Tuesday, January 18, 2011

5 Hours of Homework!? Searching for a Better Plan for Help with Aspergers

Things had been working out pretty well for MJ. His 504 Plan seemed to be working and he had a PDA that he remembered most of the time, and mostly he was excelling in school. On occasion there would be a few missed things that he forgot to finish or take to school because he hadn't programmed them into his PDA, but over all it seemed like he was getting all his work taken care of and he was getting good grades.

MJ has actually become a pretty responsible kid. I believe a lot of it has to do with routine and expectations. He has a set of "jobs" that he is responsible for everyday before he is allowed to play on the computer. His "jobs" consist of:

1-clean room
2-do homework
3-unload the dishwasher
4-practice guitar

Nothing too major I believe. He is very good about getting them all done each day and then having time to spare. However, on a recent Monday everything was different.

Usually it takes him a half hour to do his homework which is normally just some spelling practice and occasionally a math worksheet he didn't finish in school. But on this particular day, for some reason he had a lot more homework than usual.

I set him off to do his homework, and a couple hours later I was surprised that he was still working on it. Had he been playing around? Distracted? Reading?
He was actually working straight for 2 hours. So I asked him what he was doing, and he began telling me all the things he had for homework that night. He said not only did he have his regular spelling work, but he also had to do math homework out of his book, and then he had to finish 5 different reading/language segments out of his book which involved 5 different pages of essay questions, and then he had to finish some packet and also write what he called a "myth story".

Woh. How could he have so much work all of the sudden?

Now, knowing MJ, I figure he must have not finished these assignments in class because it is often that he doesn't finish, but usually he brings things home on and off and gets them done throughout the school year. Usually it is just a page or two in different subjects, but nothing like this. Something must be up, but what?

MJ tells me it is the end of the quarter this week and he has to finish all of his assignments by tomorrow. Still, this seemed like quite a lot, and as he continued doing his homework for the next 3 hours, I felt terrible as he struggled to finish while tears rolled down his face.

MJ has a very good teacher and she is very considerate and helpful and works with him very well, so I decided to send her an email about my concerns. She quickly emailed me back and gave me a call.

What came out was that they had this sort of deal. She was very accommodating and followed his 504 Plan well. She allowed him extra time to finish his assignments whether that mean in class, or to be taken home to finish later. While most kids turned in their work that day, she would tell MJ that he could finish it later and just turn it in whenever he was done.

That was the problem. A non-literal, direct bit of communication that doesn't seem like much, but to MJ it meant he didn't need to finish that work that same day, just whenever and then turn it in when he was done.

Now sooo sad that my kids are such procrastinators (well at least he did get around to it finally), but MJ would have never thought to bring home his assignments each night to finish because she had told him it didn't matter when just as long as he turned it in as he finished before the quarter ended. Poor MJ can't process this too well and unless a person tells him he needs to do this "NOW" or a more specific time frame, then he will more than likely not do it until it is actually due.

His teacher felt really bad that he had been doing nothing but homework for 5 hours, and I felt bad too, but he did need to get it done (although his teacher said he still had until the end of the week), but something was not working here.

Dang that PDA---MJ had run out the battery and it had erased all his programs and so he hadn't been using it for the last many weeks. Was this the problem too?

There is so much that can be overcome with Asperger's with technology, but what happens when technology dies, or runs out of batteries? MJ does so well with routines in fulfilling his responsibilities, but we need to possibly incorporate future and daily planning into his routine as well. He can't always assume there is going to be a deadline for all his work in life, and if there is not, is he going to be able to do his work without his boss or teacher saying "you must do this NOW" to direct him? I do not know. It is frustrating how literal an Aspie must be, and I wonder if he will grow and mature to figure things out more in life.

I look at my husband and see so many times still that he does not get things or understand what people have meant to say. His work is all deadlines, thank goodness, he uses his phone as a constant beeper/alarm to remind him when he needs to do things, but it is still not full proof. It is often he gets behind or misses programming something in there. Maybe it will be a struggle for MJ as the years go on. We need to figure out a better plan.

1 comment:

Bella @ If This is Motherhood said...

We struggle consistently with homework, especially bringing it home or turning it in but the school has been very harsh and almos refusing to work with me. I have another meeting Monday because the teacher was hitting him with zeros without even letting me know that his homework hadn't been turned it.

I wonder if this 5 hour stint will help MJ remember next time? I know that isn't how aspies typically learn, but many aspies would have flat out given up at the 2 hour point, and it sounds like your son, however dismayed he was about it, was bound and determined.

Oh yes, and the school here assigned Damian 2 homework buddies. They remind him to bring books home and he reminds them. Would that help perhaps?