The writing went well. In 90 minutes we composed a five-paragraph essay about ice cream. We’ll keep working through those ideas though (see Day #164 – IEP Results, Day 1) and I’ll keep you updated!
Then? He received an ice cream reward.
Just to be clear I am not a fan of ‘rewards’ – I believe people should just want to learn, want to be better. I believe that providing extrinsic rewards doesn’t create ‘real’ learning. It only creates learning for the purpose of getting something. You’ll find out later that it’s just another way that autism has changed me.
The next issues? Motivation and effort.
As a teacher-mom – this is seriously the WORST battle to battle. Why wouldn’t he just want to learn? Why wouldn’t he just want to do his best?
Search autism and motivation…you will get 9.9 million hits.
Search Asperger’s and motivation…you will get 242,000 hits.
This issue hits home for all parents, I’m VERY well aware of that. However, there is a unique challenge for students on the spectrum. The first ‘hit’ under Asperger’s and motivation cracks me up…”You cannot get anyone with Asperger’s to do anything they don’t want to do. Read that again.” (From: http://www.aspergerexperts.com/behavior/getting-someone-with-aspergers-to-do-something/#sthash.9hBiW97H.dpuf)
His motivation and effort are closely connected. Most of his teachers agree that he is ‘able.’ When he is backed up against a wall and will lose study hall time or have to stay after school he will accomplish his work. The real question? How do we get him to care before this point?
I have a pretty good feeling about what’s happened here.
We’ve been so concerned with leveling his emotional responses and sensory intake that we haven’t been ‘tough’ teachers. Which is the ‘right’ way (at least in my opinion). A child has to be okay in their heart before they can really learn – their learning represents the iceberg above the water. What is above the water must be supported by what’s below the water.
We’ve had to make him ‘ready to learn.’ Now we’re dangerously close to that iceberg sinking into the ocean.
So, the question is…how do we keep his emotional/sensory self in check while challenging his brain?
The question of all questions…
Here are some preliminary ideas.
- We need to begin by building on what he already knows and likes…’entering’ his world (See Day #92 – Square Peg, Round Hole). Slowly, but surely bringing him further into our world.
- We need to help him see the forest through the trees. He needs to understand the connections between what he is learning now and what he will be learning in a year.
- We need to help him see the relevance in his learning. When will he need to know about proportions? When will he need to know about genetics? The learning HAS to be real.
- We need to be sure his physical environment is comfortable. Most of his teachers reported that he sometimes struggles because of his size (fitting the 6’2″ 7th grader in 7th grade desks is a challenge).
- We need to be sure to be concrete in demands and expectations – providing written copies that explain ‘this is what you need to do.’
- We need to provide written instructions as often as possible – and in checklist form. We know that he will develop coping strategies upon the repetition of behaviors.
- We also need to ask him to repeat directions back to us.
- We need to make sure he is in ‘sections’ where other students are displaying appropriate behavior. He SO much wants to fit in that he will simply take on behaviors of whomever is receiving attention. Attention is seen as ‘appropriate and likable.’
These behaviors are for ALL of us. I truly believe that it is just one of the reasons that Tucker has been able to overcome so much. The lessons in school are reinforced at home. T he lessons at home are reinforced at school. We use the same concepts and the same language knowing that the more often he hears the same message the better chance we all have at it ‘sticking.’
What about those rewards that I am not a fan of? Well…there’s where the honesty comes..
He’ll work for more iPad time.
He’ll work for treats (ice cream, Doritos).
He’ll work to get to go out to eat.
He’ll work to get a new video game.
He’ll work for iTunes gift cards.
He’ll work for candy.
Looks like I better start saving my pennies…