Thursday, May 6, 2010

Taking a Giant Step Forward and a Baby Step Back: An Autistic's Real Life Game of Mother -May-I

The post originally appeared in October 2009.

Many readers have asked for an unpdate about collegeman and the art class. I have good news. He did really well at the last critique. We had gone over the rules that the aide had set down and they really helped collegeman understand the dynamics of the situation. In fact, the art professor had written out a list of ten topics that collegeman could use to discuss others' drawings. Of course, collegeman didn't use the list. He decided that he knew what to discuss and apparently he was right. However, I did ask him if he thanked the professor for providing the list. He had not and was totally mystified as to why he should have had to thank her for providing the list. I explained to him that what the professor had done was not part of her job but was something she did in order for him to succeed at the class. She had gone out of her way for him and when someone does that you need to acknowledge it. I will have to remind him tommorrow to thank her. It is funny how even after all these years, his "mind blindness" remains a real obstacle to overcome. But I know with him once he understands that he is inappropriate he does take steps to rectify the mistake.

Actually what does come up however, is an additoinal issue for collegeman. As I had written about before he had never needed an aide in his previous art classes and was very independent during those classes. I know he must feel annoyed, mostly with himself, that he seems to have taken a step backward. In fact, I had discussed this with the disability directory just yesterday that I actually think I know what happened with art last year. Occassionally collegeman would tell me that the other students would do critique but the professor would let him stay and do his art work. That professor did not bother to deduct points from collegeman's grade and collegeman did not care about the critique sessions, because he did not understand the purpose of crtitique and how it fits into the art program. I know that the old art professor was just trying to help collegeman, and at the time he probably was right. Last year was a terrible transition year for collegeman and I am glad that he was cut a little slack. (Remember, collegeman did do all the art projects and he did them exceptionally well.) But now that he knows the lay of the land, so to speak, it is time to fully integrate into the program. Especially if collegeman hopes to minor in art. So collegeman has a new challenge. It was a new social situation, with rules he did not understand, in which he needed guidance. Unfortunately he feels he took a step backward. But in reality he will eventually take that giant step forward because he will develop a new social skill that will help him in whatever he chooses to do with his life. Knowing how to give constructive critiscm is a tremendously important social skill in the working world. It is also important to know how to take criticism and apply it to yourself. It is the only real way to keep developing and growing as an individual.

However, we are now faced with collegeman feeling disappointed in himself about needing an aide in art and still wanting to be independent. The truth of the matter is, is that here collegeman has taken a huge giant leap forward. The aide tells us that despite a few rocky classes in the beginning, and not with every course either, collegeman basically is holding his own. He is being appropriate and staying on target with his questions. He is not interrupting the professor or other students and he is respectful and courteous. Hey sounds great. In fact, we have discussed pulling her back in several of his academic courses. She leaves part way already in his law class and is going to be sitting out in the hall during anthropology for the next few days and after that she may be gone from there for the semester. Collegeman is also taking a course on the Holocaust from a professor he had had last year, and this professor even complimented collegeman about how terrific he is doing. So in that class the aide is going to start leaving half way as well. We are going to point out to collegeman his accomplishments so he can see the giant strides he is making and can acknowledge that he is progressing and becoming the young adult that he wants to be. The aide even told me that he seems a little annoyed that she is in class with him, which is a really good thing, since last year he actually admitted that he liked having the support of an aide. Now he is starting to find it cumbersome, HURRAH!

I think that for every set back there is a way to find that little bit of something that will help your child find success. I have always said that three steps forward and two steps back is still one step forward. It is like a game of mother-may-I. One mistake and you go back to the beginning line. But you always have the opportunity to try again and improve yourself and your position. You just need to learn the social etiquette of how to play the game, the right questions to ask, and the correct way in which to ask them. I think collegeman is on his way. He had a little set back this year, but one in which he will learn a vital lesson, and in the meantime he has been able to internalize the older lessons learned so that he can grow and develop into that young adult that we all know he is capable of becoming.

Until next time,