be accurate. I also think that one should not try to put their opinions into an essay, so as not to give the reader any unnecessary influence. Unless you are writing a persuasive essay, in which case you would still need to provide a reason for your opinion. Also, I always try to provide information that is new so as not to sound as if I am regurgitating what has already been said. I know that I have just contradicted myself when I said that I try not to Regurgitate old information. This brings me to my next point, never unnecessarily provide contradicting information. Contradicting information only makes your essay confusing and harder to understand. Well, that is my philosophy on essay writing. I hope you managed to gain something useful from it. Adieu.

I liked it. It made me laugh, and it is just like Ben.

("Everything always has to be a game with you, doesn't it!" I say.

 "Pretty much...")

I don't know what to do.  I'm a damn poor English teacher, and if you think I can make him plug into the standard formula; well, it just doesn't seem to work.  I do have a plan, though.  For a while I'm going to see how many writers I enjoy follow the

Main Idea
Topic sentence
supporting points

I just don't know.
Where does the "voice"begin and the structure end?

Sunday, February 06, 2011

It started with a Brio train

Some kids with Autism never lose interest in their first loves. Ben's happened to be trains. He got so excited his third Christmas when Daddy spent money we didn't have on a train set. He loved Thomas the tank engine, cars, legos, anything mechanical in the coming years. Then, it was radios, cameras, turntables, the Beatles...but his interest in trains never waivered.

Since first grade, Ben has wanted to be an inventor. Since the fourth grade, he knew it would have something to do with redesigned steam-engines and high speed rail. Specifically, somehow hydrogen power is involved. I don't quite understand, and even though we were encouraged in pre-school to not feed Ben's narrow interests, we kind of ignored that advice.

When this all began, when Ben was labelled PDD-NOS at age 3, he was not considered "high functioning", but some other kids in his developmental preschool were. One's daddy was a fireman, another's uncle was a rocket scientist. (Temple Grandin refers to the rocket science division at NASA as a "sheltered workshop for the socially inept" or something on that order.)

I don't know what the future holds for Ben. I know that he contacted the museum where he has been volunteering and put in hundreds of hours working with trains, the big boys, the real things. They rented some cranes in order to move a couple of engines off flatcars onto track. Maybe it'd just me, but I think it's kinda cool!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

I really, really love this guy

and I really, really, really love this picture

Although I gotta say, that boy looks like somebody ought to feed him some 'taters.
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