H’s most recent interest (since April of this year) has been in building his own Ghostbusters backpack. He has been is watching how to videos on youtube that have been posted by other kids with similar proclivities toward creating pop culture movie props and who seem to have certain engineering abilities.
H is quite skilled spatially with both putting things together and imagining how things might work and then actually making them work. He builds things out of Lego which blow me away.
It is definitely one of his areas of strength.
Reading and writing, however, have not come as easily…
H has spent thousands of hours outside of school working on literacy skills with Roberta, his reading instructor, behaviour interventionist, and dear friend. She has worked with him since kindergarten. We have additionally spent many, many hours supporting his reading and writing skills. He works every second week with a marvelous Speech and Language Pathologist who also supports the kind of thought process that goes into organizing his thoughts for expression and written output.
Over the years we have developed diabolical methods of reinforcing reading skills in a somewhat seamless manner – for instance – we always watch movies with the English subtitles on. This is good because, in addition to supporting literacy, it also allows H to ask his sometimes-seemingly-endless-questions during the show – and nobody gets frustrated about missing dialogue. I want H to ask those questions - because he is seeking out our perspective, interacting, and making connections – using the subtitles has been a wonderful work-around.
Regardless of endless strategies and the extra time and efforts of a veritable team of supports, school has not been an easy match for our guy. What has worked well for us for the last couple of years is our school district’s Distance Education program. H’s teachers are flexible and work to understand his different way of experiencing the world. Through Distance Education H is enrolled in a Grade 8 classes, with Grade 8 curriculum, some virtual classes… and then… he also has a home facilitator.
His home facilitator is his wonderful father, Craig. Those of you who regularly read 30 Days of Autism will now understand that this is part of the reason he is commonly referred to by me as The Amazing Craig.
We are fortunate – Craig has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education (and another in Music) so he is very well prepared to support H as his home facilitator. And me, well… I am a special education teacher, with a focus in supporting educators in understanding the experience of students with autism. Needless to say – it would not be an understatement to suggest that we are, indeed, prepared to oversee H’s education.
I realize that distance education is not the answer for every child. Like so many of the aspects of parenting a child with autism – a decision like this affects the family at the systems level. We have arranged our lives so that this works for us. It is a match for H and we are fortunate that we have been able to shift our lives so that this choice is feasible.
I guess the point here is that we have been able to find a way to make things work for our child and our family. There is not one right way… or a single correct path. Our lives may not be what we had envisioned when we set out on this journey…
They are, in fact, richer and much more interesting than we had ever imagined, and our child is learning almost as much as we are. No. Really!!
This is a photo of one of the amazing men from the school’s Tech Department, preparing an old computer to give to H. They are pictured here – removing the capacitor… so that H would be safe in his explorations. He has been able to take it apart to explore and use components to create his Ghostbusters proton pack.
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to promote social understanding and offer a glimpse into the perspectives of those whose lives are touched by Autism.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2012)