Thursday, May 6, 2010

Scheduling Homework and the Urge to Battle Zombie Mutants

This post originally appeared in July 2009.

There is a general acknowledgement in our house that if you can't find my youngest son, go find a computer and there he will be. This really wasn't too much of a problem until he hit high school. Then the workload for school became so intense that it really cut into his computer time and the battle was on.

How do you get a child who is fixated on computer surfing and gaming to concentrate on his homework, which is all done on computers nowadays. At first we tried not allowing any breaks when he came home from school. RIght away to the homework. This way we figured that he would still be in school mode so there would just be the push towrds the end of the day. Now that really didn't have too much effect on his efficiency. In fact, the fighting that ensued was legendary. I tried the positive if you do your homework you will earn "so much time" on the computer to play your games or surf the net. It didn't really work because he just steamrollered through his homwork, not paying attention and not learning anything. OK, try one down, next...

Try no.2: We decide to let him have a small break when he got home from school. We allotted 15 minutes and he wanted one hour. We negotiated it down to a 30 minute break, which if I got distracted and there was no one to intervene for him to break the computer "spell" his break went on until I was able to get to him. So that did not work. Ok, try two down, next...

Try no.3: No more postiive behavioral intervention, now we are going to go for punishment. Do your homeowrk or else! More battles, and less homework accomplished. This didn't last very long, its not hard to really tell when something is just not a good idea. Ok, try three down, next...

Try no.4: One of the issues that this child has is the need to control his environment. I guess its a basic OCD/ASD issue. So we thought OK control this. We would look in his agenda everyday and see what he had for homework. If there was actually a huge project he should have been working on, we get an email from his special education teacher so we are able to work it in. The upshot of this try is that we allowed him to control his own time/world. But the trick of it was that he had to do his work and do it well,or atleast try to d it well.

Now, they used to schedule him in school very strictly when he was very young and they of course backed off as he got older . By high school he just had the schedule that all students had .Except we asked the school to have him schedule his free time. Which they did, he did and it went great. On the weekends it was always somewhat unstructured but he knew when his activities were scheduled. What we realized was that open ended time is really not good for him. He doesn't know how to function in a time vaccuum. It's like a black hole, sucking him in while damaging his thrusters, leaving him without the necessary booster power to set himself free of the gravitational pull. So we thought about it and decided to try homework scheduling.

Coupled with his desire for control and his need to schedule we helped him schedule his homework. At first he needed some help with the schedule, but eventually he would do it on his own and then show me. If I disagreed with the time management I would discuss it with him. He would then change the times around. It was working really well. Except once in awhile we would have to peek in and make sure he wasn't taking a net surfing detour. Nothing's absolute.

The interesting thing about the scheduling is that after awhile when he would need to adjust the schedule because he needed more time, say for history, then he would rework the entire schedule himself. Of course, the "break" time when he would "computer" or play on a game system never got touched, but it actually worked out really well. This way, he got to have a say in his day. He got to control his life, so to speak, as any teenager really wants to do anyway plus he was learning independence, time management and organizational skills. All those pesky executive functioning skills that aspies have so much trouble figuring out.

So it wasn't perfect, but he worked really hard during his finals, over a period of months. He was able to organize his regular homework, daily review sessions and kill as many atomic bomb created zombie mutants as he could. Of course now that its summer and there is no homework, there is alot more time to save the human race.

As an aside, I want to know the exact moment in his development that he went from wanting to play Mario and Sonic to battling zombie mutants. It's like the time I caught him listening to heavy metal when he was a tween. The books never tell you about those developmental milestones. I guess the doctors don't really want to scare everyone into not procreating.

Until next time,

From a safer planet Earth,