Friday, July 8, 2011

Transition Sucks...Just Saying

I have come to a conclusion that the way to totally freak out a very experienced teacher is to put them in the same room with CM2 and mention the word WALMART. At that exact moment of the utterance of the name of that megacorporation, CM2 turns into the possessed  Linda Blair from the Exorcist and proceeds to rail against the injustices towards the working class.

The teacher then tries to calm CM2 down while the para does his best to subtly point out to the teacher that she really should use another example of a multinational corporation, say like McDonalds. Eventually the teacher gets it and changes up her example, but in the meantime CM2 has gone from student to a person possessed by Legion.

Now, I had mentioned in an earlier blog, that CM2 was having a bit of an issue with transition. This is to be expected and in fact, it is the same issues that CM1 went through during his sojourn into the new world of college. Truthfully where CM1 was concerned we had no idea how bad it really was, we had not hired a para for him, as he did not want one...wanted to just blend in like everyone else. Now you couldn't blame the kid for wanting to be a typical 18 year old, but the truth of the matter is that we should have been more aware and on the ball when he transitioned into college. OK, hubby, the Wise Old Sage, wanted a para right away for CM1, but I wanted to let him try on his own. Well, it was a mess, but luckily we were able to get someone to work with him and she straightened him out tremendously.

Yes, I railed against the school district for not being upfront about CM1's issues upon leaving high school, but that is water under the bridge as they say and we learned our lesson and have preempted CM2. Honestly, it wasn't totally the school districts fault either. I have come to realize that at times, no matter what period of life you are in, especially when you are dealing with your children, it is quite possible to see what you want to see not what is truly there. So I learned my lesson well and have tried to be vigilant for CM2 so he doesn't have a similary hard time as CM1.

So the story goes, that the para was able to redirect CM2 after about 20 minutes by having him write down how he feels about Walmart in a notebook, while the class was able to continue on with the lecture. The professor approached the para after class and was not angry at all , but rather unsure what she was supposed to do when he got upset like that. The para said she was to do nothing, that that was his job. That was why he was there. Honestly I don't think she was against learning what to do, she did call the disability director right away, but she is a professor of sociology not a special education teacher. While it would be nice that people know what to do, it is more important that they let the para do his job. It is also nice that she seems interested in  CM2 and understanding him a little bit. It does help to understand, even if its only a precursory understanding of aspergers, if a child is in your class.

I contacted the disability director to talk to her about a plan for CM2 and as usual she was very supportive.  She told me that the professor has to set really strict boundaries for him. That it may seem like she is infantilizing him, being that he is in college, yet it is important that persons on the autism spectrum have clear and succinct rules of behavior. It is not infantilization but a huge help to these students. I am not sure how much the professor understood. I have come to the conclusion that no matter how educated you are unless you directly deal with persons on the autism spectrum it is all simply academic. You can talk about therapies and supports, but unless you understand and interact with an aspergean there is no way you are really going to "get it." I think this is because for so many, dealing with an aspergean, especially a college age adult aspergean, is counterintuitive to how society tells you to treat people of that age. It is hard for people to understand how someone as smart as the boys cannot know not to interrupt during a lecture, to not blurt out and not go BATSHITCRAZY when you mention the word WALMART.

So after talking to the disability director we have come up with several ideas:
- First, is that there should be a meeting with the director, the professor, the para and if CM2 wanted to attend to talk about class. I mentioned that it may be a good idea that I also speak to the professor at a meeting with the director only because, unlike with CM1, noone really knows CM2 just yet. I was not planning to be holding his hand the entire way. CM1 is pretty independent and works on self-advocacy, but the professors and the personnel at the school know my oldest child and understand him. If he ends up in a class without a para, which may be the end result this coming fall, he is not a surprise to them. The professors may not like that he has no support, but we can also just do so much. (I am not sure I want to hire another para for the boys. The gentleman that we have now is terrific and is a great role model for the boys. If the boys' classes conflict then the para will go with CM2. But I am hopeful that we can work something out. Two of CM1's professors have had him for several classes already and they do know him and his idiosyncrasies. So he is not a blank slate. It may not be easy for everyone involved, but I sense that the universe will help us figure this one out. So we shall see.) The director did say she would tell CM2's sociology professor of my offer.

- Second, is that we are going to write a bulleted list of dos and don'ts for CM2. Very short and very succinct ideas that he has to follow in class:
a. Raise your hand if you want to speak.
b. Do not interrupt the professor when she is speaking.
c. You may only ask three questions during a lecture.
d. Write down on a piece of paper any questions you do not get to ask at the moment during the lecture.
e. Do not yell when you speak, modulate your tone.
f. Respect others political opinion.
g. Do not call anyone names (he hasn't done this, but better to be proactive.)
h. When class begins, put away your handheld and iphone, take out your notebook and start to take notes.
i. Take only a five-minute bathroom break. (He hides in the boys room if he is terribly anxious).
j.  Remember to say please and thank you when talking to the professor and anyone else in the school.
k. If you feel yourself getting upset or overwhelmed, quietly leave the classroom and go in the hall to take a five minute break.

We are going to send this list to the disability director. She is going to look at it and add her own ideas. I think she will also show it to the professor to see if there is anything she would specifically like CM2 to remember. I think it will be OK in the long run. I told the director I felt bad for the professor. She assured me that the professor will be just fine. I guess in college everyone gets to learn something new all the time.

If anyone out there can think of anything to add put it in the comments, I would appreciate it.

Meanwhile, Wise Old Sage, had a bit of his own interaction with CM2 about his behavior and attitude in class. Apart from the fact that he was reminded that everyone is entitled to an education and that everyone pays alot of money to go to that school, he has no right to interrupt or interfere with anyone else's learning. We have never countenanced insensitivity towards others during any part of the boys' education and we are not going to do it now. You MUST learn to behave appropriately. That is it in a nutshell.

Then WoS asked CM2 what is his problem with Walmart. WoS told CM2 to go look up the charity that Walmart  is involved with and what other things they have done. How they provide goods to people that otherwise would not be able to afford them, and have brought untold number of jobs to areas all over the world. Is Walmart's policies perfect? Of course not, but its not something to go APESHIT over and ruin your class and come off like a jackass.

We told him if he wanted to get upset, get upset over genocide in Darfur or the slaughters in  Syria, Libya and Iran right now (But don't go overboard in class about these topics either)...Of course he is actually signed up for his freshman seminar which is Fathoming Genocide and the honors course the Power of Prejudice, discussing antisemitism, racism, Islamaphobia and general impolitic politics. In other words, the study of the demonization of others to hide your own failings, the use and the injustice of prejudice (by the way he chose these seminars out of dozens). CM2 is going to end up being as much fun as his older brother, you remember the History/Holocaust major.

Education is so you can learn to examine the realities and how they play into your world. Think analyze, examine and discuss. That is what he is there for, not to act out and to make everyone think they made a huge mistake letting him into that school. (P.S. no Walmart comments please, this is by way of discussion to calm CM2 down and teach him to think and not just react. And quite frankly to not get himself kicked out of college before his college career even begins.)

An interesting little bit of an aside. CM2 did tell the para how he feels very overwhelmed by the new school. He doesn't know where anything is and he doesn't feel very comfortable at the school. The para told him he would help him learn his way around and not to worry, it was going to be OK. I am so glad that CM2 opened up to the para. It is really good that he could voice his emotions and let others know how he was feeling.

We knew it would take time for CM2 to get used to the school. It is why we had him take this summer course to learn the school and learn a little about college level work. Could you imagine, five college level courses, social anxiety and getting to know your way around the campus at the same time for someone who needs structure and security. That would not have gone well at all. At least this way he will have an idea of how the school runs, where the stores, the cafeteria and the bathrooms happen to be and what is expected of him in a classroom, by the time September comes. If he gets comfortable enough he may even really be a bit more self-assured.

Meanwhile I don't think there is a problem with the professor. CM2 noticed that a required quiz was missing from the online website and I had him email the professor to tell her. She replied in a very nice email, thanking hm for letting her know and that she was going to fix the problem. Even if she was taken aback by his outburst she seems to understand that noone expects her to be a miracle worker when it comes to him. That everyone, the college, the disability director, the para and even we, the parents, have her back too. It is important, in my humble opinion, that you let people know, that this is a joint venture when it comes to our children and that you are always ready, willing and able, to help out anyway you can even if the school personnel don't think they need you.

So now off to get CM2 to do homework. There is a terrific syllabus for the class with study guides and on line practice quizzes and helpful websites for the students. I told CM2 that the professor has outlined the course in such a way and with such suggestions that there is no excuse for him not to get a good grade. At least there is no excuse for him not to try to get a good grade.

Wish us luck....We take each day as it comes....One Day More...

Until next time,