Thursday, April 4, 2013

Practicality: Remembering to Keep on Top of Social Skills and Behavior

There are times, as our children grow, that we delude ourselves into thinking that some of our parental oversight is no longer needed. The reality is however, that as they grow, oversight becomes quite the requirement. In fact, in many ways, it is more important to watch what they do, who they talk to and how they interact with others as "adults" than when they were younger. Truth be told, once they reach the teen years it is no longer simply about "making friends." In fact interpersonal relationships becomes a much needed adult-world survival skill.

Most teenagers, despite the disconnect between the lobes of the brain, have an idea how to address adults in order to not get into alot of trouble. It is a self-preservation devise hardwired into their genetic code. This skill, unfortunately, does not translate to all aspergeans. In fact we are in the process of having to remind CM2 about the importance of respect and the proper way to address a professor withwhom you have a disagreement.

Calling the professor "stupid" is a big no-no. Yep he apparently did that. Lucky for him his professor is a very understanding person and quite frankly had no idea how to handle the situation. She didn't want to make too much out of the event. Truth be told, as a compassionate individual, coupled with not wanting to penalize him for his disability, plus lacking any real training on what  to do at that point with a person on the spectrum, she really was at a loss.

Luckily, in the long run,  for CM2 he had a bit of an OCD meltdown in class the other day (a topic for another post), which we found out about. That precipitated an email from me to the professor and the disability director. Happily a meeting ensured, at which we were apprised of all the issues from the entire semester. (By the way CM2 is OK now. Hubby talked to him and helped him work through the problem. Unfortunately,  however, not before he did have a bit of a scene in class. Luckily the more experienced para was called from CM1's class and he was able to handle the situation at that moment).

Needlesstosay, the hubby and I were not pleased to hear how disrespectful he had become. To say the least CM2 was reminded how he is to talk to professors and threatened within an inch of his computer games for the rest of the semester. He of course objected and began to try to negotiate any possible consequence for his actions. I told him absolutely not. That what he did was not a joke, not funny and without the bounds of decency. I reminded him how lucky he is that after that incident the professor not only didn't throw him out of class but have him removed from the school entirely. In all actuality she had asked CM2 to leave the class but he refused to go. (This was in a transition time when he had to go one day without a para to class.) The professor was so taken aback she didn't really know what to do at that moment. Without the training and the support she required I am not surprised. (This of course is an issue for the colleges to address and it is something that should be done to help the professors understand their students alot better. A good teacher wants to understand how to help and teach all of their students.)

After I had vociferously apologized  to the prof I told her that under no circumstances is that behavior allowed nor acceptable. That if he does anything like that again remind him that you are going to be letting me know. That should help curtail him somewhat. (CM1 likes to remind me that the reason he behaves so well in school, is that underneath it all he finds me scary...I say what ever helps them do what needs to be done in life.) We also discuss how the para needed to begin to support CM2 on a more interactive level. We had had to hire a new young lady who did not have much training in dealing with aspergeans or CM2 inparticular. She, I believe, was trying to give him space as you would any  typical 19-year-old. That, however,  is not what CM2 needs and he is not going to be allowed that leeway for the rest of the semester.

CM2's problem is that he, like an adolescent, likes to push his boundaries. Unfortunately he is not really an adolescent by age and it can be disconcerting when an otherwise "adult-aged" student acts like a bratty 14-year-old. It is not something professors are used to nor is it something they should have to accept. Honestly teachers shouldn't have to accept it either, however, as most middle school teachers will let you know, it happens on a daily basis (as my father {RIP}, told me quite often).

I sat CM2 down, in my kind, calm manner (hah) and asked him what made him think he could talk to his professor the way he did? What made him think that her class is any different than a typical lecture class? What made him think that the boundaries could be moved? This class maybe unstructured, but it did not mean that class decorum and respect go out the window. Class is class and a professor is a professor. I disabused him of any notion of his "rights"  immediately.

We reviewed classroom behavior. Raising your hand. Speaking only when called upon. Being kind when speaking. Addressing the professor respectfully. Speaking kindly to other students.

The truth is that the students seem to make no never mind about CM2's machinations. They seem to take it all in their stride. The professor believes that that is because this generation is probably used to inclusion and CM2 is not the first student that they have come across with similar issues. Of this I can be pretty certain. But another point is that the underlying theme of this college is compassion and understanding. As I told the disability director, you do not come to this college unless you are a "menschy" person to begin with.

I can honestly say that the boys have not run into any bullying or nastiness from the other students due to their issues on this campus. Students may give them a hard time about their politics (CM1's politics are rather non-mainstream for this school not so CM2's) but they can hold their own in any political conversation. So I am truly not concerned about that aspect of their day to day lives. In fact I have seen CM1, who was bullied and alienated throughout high school, blossom with knowing that people will not pick on him and that he can hold his own in the real world. It took awhile but CM1 did learn that not everyone is going to treat him poorly in his life.

In the meantime, CM2 was given a good talking to about his behavior. We reviewed how he was to talk to the professor and how he is to behave. The para is going to have a sit-down and be given pointers on what she needs to do to better support CM2.

Now apparently CM2 has also not been participating appropriately in class (I am not surprised) and was told that because of that, and since participation is 50% of his grade, he is going to be given an extra writing assignment. The professor knows that writing is his strength and kindly wanted to figure out a way for him to earn a good grade for the class.

We had another talk about participation in class and helped him come up with how that can be accomplished. He discussed his sensory issues with the class and I explained to him that if he is having issues he can't ignore them. He needs to figure out how to overcome them. That asking for ideas and help is a good thing not a sign of weakness on his part. I also told him that his sensory issues cannot be used as an excuse to not participate. He needs to participate for the rest of the semester. I spoke to the professor about it and we gave her some written ideas on how to help him.

In truth it is not a good thing to ignore issues or problems. As an adult, in the real world, if things are not going the way they should you don't just throw up your hands an say forget it or ignore the problem. Adults need to deal with things head on. That is the only way to move forward and keep growing, moving at a good pace and being able to realize your dreams.

There are many issues that surface during the older teen years for aspergeans. When you think that they have the behavior patterns down, a wrench gets thrown into the mix and you learn another lesson. Eternal vigilance is the way to maintain democracy, it is also the way to make sure that your aspergean retains the ability to translate social concepts into new unfamiliar situations.


As a note to anyone who wants to listen: with the new generation of aspergeans attending college and the boys truly being only the tip of the iceberg, it would behoove colleges and universities to give some form of training or a lecture series for the professors in order for them to learn how to help these students benefit from their education. A good educator is not only interested in coming to the lecture hall but reaching their students as well. And yes I am well aware of the privacy issues involved with students being able to keep their disabilities to themselves, but these lecture series do not have to be pinpointed to anyone particular student. They can be a general understanding of the different types of  learners coming to campuses these days and how the professor can reach out to the students.

The truth is that as the professor pointed out and she was completely correct, CM2's issues are entitled to be addressed, but at the same time, he does not have a right to interfere with other students' education nor how she needs to run her class. Professors need scripts and ideas what to do in situations when things do go awry where special education students are concerned. There is a fine line between an adult's right to privacy and other's right to an education. Truth be told, that is why so many aspergeans even though intellectually capable for college work, tend to drop out of post secondary education at a higher rate than a neurotypical student. There needs to be the proper support mechanisms in place and it can't all be left up to the pocketbook of the parents. Most cannot afford to provide the necessary support, which leaves their children in limbo without an education and without any future what so ever.

Which bring us right back to the issue of adult services for those on the autism spectrum and the lack yet another post for another day.