I blame Small Boy of course. I pretty much blame him for everything nowadays. He has been back at his mum's for 5 weeks and I have noted a measurable drop in blood pressure and cursing. From me that is. Himself continues unabated.
I suppose I shouldn't be facetious. Life has been testing of late and that, I suppose, is the main reason I haven't been writing. Or taking pictures.
I did take this one the other day as I sat waiting for Al to turn up (or not) for his tutoring session.
I had warned him that he would need to go back to basics and we certainly have. I have challenged him, and his male African pride, in a biiiiiig way but I've got to say he has generally hung in there. I keep reminding him that if he did the on-line homework I set him he might progress faster; but he is a 21 year old, good looking, socially and financially pre-occupied young man and if that wasn't enough he has recently enrolled in uni! Half the time I think he would be just as happy to sit and chat as do any maths (now there's a surprise). In the last few weeks he has cancelled once and let me down once. I sensed that he was becoming despondent as we ploughed over the same ground plus I knew he was going to be pretty fully occupied by his Uni course (he tells me it is a 'Creative Writing' course but after hearing his subjects yesterday I would say its probably some sort of Social Communications degree).
Stressed to the max by endless meetings and the in-school challenge of getting an autistic child to do anything resembling learning at all (see below*), I texted him yesterday to ask whether we were meeting. Previously I have made myself unconditionally available in an effort to reassure him that he could depend on me. This time, after a few hours of no response I suggested we could give it a miss. Just when I thought I was off the hook I got a text:
"Is everything okay?"
Of course I sucked it up and went in to meet with him.
Later when we discussed it he expressed concern for me but said " Mrs A, if you had just left it at the first text I would have been happy to have another night off. But because you sent me the second text I thought maybe you really wanted to come after all? My friend said I should just check you were ok and so I did."
My exceptionally tired brain didn't really deal with all this at the time but afterwards I thought about it and was stunned by his lack of comprehension of social cues. My first text had been clear: 'Are we meeting tonight. Don't mind if you need a break. Just let me know.'
His response to that was to think, 'oh, we aren't meeting tonight'...but no text to confirm. When I sent the second text 'I haven't heard from you but life is super crazy at the moment so if I don't hear anything from you I'll give it a miss tonight', he interpreted this as me wanting to come, rather than me trying to get off the hook!
This interests me because of the recently identified overlap between early neglect and abuse and autism. The autistic person, so much as they are able to reason, will surmise that since you said "are we meeting tonight?" and their answer was no, that you would automatically know this. Hence there is no need to text and confirm. Now Al is definitely not autistic; a more forthcoming and people oriented person you could not find, but his early years spent in a refugee camp and his childhood of neglect and horror has definitely left a scar. In this misunderstanding he clearly exhibited some of the key signs of the disability incurred by his early childhood trauma. What concerns me is that if he makes these kind of mistakes with employers, he will have no idea why he has been sacked.
Anyway, the session was worth the effort because I think he saw some progress in himself last night. We are working at such a low level: two times tables; the relationship between fractions, decimals and percentage; word problems. Many times it is the words that trip him up. Last night he tackled some basic word problems around multiplication and division relatively confidently.
Of course when I threw in an addition and subtraction problem he was lost again but that is neither here nor there :-D There was a brief lightbulb moment when he saw that 50/200 is the same as 25/100 and another when he was able to relate hundredths to tenths. It was one of those 'quick jump' nights when the last few have been plateaus.
At school I have had some moderate successes with an Asperger's student*; I'm going to call him Raymond. Raymond is a classic sensory seeker. He sniffs things, loves the sensation of a weighted cushion on his knees, leans into you for a cuddle and loves to have his back rubbed. If we don't do these things he lies on the floor and rolls around getting the sensation from there. He hates playdoh unless he is wearing gloves and is mortally afraid of making a mistake. Recently we have included him in a spelling group which has been an amazing blessing. Another group may have been incredibly disrupted but this little trio is phenomenally tolerant and have enabled him to feel somewhat normal by joining in with their activities. Yay!! (subdued celebration...just in case)
Finally, I sent an email out to staff a few nights ago, reminding them of a number of children in their classes with learning difficulties. I invited them to contact me if they had any problems or questions but to my surprise I got this:
1) Hi Arizaphale,
I just want to let you know that I think you are a truly remarkable woman. These emails that you regularly send out, your diligence and persistence in seeing needs met and gaps closed, and your gentle encouragement prompting teachers to keep on top of these issues, are all incredibly valuable and rare qualities that are so desperately needed.
I don’t ever want you to feel like you are not listened to, or that your work is in vain. As a mum of a child with Aspergers, and having had to witness his growing frustration and sadness in a school where he is not listened to, understood, or recognized, I felt it was important to tell you that what you are doing here is SO important. We are lucky to have you.
2) Love your work Arizaphale. It is even helpful for Admin to have some idea – it just helps.
They are all very lucky to have you on their “team” A.
Xooxoxoxoxoxo Bless the work of your hands abundantly!
3) Thanks for all the care and work you put into our kids Arizaphale.
We can’t always see what we reap but I think our kids lives reflect the love and consideration the Rainbow Rooms puts into these kids.
I was not expecting such a generous outpouring of thankfulness! It just served to remind me that the quiet beavering we do is actually bearing fruit. Tomorrow I have two important meetings, a transition meeting with another young African man in Year 12 and a Personal Learning Plan meeting with one of our indigenous pupils. Both are new ideas which I have not tackled previously so I am praying that I have the sensitivity and expertise to ensure that they are worthwhile and productive meetings.
Meanwhile in a frenzy bordering on ecstasy I have booked my tickets for my trip to the UK this Christmas. I cannot tell you how excited I am!!!!