Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Practicality: A New School Year and New Ideas for Support

The semester has begun. That was one of the shortest summers on record. Everyone was so busy I think I could have used another few weeks off. Vacation basically began just as the summer was ending. We, as a family, really needed to sit still and do nothing. Both boys had school this summer and it is quite interesting to try to fit an entire semester worth of learning into 5-6 weeks. There is no rest and no respite. They study all the time.

In actuality it was really good for both of them.  CM2 got his foreign language requirement out of the way. MrGS dashed off his bridge-requirements before starting his masters program.

It was also an eye opener as to how to help CM2 a little bit more with his schooling. He did really well at Spanish, but there was an added feature that we are working through right now. Since he had school every day for 5-6 hours, with only Wednesday off, he had to be really really organized. The para helped with that. He made certain that CM2 was on target. That he had the lessons done. He helped him through the labs and helped him see how things all fit together. In fact, on Wednesdays he didn't stay home. He went into school to work on homework, organization and meet with the professor for extra help.

CM2 was doing so well, that a few times he even corrected the para's Spanish, which wouldn't be a big deal except that the aide is an Hispanic-American. He had actually immigrated from a South American country as a child. So I find it really funny that CM2 was correcting his Spanish. Honestly so did the aide. It did give him a chuckle. In fact, CM2's Spanish was so good that he was able to talk to some of the cafeteria workers in Spanish. The aide relayed that the staff was so impressed because CM2 not only spoke well, he spoke with a good accent.

So what was different about this summer and the past few semesters? Apart from the fact that we finally figured out the medicine issue, the organization issue was also taken care of. The aide working with CM2 every day, helped him with his executive functioning skills. He showed CM2 what he had to do and the best way to go about it.

We had always wondered what happened with CM2 during the semesters. He is a very bright youngman. Very on the ball. There should really be no reason that he can't do the coursework and do it well. Happily we think we now have the real answer.

Listen we had always tried to help CM2 organize his life. We had him make up schedules. We had him show us what needed to be done. We have copies of his syllabi. But at some point in his studying he would get lost. He would drift. He would take that road less traveled, but just never come back to the main thoroughfare and get back to where he needed to go.

At first we decided to remove him from his office when he needed to study, but didn't need to use the computer. Take the temptation of the electronics away from him and his skills should get better. He would go up to my bedroom and sit on my bed. Nope it didn't help. He invariably fell asleep. (You remember how comfy mom and dad's bed happened to be.)

Then we moved him to the main diningroom table. He could spread out. There was no distraction, except for his iPhone and the twitter push notifications. (which presented another all new issue.) At least it also wasn't comfortable like my bed. He had to sit in a good chair and concentrate. IPhone off to the side. Volume turned down so he couldn't hear the dings. It worked for awhile. It remains the go to place for studying on the weekend.

But ultimately we realized that the best place for him to study is at school. In a cubby. In the library. Surrounded by his fellow students. The para helps him go over what needs to be done. They sit at the table which has become his "spot." In fact the librarian knows which desk CM2 prefers and even mentioned one day when he was sitting somewhere else. And miracle of miracle, the work gets done. He goes over his reading. He works on his papers. He even interacts with other students. He is gone from early in the morning until late in the afternoon. Coming home just in time for dinner. (Personally neither hubby nor I could study at school and was most successful working at home. So, no, your children do not always take after you, including when it comes to school.)

So far, CM2 is organized. He is productive. He is tired, but he is successful.

Next step, since we have figured out the "place" issue, is tackling the issues with executive functioning skills. CM2 can schedule with the best of them. He just needs that little oversight still and that ever so slight little push. He needs to not feel overwhelmed by the assignments and he needs to be shown how it all will work out. He simply needs to be shown that he can juggle his video games, school and talking to other students too. It's that OCD, time management catastrophizing aspergean  issue that has haunted him his entire life. Fear of too much work. Fear of not knowing where to begin. Fear of having to give up every fun aspect of his life. The anxiety paralyzes him at times. Hopefully this new executive functioning regime will help him see things a little clearer.

Meanwhile, he is also meeting people. Here's hoping that being on campus so much leads to a friendship or two. He never has to go to parties, but it would be nice if he realized that he can make friends and have peers like him as well. After his best friend in high school decided to stop being friends, he sort of had given up on friendships. But he does like to interact with those his own age, especially when they talk about video/computer games. Especially if they are feminine, smart, pretty and blonde. Making friends is a hard skill to master for anyone unless you are naturally inclined to be an extrovert. But happily as long as he is on campus he is at least learning and trying in every aspect of his life including the social. Which is a huge accomplishment all on its own.