Monday, 18 April 2016

Dad! Can I cheat?

This week at school is a talent show and Monty, aged 12 with ASD, has signed up to play the piano.

Last month was a poetry evening in the senior school, where the older pupils recited poetry in a wide variety of European languages.  Monty did attend to support his big brother and did not do anything to embarrass him.

I think the talent show is more for the juniors, even though it is open to the seniors.

Nine years ago when Monty got his diagnosis, we were given some rather eclectic tips, including he might develop epilepsy and not to expect him to participate in school events.  I always thought the latter was an odd thing to say at the end of your autism assessment, however true it might be.

Nonetheless we have endeavoured to overcome the odds and make sure he does participate in school events.  Monty is the only one with autism in the junior school, while in the senior school there is one with Asperger’s, who proudly recited his poem the other evening.  The school is very good and supports everyone to participate in events.  It is a very small school, which does make things easier.

Talent Show Preparation

The only question with the piano recital is what to play and whether to use the music book or play from memory.

I am surprised that much of the music Monty plays he has actually memorised, but now he plays longer pieces and so the scope for slip ups is greater.

So I asked him to play his latest piece, Phantom of the Keys, from memory and after a couple of minutes he got stuck, picked up the music book turned around and said “Dad! Can I cheat?”

So he won’t be playing from memory.

More General Preconceptions

I think quite often people with autism are held back by preconceived limits on what they can achieve.

Some young adults with autism achieve far more than others and the limiting factor does not seem to be their inherent abilities, much more what they have done in their first twenty years of preparation for life.

Some quite able people with Asperger’s cannot use public transport and, assuming they cannot drive, how are they ever going to have a job? The problem often is anxiety, but in the previous twenty years was it not possible to address that issue?

Monty used to really hate the sound of babies crying.  The effective therapy was to be exposed to that very sound he found excruciating and not to hide him away from it. Now he is perfectly OK with that sound.

The same seems to apply to going to the cinema/theatre, if you start going at a young age you get used to the light and sound.  If you accept sensory overload as barrier, then you may just lower your sights accordingly.

The other day I was talking to a parent of a boy a few years older than Monty and I was really impressed that he goes to his special school alone, by the regular city bus, in the middle of one of Europe’s biggest cities.   He does not get lost, or wander off.  Good for him and you can see him being able to do some kind of adapted job in the future.

Other people develop intellectually, but early problems like toileting are left unaddressed, so you will have adult that cannot care for himself.

Some kind of job, or structured daytime activity, seems a prerequisite for all adults (with, or without autism) but if you cannot get to that job and care for yourself while you are there, you have ruled out that option.

The key does seem to be higher aspirations earlier on, rather than just accepting the many difficulties as immovable barriers.

Outcomes vary widely because each person is an experiment, there is very little sharing of accumulated knowledge.  Basic things like doing some extra school work at home often do not a happen.  In special schools, parents complain that their child cannot do even basic maths or write, while teachers comment “you can always tell which ones get some help at home”. 

The ones that get the help at home are the ones likely to get the extra support at school.

Common sense would suggest that parents must realize that if a child has great learning difficulties and there are six kids to one teacher, not much learning is going to take place at school and, if none takes place at home, the result is not going to be good.

You might think that some learned professional would right an “Autism for Dummies” so that many common mistakes could be avoided.  Such people do indeed exist, who can quickly spot errors that you make, not realizing the eventual long term consequence.

In the ideal world if you receive an autism diagnosis, you would be assigned a mentor who would give you occasional guidance and support through to adulthood. That way more people would achieve their potential.

1 comment:

  1. I was diagnosed with Asperger's this past June (at 53 years old). I have been wondering what my life would have been like had I been diagnosed as a young child. I think instead of being put in accelerated classes, I would have been put in Special Education classes with IEPs and medications. My parents, particularly my father, expected me to reach high---to excel in all academic work... to a large extent I did, but with increasing (unknown/unidentified) costs to my energy and mental health. My eccentricities/difficulties were minimalized... often dismissed. I was often called lazy when in fact I was working furiously to just keep up. With all my difficulties, I still feel glad that I wasn't diagnosed with Asperger's as a child. Not knowing helped me develop grit, persistence, tenacity, a deep curiosity.... all of which have helped me get three college degrees, a 19-year marriage, a beautiful daughter.... the only thing I lack that I want is a long-term creative career.


Post a comment