Sunday, May 16, 2010

Gaming the System

In continuation of my last post, I talked to hubby about the fact that HSB was gaming the system and that he had accused the administration of his school of being biased against persons with aspergers syndrome. I thought that they had always treated HSB fairly and were willing to help him, but then hubby had a different take. His reaction was surprisingly to side with HSB. Not that I am surprised that he sided with his child, but he usually doesn’t broker any nonsense from either boy.

He’s a pretty smart kid, hubby said. He probably understands more than you think. The reality is, is that the administration knows that HSB has aspergers. They do understand it somewhat and what they don’t understand they try to understand. It is not one of those schools where because a 14 year old draws a picture of two stick figures one with a gun, they are going to charge the child with making terrorist threats. We leave that for the morons in Georgia. They truly seem to care that HSB get with the program and do try to figure out how to accomplish this.

Last week HSB had another meltdown in that same film/video class. I was adamant that he not get in any trouble this time so I wrote a letter to the school and quite frankly in a very gentle and non-threatening way, outlined what had happened.

I wanted to reiterate some of the points we talked about before HSB went back to class. There had been a protocol that had been established in our last meeting whereby the TA would meet HSB outside, and find out before hand what was going to happen in class that day. She was not where HSB was when he entered the school and when HSB asked what was happening no one knew or was able to give him an answer. In the event that there was an open ended answer to “what we are doing today” the TA was responsible for trying to schedule him and create a program for him to follow, “not just turn off the game and put away the homework” instructions. She was supposed to know beforehand and figure out how to help him over that hurdle. Unfortunately that did not happen today. He then proceeded to try to do homework, while everyone did their own thing and started to perseverate on his history homework, which was a problem for him. That shall we say is the moment when everything fell apart.

While HSB did have a meltdown in class today, the protocols that we set up where not followed. Also there was no psychologist called, nor his case manager. These were the protocols that had been established and have also been in his BIP since freshman year.

I know that I have asked for a different TA and that has not been forthcoming, but I am at a loss as to what to do other than to change support for him. He has been doing exceptionally well in his other classes but there is something here that just is not working for him and quite frankly it is not the fault of the autistic child when those around him do not follow the protocols and offer him the support he needs. Of course, this is between us, as HSB is always told that he is responsible in the world for how the world perceives him and for following the rules. However, the issue still remains that he is not being supported appropriately in this class.

I did get a response and they did change the TAs. Now I do not know whether that will help or truly what the real problem is in that class, but as long as the school is making an effort to fix the situation I am not inclined to think badly of the school. But then again the hubby does have a point. Why are they giving him detentions or even threatening any student with ASD suspension if they know that they just can’t help the situation. Whether it is sensory overload, anxiety issues or lack of interpersonal skills, the child with autism needs to be taught not punished.

I know when HSB goes into meltdown mode, he gets so anxious that he cannot even remember what he did or said during that period. Truthfully it’s not a good thing and as I have written before. It is one thing to have a meltdown when you are 6, 7, 8, years old. It is quite another to have a meltdown when you are 16 years old, 5 foot 8 inches and almost 200 pounds. He does need to employ his self-help skills and try to realize what makes him upset so he can remove himself from the situation before it gets really bad where he can’t control himself. But as I have also written before as well, if a person with aspergers has trouble reading others emotions what is to say they will not have trouble understanding their own emotions. That is where the TA comes in and that is when they are most needed. Not to make sure he is taking notes, but to keep him emotionally in check especially the closer it gets to finals.

Now another problem we are having is a typical one for this time of year, HSB is done with school in his head emotionally. Since collegeman is done with his sophomore year HSB is very jealous. He actually even said so. That of course could be another reason he is not doing well at the moment; a conflagration of needing to be done with school and seeing that his older brother already is. But we told him only 20 more days until finals and he truly only has three tests this year. Not like last year, where he had five regents exams one of them in two day parts. Whether it mollifies him enough to get him to buck up a little I am not sure. But we are going to try to help him as best we can.

The issue of whether the school is bigoted against persons with aspergers is still up in the air as far as several members of my family are concerned. I told HSB that that is not so. What it is, is that he needs to be responsible for what he does and figure out how to help himself. We and everyone around him will help him. Society does not give you a pass. (That was the point of my previous post about neurodiversity).

The next issue I have is that HSB while being angry with the fact that he thinks the school is biased has learned to take advantage of the system. While he does get extra time for tests and goes to the test center to take his exams. He also takes them over a period of days. He actually will go back over several days to finish a test as well because he uses up all the time he is allotted. That is ok; he is entitled to the time. But what has started happening is that HSB has decided to take his time doing his homework and handing in assignments as well.

The other day he was supposed to have read the end of a novel and have an in class essay about the book. He said he forgot to read it, even though we told him constantly and reminded him even before he went to bed where he said he was going to read. He instead played on his iphone and Nintendo DS. The teacher let him off the hook and he went on to read during class while others took the essay quiz. Not really sure I liked that. HSB just didn’t want to do the homework, not that he was incapable of doing the homework. Very different things and quite mutually exclusive.

Alternatively in history he was supposed to hand in an eight page paper about the cold war. Now he does have a language based disability and does need help with writing papers. He was given the rubric and the instructions just like everyone else. He was given the time and sat with the teachers on how to do the paper. It did overwhelm him the amount of pages required. So the teachers did cut back his assignment to five pages. Hubby did sit with him and help him write the paper, but I am not sure that cutting back the assignment for him was a good thing. A year from now HSB will be in college and when the professors assign an eight page paper, it had better be an eight page paper. What he needed was for someone to sit with him and help him parcel out the amount of information to write about when it came to writing such a long research paper. But once he got the assignment lowered to five pages, there was no way you were going to get HSB to complete an eight page paper.

The same thing happened in chemistry class. He waited until the day that the assignment was to be handed in to try to do it during a free period. He did not have enough time to finish, so they told him he could hand it in late. The teacher, who is a doll, was concerned that he didn’t understand the material and even offered to help him with the homework. It was to be graded after all. I know that she would have done that with any student but it seems to me that HSB is playing the game and figured out how to manipulate the system.

Meanwhile, he did meet with the chemistry teacher. He did finish the chemistry homework and he did take the chemistry quiz that had been schedule for that day. We are waiting to find out what he has to do for the English assignment he missed and he is also missing an open book algebra quiz.

I know here that the teachers are trying to be nice and understanding. But at the same extent I don’t think they do him any favors when they make excuses for his not doing homework on time. On the one hand, the administration holds him to a behavioral standard and on the other hand the teachers make excuses for him. What he learns is that you can fool some of the people some of the time, you just need to figure out which ones are the ones to play.

Told you he’s really smart. He figured out how to game the system all on his own. No one led him there, but he learned. What we need to do now is make sure he understands that he is not to do that throughout life. That it is truly not honest. That it is one thing to receive accommodations to level the “playing field” when he takes a test. It is quite another thing to play the teachers and the administration to get what you want and to manipulate the system.

When HSB was really little, I say between three and four years old I took him to see a psychiatrist to try to parcel out the real story as far as his disabilities were concerned. The doctor spent all of 15 or 20 minutes with him and then sat me down for a chat. “Beautiful child,” he said. “Highly intelligent child,” he said. “Was trying to figure me out and how to play me from the moment I walked in the door,” he said. “With that smile and those big brown eyes, “he said, “make sure you have teachers with steel spines or he will manipulate them and wrap them around his finger without fail.” I guess that still holds true for highschool juniors as well as pre-schoolers.

I know everything that the teachers do for HSB is because they like him. I can’t tell you how many people tell me how charming and cute he is. So that is fine. Let society find him that way. I don’t mind. What I mind is when he takes advantage. It is a form of dishonesty in my book. I need to stop him from turning into a person I definitely would not like.

Add this to my issue list…so tell me when does the list shrink? I am still waiting.

Until next time,