Yes…two weeks ago I wrote a series of posts about today.
But today was the real day…I’m actually writing this part yesterday…in preparation for tomorrow…which is today. Confusing? Well…that’s sort of how your brain feels working up to the IEP day. On overload.
Thoughts that come to mind….
The thing about IEP meetings…they provide direction. They provide new life.
Here’s how I can best explain it…
To help Estelle with her academics, I brainstorm with her. When she requests help, I assist. If she asks me to look it over, I look it over.
That’s about the extent of it.
Before I get into the happenings…let me first say that we are blessed beyond belief with teachers that want Tucker to succeed. They love him like their own child. I wish I could say that is the way it is with all teachers…but I know better.
To help Tucker with his academics?
I left the meeting at 10:30. I ran five miles. The run created a list of 14 ideas. I’ve been sitting at my computer since I got off the treadmill. In-between work emails I’ve slowly, but surely, been checking on and researching those ideas.
The first issue?
He’s having troubles in literacy (aka ‘English’ or ‘Language Arts’). This is not new. He loves to read (as long as it is nonfiction – see Day #144 – Divine Lies), but writing has always caused him difficulty. I understand why. Here are just eight reasons…
- Writing is difficult because his language acquisition itself was delayed.
- Writing is difficult because having conversations is difficult. The reciprocal nature of how we converse is not natural to him.
- Writing is difficult because organizing words is still an emerging skill. He is still honing the ability to create original sentences (see Day #43 – Tape Recorder).
- Writing is difficult because as his peers were learning to write letters he was still develop the fine-motor skills to hold a pencil.
- Writing is difficult because to write we have to block out our surroundings. The sights, smells, sounds, and movement around him.
- Writing is difficult because the nature of writing is so subjective.
- Writing is difficult because the assessment of writing is so subjective. What does this mean? One criteria from his writing rubric, “Produce clear and coherent writing.” I understand that – but I teach communication. What does that mean to him? This is a significant issue – and one we MUST help him deal with.
- Writing is difficult because writing has always been difficult.
What to do?
Step 1: Contact everyone I know in the writing world that could brainstorm ideas to help him.
Step 2: Research, research, research.
STep 3: Plan, plan, plan
Step 4: Execute, execute, execute
Step 5: Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate
Step 6: Begin again…
So, tonight it begins.
When I pick him up from school we are going to the local coffee-house. Why?
First, because home provides too many distractions. It’s a place that he has ‘down’ time. It’s his safe place.
Second, because I’m going to work side by side, with him.
Third, because I want him to see other adults and college students working, writing, talking. Immersing him into the world of words – there is no better place than a coffee-house.
What are the ideas to help?
1. Provide him with a more detailed outline. He is failing to provide description and expand upon ideas. His teacher asks for a topic sentence and three details to support. He gives her four sentences. A topic sentence and four detail sentences.
I have an outline ready to go. We’re going to take one of his ‘finished’ essays and work on adding detail. The logical, sequential nature of his brain *should* understand a more detailed outline, then it *should* be as easy as filling in the blanks. It’s almost like trying to apply ‘rules’ to writing.
The catch? The outline is in Google Docs…we are going to write together…online. As he fills in the blank, I will question him – push him to think of more details to help describe.
Then…we’re going to try…
2. Working with a visual timeline.
We will work to collect pictures that are ‘like’ this essay that he wrote. Then, group those pictures into like topics. Finally, draw a line to connect the pictures in the order that we write about them. When we finish organizing pictures I’m going to have him ‘read’ the pictures to me as I type.
This will hopefully tell me two things. One, is he able to take the visual and transcribe into thought? Two, is the real issue the ‘typing?’ Is he struggling to find the words or is he struggling to type as fast as his brain wants to describe.
Then…we’re going to try…
3. Working backwards.
We will take a five-paragraph essay and break it down. I’m going to have him take out all of the ‘unnecessary detail.’ Then, we’ll talk about how the ‘unnecessary’ details actually help the story – not only in meaning, but in readability.
This is about helping him to see the forest through the trees – this is beginning to be a larger issue. He doesn’t understand/see the values in the details because he is unable to see the larger picture – the relevance.
Then…we’re going to try…
4. Compare and contrast.
He likes to read – as long as it is nonfiction. I’m going to work at finding two short essays about the same topic. We will ‘works backwards’ to get to the same meaning. Then, we’ll put those two essays to the side and compare/contrast the supporting details.
What are we going to use? His own writing rubric. Maybe the idea of, “Produce clear and coherent writing” will make more sense if he has to use it to assess two pieces that he read. Which one is better and why?
Of course we won’t get to all of these concepts tonight – but over the next week we’re going to hit them all.
Why? Of all things we HAVE to get this writing issue under control. Writing is a high-stakes skill. To achieve standards in most other curricular areas we have got to get him writing, and writing well. Experiencing frustration in writing will only lead to more refusal and negative behaviors in other content areas.
If he continues to struggle…school will become even more difficult.
ASD students often have motivation issues – difficulty in school will not help his existing motivation issues (which I’ll address tomorrow).
So far, so good – check in tomorrow for an update and for the second ‘lessons’ we need to work on reinforcing.