Learning Disabilities

I've been fortunate enough through my travels to meet so many wonderful and loving learning coaches. I want to introduce you to a mom who has been working hard at schooling at home for several years now.

Her son, "Kyle" is 10 and lives with Asperger Syndrome (a high functioning form of autism) and ADHD. "Ann" has homeschooled him in some form since 1st grade: half days in 1st, the last two months of 2nd, full time since mid-3rd grade. He is now in 5th grade. I asked Ann if she would share some of her experiences in regards to the Love and Logic principles that we teach in the class. Below are some thoughts and ideas that she has been working on.

~Showing empathy
I'm convinced that this is one of the single best ways to keep or improve a relationship with a challenging child. And the relationship has to be there if learning or progress is to occur. When Kyle feels like we're on his side, he is much more open and willing to try. It's hard enough dealing with his challenges, that if he feels like the security of our relationship is in jeopardy, he just wants to give up and his behavior suffers. (And then, of course, so do we as a family.) For instance, when I say "It looks like this makes you feel frustrated" versus "Don't get so frustrated with this. Settle down and you'll get it," he is much more open to continue trying.

~Telling Him What WE Will Do

This was one of the best things I learned in the class. Instead of focusing on telling him what to do (which never works), we've had better luck telling him what WE will do. For example, yesterday we went skiing for my birthday. Kyle loves to go skiing; it's very freeing for him.

But often, he takes off down the hill and he's so fast that we spend the day just trying to keep up with him and it can be frustrating for us. Yesterday, I told him that we were going to ski as a group, deciding each time on the lift where we were going. Everyone would get a turn to pick a route down the mountain. I told him he was welcome to come with us, or to take off and go where he wanted, but we were not going to follow him. If we got separated, we were to meet at the moose statue at the base. If he was alone and got hurt, he was to inform another skier so they could notify the ski patrol. This way, I felt liberated from the need to speed after him to keep him safe. He now knew what to do if he got lost or hurt. He also knew I wasn’t going to follow him all day. Guess what? He stayed with us the entire day, and even waited for his sister and me at the end of the day when we were worn out. Score!

~Sharing Control
Some of the things we learned in the class square 100% with what we already learned on the job. Before Kyle was diagnosed, we were told that he just needed better discipline. We attempted to come down hard on him (which is against our parenting philosophy and it felt quite uncomfortable, but we were desperate...). When we tried to control him more, things backfired and things went downhill quickly. We learned right away that he needed some control and that empathy was the only thing that reached him..........We also knew that if we didn't share control with him, nothing worked. It's so true that the more challenges a child deals with, the more they need to control something in their life.

~A Card System To Help Transfer More School Responsibilities To Him

I love the idea of the work being HIS and not mine. This is hard with a child with special needs because it's hard to know how much they really can do on their own. I think I've done too much for Kyle, though. I realize that I am much more invested in his school work than he is. This is because he hates school (he tells me this daily), a perception he learned in public school that I'm beginning to think we'll never change.

I've been trying to come up with some ideas to transfer responsibility to Kyle for more of his school work. One thing that is really frustrating for me is to figure out how to walk this line because I often feel like I'm doing most of work! I want to transfer it to him, but I can't just walk away because of his limitations. This is a work in progress. He still needs me to redirect him back to his work again and again as his attention shifts around like a ping pong ball.

I created a card system and I put the 5X8 cards on a ring. It has the day's schedule (in pencil so we can adjust if needed) with his work, and what is happening right down to what we're having for dinner. This eliminated anxiety for him and provides routine, something that comforts people with autism. He marks off each subject as it is completed. I make notes on the day, and it creates a running record of what is working or not.

For example, I had to go and visit a sick friend one morning. I told him to get started on his card and I would return in 15 minutes. My friend was sicker than I thought, and I didn't return for 45 minutes. When I came home, I expected that Kyle would be playing a computer game. Instead, he had completed one subject and had used the card to guide him to his math assignment, with which he was 3/4 finished! I was flabergasted. It doesn't always work this well, but we have had some successes.

I think her last sentance states it best. Things aren't perfect everyday. But Ann and Kyle will keep working, testing, trying, practicing and figuring it out.

That's what we do as families.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the wonderful example of what can happen when you give children a little bit of control over their circumstances. As adults we expect the same thing, so why would children not want it too? I have seen it work with my own children too - when they get choices and feel like they have a say in things, they are much more willing to do what I really need them to do.

Balance is Best said...

As a former teacher for 2e kids (twice exceptional) many of whom had ADHD and varying forms of Aspberger's and other behavioral maladies it saddens me how often I see parents told their kids just need more discipline. Thanks so much for sharing your success! You might also like some of the ideas on this article as they are in complete concordance with the idea that it isn't about changing the kid, but offering the kid supports to help him achieve WITH his differences. Thanks so much!.


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