Monday, August 30, 2010

The Ultra Modified Assignment on Heroes

At the end of 2009/10 school year, this "super mom" and C1's Super teachers (general education and resource room) did their best last Spring to get C1 to do as much of a two part assignment on heroes as possible. The assignment came during a year when C1's behavior had been less then super.

Super mom attended trainings all that year that taught school teams and parents how to help children on the autism spectrum succeed. She attended September through March, and then proceeded to move with her family across the country. By the time she reached this new school, where the hero assignment was given, she concluded that C1 needed to be included in a general education environment, and that the focus should be on good behavior rather than output. (C1 had been refusing to do school work for most of the year).

For one part of the assignment, students were asked to research and report on either a historical hero or a public figure who is shaping current history. Figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Hellen Keller, and Albert Einstein were chosen. Finding a costume to wear while presenting the report was also part of the assingment.

The second part was to choose a personal hero. Many chose their mom or dad. Then students created a book about their hero. The fourth graders then invited their personal heroes to the school so that they could hear see the student all dressed up as the respectively chosen historical figure while listening to the reports. The teacher and students also invited all the personal heroes to a reception in their classroom afterward. The kids then gave their books to their respective hero at the reception.

To make a long story short, Super mom was delighted when C1 got up in front of a crowd to read a six page (the pages were small) report on Barack Obama. That was the good news. The not so good news was that she could tell that the school team wasn't as impressed (not that she blamed them, because they had not been in our shoes, so they really couldn't have known just how difficult the year had been).
Super mom knew they weren't impressed because reading the report was the only thing C1 did. He didn't research the historical hero. He didn't dress up. And he didn't write a book on personal heroes. However, he almost also didn't read the report, and if he hadn't of done so then this exhausted mom's morale would have become completely deflated.

Yes, I realize that we have a long way to go from that minimal success. However, at the time I really needed to rejoice in the wee bit that was accomplished and not the vast amount that went unfinished. In time I hope we can all expect more output from C1. Assignments for kids with autism often need to be modified, but maybe not so much to that extent. However, at the moment, the circumstances were extraordinary. Perhaps now that we have settled in more, maybe more can be expected from C1.

So with my morale intact, I'm gearing up to face a new school year that begins in exactly one week. C1 one usually does great with compliance at the beginning of a school year, so there is some hope that the year will at least start out well. I'll also take time to see if addressing possible medical needs will help, because one's health can affect one's behavior. Hence we will see a few more specialists.
That said, there probably won't be any more hero assignments in the near future, but let's hope that the journey of our"hero" (C1, the figure that seems to dominate this blog) will have much more success at school in the future.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cape Optional: the ten must haves of a super parent

Anyone can be a super parent. Whether it's of a special needs child or a healthy one who is developing typically. Don't despair, mind you, if you think you come up short with one or more of these attributes. After all, we're human, not supernatural. We shouldn't expect to be perfect parents. Aspiring to be as good as you can is enough. As long as you try. So here we go, capes or no...

The list

1. Love. Can't quite be a super parent without it.

2. Compassion/Empathy. Being able to see a child's viewpoint from their situation helps a parent to react to their children in a more positive way. For example, that loud noise might not bother you, but may hurt a pair of super sensitive ears, therefore causing some behaviors in public.

3. Adaptabilityy. Having children changes your life, whether these children have special needs or not. We all have to adapt...some of us more than others.

4. A thick skin. This means not being over sensitive to what people might say about your child/children. Fortunately this skin is invisible and can be developed over time. A thick skin is especially important for those of us with children who have special needs. The more time that passes, the more likely you'll be to hear something painful from other people who do not understand. Try not to think of it, and focus on something more pleasant instead. After all, whose opinion is more important? Yours or theirs?

5. A super sense of humor. Being a parent means having a few or more not so great moments with one's child. It's better to laugh than cry. I once took a knee in dog poo trying to help my child. It wasn't funny then, but can laugh about it now.

6. Accountability. No matter what they do, we have to be accountable for our children. This means not making excuses, but taking action and responsibility for your child. Me to a school principal: "Yes, I know [leaving this part out for privacy purposes] is not acceptable behavior. He does have autism and doesn't understand the consequences of such actions, but we don't condone that type of behavior in any way. We'll work on it."

7. Patience. I think all children can test a parent's patience. Some of us are born with more patience than others. It's possible that this might be the hardest skill to attain/maintain.
We're all human and have our breaking points, but if you want to be a great parent, patience is probably one of the most important skills to have.

8. Organization. This skill can be a great asset to any super parent. I envy those who were born blessed with this skill. I'm still learning, but we'd miss a bunch of doctor appointments if I didn't have somewhat of a system. Fortunately keeping a calendar helps. Now if this "super parent" could be even more super by being able to make up and maintain a visual schedule for her child at home....sigh.

9. Ability to solve most problems. Sometimes when you solve one problem involving a child, another pops right up. Problems, especially problems with children with special needs, seem to pop up like weeds, so it helps to have the ability to solve them.

10. A good pair of feet clad with running shoes! These can come in handy when a small child or a child with special needs takes "flight."

Note: If you have all these skills, then kudos to you. However, as I said, don't despair if you come up a bit short. I don't believe in the perfect parent phenomenom. Any one can aspire to be a super parent if they try. The bright side is that if you have at least six of these, you are more than halfway there into becoming a super parent...or maybe even further than that if you have skills not mentioned here.

This list is just a starting point...

What other skills can be attributed to super parents? Let me know! : )