Learning to Let Go?

I feel like I’m at a bit of a crossroads as a mom.  I’m trying to decide if I am proactively advocating for G by insisting on some accommodations, or if I am refusing to let him take on some responsibility for his own education.

The first trimester is ending and overall I feel very good about G’s situation.  He has a general ed teacher who has a background as a special ed teacher and is extremely good at managing G’s mood to keep him level.  His services seem appropriate and his ability to verbally express himself has exploded.  His classmates have accepted him and he’s socializing with them more every day.  So there lots of positive milestones to celebrate.

The one area where I”m not comfortable is regarding how much information G is expected to convey to us.  Telling us about anything that happened during his day has always been extremely difficult for G, if not impossible at times.  He is making lots of progress but we’re still lucky if we get two details about what happened that day instead of one.  Last week in his take home folder, he had two blank book report forms.  I asked him what they were for, and he was able to tell me that each student has three book reports due by the end of the trimester and he hasn’t done any of them yet.  He needed to do two over the weekend and one the next week in class but had no information about what books he was reading.  We ended up using books he’d already read at home and worked all weekend to get the reports done.

I was shocked.  This was my first hint that G wasn’t getting his work done and it was from G, not his teacher.  G meeting his academic goals is very important to me because I know he’s more than capable in that arena.  I’ve also always felt that teaching G good study habits now is vital, even though it’s only 3rd grade, because his habits so quickly become set in stone.  Teaching him to get his work done on time now is an important step toward being able to handle the workload expected in high school or college.  So I had a mild to moderate freak out.

When this happens, I purposely don’t say anything for at least 24 hours while I work through my feelings.  I’m working to act with logical intent rather than reacting emotionally and feel this has really gone a long way to creating a collaborative relationship rather than the stereotypical adversarial relationship between parents of special needs students and their teachers.  Trimester conferences are right after the holidays so I decided to wait for our conference time and ask the special ed teacher to attend to discuss this issue.  I was going to formally request more notice when G is refusing or is unable to complete work in a timely manner.  I was going to remind them of G’s difficulty with  telling us about his day and ask that his teacher not rely on him to tell us what is due.  Instead, I’d like her to send us an email with the pertinent information so we can ask G leading questions, hopefully teaching him how to tell us what we need to know and moving toward being able to do it independently.  Since summarizing and retelling a story is a specific manifestation of his disability, I wanted to have the book reports moved to his resource time, where he would get more individual help instead of doing them in the general ed environment.

Then yesterday, I was on the playground after school watching G play 4-square when the mother of a classmate approached me to chat.  During our conversation, she complained about book reports.  She didn’t know her son was expected to have three done by the end of the trimester, her son hadn’t done his 3 reports, she had no idea that he hadn’t been getting them done in class and now had to have him do them at home.  She talked to the teacher about it and was told that as third graders, the kids were expected to take on more responsibility for their work.  Book reports were discussed in class at least once a week and the kids were told to talk to their parents about what was expected.

Now I’m wondering if I’m overreacting.  Maybe this has nothing to do with G’s autism.  Maybe – and I can’t even believe I’m saying this because I hate this phrase – but maybe all kids do this.  Maybe G’s skills have increased to the point where he really is just like the rest of his classmates in this area.  Maybe this is a necessary step toward independence and my interfering would actually impede progress.

I wonder, am I advocating or clinging?

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Published in: on November 18, 2010 at 11:15 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I could learn soooooooo much from you. Thanks for sharing this story. I find myself trying to reconcile this paradigm too. Sometimes I get so upset when people say things to me like, “All kids do that…” but on the other hand…maybe they’re right? And will I ever really know?

    • It’s hard to know! I guess we just have to ‘go with our gut.’ Another cliche I hate. lol

  2. I have three boys (one in high school, one in middle school and one in 2nd grade) and so I have three perspectives on this. My oldest, typical, would have been the kid who listened to the teacher and came home and told us about it a week before he was supposed to have it done but would get it done without too much help. My middle one, mostly typical, would have told us about it the day before if at all because he has a hard time with project planning (still) and so he would have needed some support to be able to manage. My youngest, not typical, probably wouldn’t tell us anything about it because he has a hard time reporting information from school (even who he plays with at recess).

    My take on this is that the kids that CAN would have already gotten the reports done or are in the process. There will be a bunch of kids for whom this is too much of a stretch for and those kids NEED support. Just letting them fail isn’t going to teach them how to plan for this type of assignment. And the kids who aren’t typical and already have other issues that make this type of assignment challenging are just going to be missing all the learning opportunities. The teacher should have said something to all of the parents via a letter home or at parent night. She dropped the ball which we all do on occasion. The idea that they are in 3rd grade and they need to be able to do this is a little ridiculous. Yes, some are ready for that learning but there are a bunch that aren’t or have to have more support to learn it. Letting the kids fail isn’t necessarily a good teaching tool.

    My middle school child still can’t manage this without some support at home and its not because we have over-supported him. I get a little irritated at teachers when they imply this. Then if you don’t support the child and you let them fail then some teachers will say “oh, he isn’t getting the support he needs at home and so that is why the project didn’t get done.” Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    • G – thanks for your comment! Our G says he didn’t finish that third book report and we still haven’t heard from his teacher regarding any difficulty doing class work. So I think we’re leaning toward asking for accomodations and support rather than letting go.

  3. […] couple weeks back I was worrying if I was properly advocating for G or needlessly clinging to his accommodations because I wasn’t ready for things to change.  I was afraid I was overreacting to the news […]


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