It’s been 61 days since my minor meltdown over some issues with Tucker at school. The issues, for him, were complex – they were social AND academic AND behavioral AND just a general frustration at his life.
If you weren’t reading then, check out these posts and you’ll know why we were all on the brink.
The issues, for me, were not complex. Throughout this spectrum experience I have learned to exhibit two MAJOR behaviors.
1. Gather information. From everyone. From his teachers, his friends, his principal, his bus driver, his coach – anyone that will answer your email. Get information. This time I even reached out to his friends’ parents to see if they had heard/seen anything from their child. What I have found is that everyone has a piece of the puzzle. Tucker can’t just come out and tell me everything that is bothering him. He just can’t find the words – so if I start putting the pieces together I can give him enough details. Then, he fills in the blanks. We figure it out together.
2. Slow down. Don’t act on the first piece of information or even the 10th. It’s been 61 days and I was finally able to put our plan into action. With each piece of information I received I was able to put another idea into the plan – put another piece into the puzzle to help him figure it all out. When it all happened my husband looked at me and said, “”We’re going to think, talk, research, think, talk, and pray – together.” He has helped me slow it down…but I’m still trying to speed him up while walking (seriously…he’s nearly a foot taller than me and I’m always three steps ahead!)
Gathering the information and slowing the process down helped me to identify (and confirm with Tucker) three major issues. Think of it like this knot.
All the issues are connected.
All issues depend on each other.
If he tries to fix (pull on) one of the issues, the other issues become worse.
We narrowed it down to three major issues:
1. School is getting ‘hard.’
2. Why do I have to learn this?
3. I’m tired of being different.
SCHOOL IS GETTING HARD
First, let me tell you about the talent gap. My husband is a former collegiate football coach and the talent gap is one of his favorite explanations of why an athlete is not ‘recruitable.’ What is the talent gap? It’s the gap between your natural ability, the amount you practice, and wherever your peers are in their progression. Tucker hit the talent gap in math.
Math has long been his ‘natural’ subject. When he was tested (see Day #5 – The Two-Way Window) he made one of the team members Lightening McQueen out of tinker-toy looking pieces. She asked if he could make one for everyone in the room (there were three others). Instead of reaching into the bucket to get parts for one car at a time he carefully examined the original car. Then, he pulled out 12 tires, 6 axle pieces, 3 hoods, etc. He set up an assembly line to produce the remaining vehicles. I didn’t think much about it until she informed me that ‘most’ children will search for pieces, one at a time; will construct vehicles, one at a time. Essentially, he was doing multiplication without knowing. He could multiply (but didn’t know the operation process) in Kindergarten. In 4th grade he passed his timed multiplication and division tests within the first month. It was his natural ability.
Then his peers caught up with him, because they had to practice. They had to practice math, he just got it. They know how to practice math, he has no idea.
Now he’s falling behind – because math now takes practice – only he’s never developed these practice skills. It’s never been hard, and he lacks the skills to deal with ‘hard.’
We were also struggling with goal setting. The problem is that saying to him, ‘Write a goal that will help you do your best” is subjective and arbitrary. He can’t comprehend what that means – he’s a quantitative guy. He needs a checklist and a reason. Always, always needs a reason.
These two things are intricately connected – we need him to keep working hard in school to reach his goals.
After day #66 my husband and I spent hours in conversation about how we could do this – he was originally a teacher, so he also gets the language, the culture, and the system. How could we get him to understand why it’s important to try his hardest, what trying your hardest means, and how to set goals that reflect trying his hardest.
Well, we’re finally there. It may have taken 61 days to get it all in place – but it’s all part of the newest 6 year puzzle (See Day #65 – Six Year Puzzles).
What are our action steps?
Read tomorrow’s blog to find out how we are approaching issue two,’Why do I have to learn this?’