Learning isn't just at school. When we learned that Ralph was autistic, I set out to educate myself on ways to help him. I feel like I cannot expect teachers to be held responsible for the success of my children's education without any assistance and time from me. I want to take a moment to let all teachers know that your job is so important, it is a vital role in society and so many times it goes unappreciated, devalued and becomes the scapegoat failing schools. Good teachers alone are special people, special meaning it takes a person with a passion for learning, a calm temperament and the patience of Job to teach children.
So I cannot ask anyone to teach my child when I am not doing my part at home. In kindergarten, Ralph would have tantrums when I would try to get him to do homework. I would give in to them and let him have his way. It was my guilt of knowing he was autistic and I felt like I could not force him to do it. As I mentioned before in a previous post, I lean on God for strength and guidance when I feel hopeless or discouraged. As days went by I began to feel as though I was failing Ralph. I felt like I was giving into the stigma that he was not teachable, he would never be able to learn like other kids, and his capacity to understand basic concepts was minimal. I knew my negative thinking needed to reversed. Here is where my faith came into play, I chose to let God lead me. I began to pray for HIS help with finding a way to reach Ralph, for patience to surpass the tantrums and knowledge on techniques to keep him engaged.
So at the end of his kindergarten school year, I reached out to his teacher and school psychologist for help. His psychologist Dr. Jones offered to help me over the summer to learn how work with my son. Dr. Jones came over to house once a week the entire summer teaching me how to work past the tantrums and provided learning aids to learn sight words, numbers, and sentence strips. She is truly heaven sent. It helped me so much with my confidence and reassured me that I was doing the right thing.
The first week of this school year, I began to make Ralph do his homework consistently. The first few weeks were extremely hard. He would cry and have bad tantrums but I would not give up. My husband would be ready to throw in the towel and let him off the hook. I stood strong and refused to quit, if I quit and let him get his way it that means I failed. If I let him go without doing his work, it only enabled his bad behavior. He would think if I act out then I will not have to do my work. The turning point was week four of school and on that night Ralph was awful the tantrums, crying banging his hands on the table the whole nine. I sat there calm and told him "We can sit here all night, but your are going to do your homework." My husband was on edge, on the verge to plead with me to stop, but tonight he didn't. Later he told me, "I kept quiet because I told myself if you are not going to help him with his homework, shut up and let her do it". Twenty minutes later, Ralph looks at me and says, "All done..." and completed his homework in ten minutes. Ralph had let me know he was finished acting out and wanted to finish his homework so he could do something he wanted. After we finished I packed up his homework and went to my bedroom and cried tears of joy for about fifteen minutes. When I returned down to the kitchen, my husband looks at me and says "I am so proud of you, you didn't give up! If it was me I would have. I am just so proud of you." And he hugged me tight. From that day on Ralph has completed his homework each night, even though he may whine and protest; he still completes his work. I won that battle!
We all make mistakes but you have to learn from them. We have to keep trying new things to discover the best way to reach your child. Learning is a two way street, your are not just teaching your child they are teaching you as well. Its funny I think I have no patience but my family and friends see something totally different.
While researching learning aids for Ralph, I found some really great sites and tools on Pinterest. Here is a link to a site that I found most helpful Mrs. D's Corner her site is awesome she has so many free templates and others tools you can purchase. She is constantly putting out new material, it's best to subscribe to her site to get the updates. Another site was the The Autism Helper, they have lots of templates and articles on academic learning aides and free templates, behavioral intervention tools and, language supports and teaching aids for teachers to purchase.
If you reside in the state of Maryland, there is an organization called Pathfinders for Autism. Pathfinders for Autism is "one of the largest autism organization dedicated to helping individuals, parents, and professionals find resources, supports, and training while working to increase the awareness of autism spectrum disorders and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families in the state of Maryland." I was referred to this site by one of the parents in my son's class. They offer a lot of autism friendly events via lottery, to take your child to places that are normally too crowded to entertain.
It takes a village to raise a kid. Don't be afraid to ask for help, don't be afraid to get help, and don't be afraid to make mistakes. I know it gets frustrating and you want to throw the towel in, don't let the power of negativity and doubt win. We are all winners with untapped inner strength. So what if it takes two hours to do one worksheet. Just remember it is not always going to be that way. It is never how you start, it's how you finish. You have to remain consistent and make it a habit and then develops into a routine.
Mrs. D's Corner - http://mrsdscorner.com/
The Autism Helper - http://theautismhelper.com/academics/
Pathfinders for Autism - http://theautismhelper.com/academics/