Remote school and special needs

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 20, 2020, 10:30 AM | comments: 0

I'm not sure why school has been more disastrous than it was in the spring, when they were all winging it, but it is for us. As a percentage, I haven't had to be involved in that much of it, but enough to see how terrible it is. I don't know how Diana will survive it. Under normal circumstances, Simon has two teachers, a special education teacher, a staffing specialist, sometimes a psychologist, and a pretty great principal looking out for him. Very little of that translates well to the virtual world.

It starts with the IT problem. While I can appreciate a well-oiled machine at work, where we've all used this stuff for years, that's not the case for school. Now layer in a kid who finds comfort in the order of working technology. When something goes wrong, like a meeting drops, or worse he can't get into one for some permissions reason, he flips out. Last week, there were notifications that kept appearing over the text box for chat, which was infuriating for him. When he accidentally closed the window, I witnessed a meltdown unlike anything I've seen in probably a year. And mind you, this was just some trivia, for fun. I couldn't get him back after that, and my reaction to his reaction was also fairly visceral and not constructive.

The other thing we struggle with is keeping him plugged in. When his mind wanders, as it often does with ADHD, he'll miss some vital verbal instructions, and then panic when he doesn't understand what he's supposed to do. In a classroom setting, this becomes obvious, but not at all here. Diana can't sit with him the entire time.

There are purely mechanical brain wiring issues that we've seen in a way that we couldn't appreciate though when he was physically in school. The more we see instances of multiple choice, for example, he simply can't move on if he doesn't know the answer. It seems impossible, but guessing is something he seems almost incapable of. I think a part of it is that he doesn't understand the consequence of being wrong. He doesn't understand that being wrong is part of the learning process, that to get something correct means understanding when it's wrong.

The part with the consequence is not new, as he struggles with this in all aspects of life. Cause and effect as a broad concept seems hard for him. When he misbehaves and is punished, he doesn't make the connection of why there's a consequence. So if we take away video games, for example, his brain doesn't go to, "I should not do that again," it's, "How do I reverse the situation and get back the privilege I lost?" This one is tough. When he is disciplined, he shouts and insists that we're making him angry, again, not understanding that it was his actions that got us here.

For me at least, the biggest problem is trying to balance accommodation with accountability. There are legitimate reasons that we will help him out at times, admittedly often for our own convenience, because you have to pick your battles. You want to help "fix" his problems, but that can come at the expense of him learning to do things himself. For example, I wouldn't help him get the last bit of toothpaste out of a tube, and me not helping, or suggesting he just get a new one, led to an epic meltdown. The situation was avoidable, sure, but at what point am I reinforcing reliance for relatively simple issues of self-care?

I don't like myself or being a parent in these situations. This is the stuff I'm seeing a therapist for. It's hard to cut yourself slack when you have a finite amount of time to help your little human grow up to be functional and successful. In the short term, you just want your kid to be happy.


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