Progress report on my son: ‘Out-of-the-box as the new norm’

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Out-of-the-box as the new norm

The past few weeks have been what I call the progress report time. My husband and I met up with our son’s mainstream school teachers, teachers from the early intervention programme, occupational therapist, speech therapist and the private speech therapist. The list seems to go on and on…

Since deciding to go on part-time, all these report/reviews come in handy as they would form as the base in which I go about formulating lessons to teach him. Through the ‘chatting’ sessions, these are a few things that I have gathered. According to the teachers and therapists, he:

  • has a strong visual memory, able to recognise many sight words and even recite numbers 1 to 100
  • works well with one-on-one but drifts off to la-la land once the teacher goes away
  • has the ability to memorise stories and words within two sessions of teaching them
  • is good at ‘bargaining’ with the teachers on the amount of work to be done through smiling and telling them, “It’s okay, teacher. One page is enough, okay? Okay. [follows with a glee]”
  • shows empathy even though he appears he is oblivious to his surroundings (one of his classmates have not attended the lessons for a few weeks, and upon entering the classroom, started to cry uncontrollably. My son, upon noticing and hearing the cries, went over to his classmate, and told her it’s okay. He even proceeded to take a tissue and tried to wipe the tears off for her. After that, he reassured her again and said, “it’s okay”, and patted her on the head)

It’s really heart-warming for a parent to hear such nice things about their child, be it whether their child has a disability or not. Perhaps it’s a way of showing my husband and I that we must have done something right, or that we are blessed with a child who has a heart of empathy. Well, I’m pretty sure all parents know that with any positive affirmations, there must be a ‘but’, or ‘however’ that comes with any progress report.

Based on their observations, it was pointed out that my son:

  • is easily distracted and needs constant reminders to stay on task
  • enjoys tactile (hands-on) activities but needs to be encouraged to work on written worksheets
  • is unable to answer ‘why’ or ‘what’ questions (basically he has difficulty understanding abstract stuff or applying them in the appropriate context, which is a common trait for children with autism)
  • is able to memorise stories, words, numbers but not apply them in the appropriate context. (For example: my son could memorise the theory and recognise ordinal numbers but when told to stand in the first position with the rest of the class, he will look lost.)

In the car, upon meeting the last teacher for the term, my hubby and I discussed on what we wanted to do. We decided to put son on either swimming lessons or art lessons as we felt it would be good to expose him to other stuff other than school. We are also hoping that through either of the lessons, he would be able to learn to focus and persevere through the tasks in school. I checked out this swimming school which caters to kids with needs, and was quoted $300 for four lessons of each 30 mins. I have to admit that I did swallow my saliva and blinked my eyes a bit bigger and wider when I saw the replied email. I understand the dangers and difficulties in teaching swimming to young kids,  and with the added ‘bonus’ of teaching a kid with need, but $300? Gosh!

Everything with an autism tag doesn’t come cheap.

Hmm…. needless to say, we didn’t bring our son to the place to check out the facility. (This is our usual practice. Whenever we want to bring or enrol our child somewhere, be it whether it is a school, indoor playground, new places, we try as much as possible to do a trial run. In doing so, we can foresee and work on any possible hiccups if we were to bring him there a second time with family or friends. Thanks to the signpost programme that hubby and I went for together which made it easier to manage his possible or on-the-spot hiccups. [Website: http://www.signposts.net.au/])

We decided to try our luck at the art school. Son sounded happy when we told him we will be going to an art school. I told him, “Son, we are going to, first: go to art school, second: eat dinner, third: go to the playground. Okay?” “Yes!!!” was his response. I wasn’t sure if it was the playground that he was excited about or the art school but it doesn’t matter. We were just happy that there was no tantrum or crying. The lady at the front desk was all smiles when we entered the art school. Our son immediately went over and looked at the art works that were displayed proudly like trophies on the walls. Hubby and I walked towards the front desk and inquired about the program. After a while, our son sat down on the chair. He looked around. Got down from the chair and came over to ask me,

“Mummy, is this school?”

“Yes son, would you like to come here?” [silence] “Son, why don’t you come here and listen to what jie jie [meaning sister in mandarin] is saying about the lessons here?”

“Mummy, carry?”

While listening halfway, our son came across this word on the advertising booklet,

“Mummy, blending” he exclaimed.

“Yes son, wow, you read the word correctly!” [Puts him down]

Son started jumping around excitedly all the time saying,

“Wow! Blending!”

After listening to the pitch-talk (this is what I call such talks due to my days in the advertising world), hubby and I agreed that the lessons were interesting and the price was affordable. We liked the fact that the lessons will be paced according to the abilities and skills of the child instead of a package of lessons that would be carried out regardless on the progress of the child. The lady at the counter said that our son had to attend a free diagnostic art test so that the art teacher can diagnose and suggest what she would cater for him. We indicated son’s name down for the following Saturday’s diagnostic test and hope for the best.

[In my heart, I really hope the teacher will find him manageable, and accept him in the class. This attributing thought comes from the countless rejections we have encountered over the years.]

Just as we were leaving, hubby and I headed for the exit door and our dear son heads for the classroom. We had to halt him there and explained that we were coming next week, and not today. Seeing the joy and excitement in his eyes and bodily movement just makes me wish even more that the teacher seeing him next week will see the ‘brightness’ in him and not cast him out as being ‘out-of-the-box’. Well, since we are talking about art, we should accept ‘out-of-the-box’ as the norm, isn’t it?

Love, A

Photo credit: Raksh1tha via Visual Hunt / CC BY

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