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We did suggest that my son be let off of afternoons until December, to help ease him into the new school routine.

His teacher, however, declined (to my frustration); she felt that it was important to use the time we had to integrate him into the classroom, as much of his life from here on in would, in fact, be in a classroom. At this point, he was in no way integrated into the classroom, and he did not participate in many of the activities; he didn't volunteer to answer questions, he didn't speak up in the circle, I'm not sure he sat still for story time.

The teacher also said that my son would simply stare at his desk for long hours of classroom time and refuse to do any work unless someone was standing over his shoulder to constantly prompt him. I volunteered to come to the class to do that, but she declined, and she found a different volunteer (I think the woman was from her church, but I may be mistaken; I only knew her name) who would do this on a daily basis in the afternoons.

The volunteer, however, was exactly that: a volunteer. Educational aides are available in the school system, but they require funding, and the funding isn't given on the basis of the teacher or principal's recommendation; it comes through the auspices of Special Needs, and to access that money, your child has to be designated a Special Needs child. To be designated a special needs child, the parents have to go to an IEP committee and apply to receive the designation.

We had nothing to take to a committee, or rather, nothing that they would require in the way of paperwork.

But we had the teacher's suggestion. A developmental assessment might help the school, and it might help us. Honestly, at this point we knew our son could be two things: very, very difficult if you did not know him reasonably well, and very, very sweet if you did. We had pretty much juggled our way around the difficult parts, assuming these were personality quirks that time would eventually smooth out.

The grade one teacher had spent all of her teaching career as a special ed teacher, in classrooms of six (or fewer) children, and we'd no reason at all to doubt her observations, so we headed off to our son's paediatrician to ask her for her opinion and her advice. She pointed out that our son had never failed to make decent eye-contact -- which is true; he never did -- but agreed that it wouldn't hurt.

However, psychological assessments can take some time to book. We live in Toronto, where the Hospital for Sick Children resides, and it's a fabulous hospital for children. But it had a waiting list of eighteen months. Eighteen months didn't seem all that useful, and the doctor therefore suggested a different child psychologist (actually at this remove, I'm not sure whether or not she was a psychiatrist, because she could prescribe medication). She said "Some of the parents find her difficult, but she won't have trouble with the two of you" which seemed a bit cryptic at the time. That doctor could see us in only a few months, in comparison.

When we went to see her, she was an elderly, small woman. The only thing I clearly remember about our visits was that we were always the only people in the office at the time, and that my son had to do a number of tests. It was interesting because on the first day, she came out to get us. "He wouldn't finish the written part," she said, in her clear voice.

I thought I knew what the problem was, so I said, "Your pencils don't have any erasers on the end, do they?"

Which made her blink. "Why does that matter?"

"I'm guessing he made a mistake while writing. If he has no way of correcting a mistake, there's nothing you can do that will encourage him to continue."

We went back in and she handed us the partial form, and sure enough, that was what had happened, so she asked us to return the following week, when she would have an eraser for the test.

I actually mention this because it was one of the key aspects of my son's interaction with his school work and tests. He hated to make mistakes. He hated it. All of his tests would come home, and the answer portions would either be correct or…blank.

(I just asked my son about this reaction, and this is one of the things he remembered: he hated to guess. It felt as wrong to him as just writing a random, stray word would have felt. And, given the way he thought, it would have been exactly the same thing. There weren't degrees of possibly correct answers; there was the right answer and everything else was the wrong answer. Everything else. An educated guess and a random scrawl of letters were the same thing to him at the time.)

We assumed that his fear of being wrong was due to something we had inadvertently done as parents, at the time. That he had developed some sort of phobia about making a mistake. There was a lot of soul-searching on my part, because I had tried so damn hard not to be judgemental about mistakes. Mistakes are unavoidable in life, and given just how poorly ASD children initially respond to anything new, I did my absolute best to minimize the consequence of honest errors because I reasoned that if he were afraid of making a mistake, he'd never try anything different.

But it wasn't. He knew that for a test, he was to write down the correct answer. If he didn't have it or know it, a blank was the same as any other attempt.

By the end of the not entirely complete assessment several weeks later, the Dr. believed that we did have a strong understanding of our son. She was actually very, very kind to us and said two things:

1. I don't believe that you could do a better job with your son than you are doing.

2. I believe that he would benefit from Ritalin.

He was six years old.

She promised to write a report that could be used when dealing with a school board's IEP program (Individualized Eduation Program; it's something for Special Needs children), and gave him a general diagnosis of ADHD and Aspergers.

We went away and discussed Ritalin. My mother didn't like the idea at all. My husband's mother, who never, ever gave any advice unless it was asked for in a very direct way, was a pharmacist. The whole of her comment was to send my husband home with a stack of clinical papers on studies about Ritalin that were two inches high (I'm not making that up, either). My husband and I were ambivalent because by time we had started his assessment, and had gone through the many weeks of visits, it was late enough in the year that the trial period for the drug would end after the school year did.

Ritalin does have side effects, but those side effects are known to diminish with prolonged use in many cases, so the expected trial period is eight weeks; if it's still causing difficulties after eight weeks, it can be discontinued. It's taken only during the school week, and is frequently not recommended for very young children. If it had been a two week trial, I think I would have been willing to try.

Our paediatrician was actually moderately surprised at the Ritalin suggestion, but said, "You must understand one thing about this doctor. Parents go to her all the time. I refer hundreds of parents a year to her, and most of them go to her hoping that she'll prescribe something that will calm their children down. She doesn't. She suggests medication for maybe four children a year out of those hundreds. If she suggests medication for your son it's because she believes it is necessary and it will help him cope, not you. If she feels that this will help him, I think you should consider trying it."

She knew we were very conflicted. My son's godfather wasn't; he was adamantly against it, because one shouldn't have to drug a child just to send him to school. I have nothing against medicating a child, in theory, fwiw, if the drugs are helpful and necessary.

But -- and this is very much one of my personal ticks -- I was uncertain because I wanted my son to be able to make an informed decision of his own, and at six, that's not really possible. We decided against it, in the end, because although everyone was struggling, he was coping.

The Doctor was furious at us when we declined. Really, really angry. She likened it to refusing to get glasses for him if he had poor eyesight. She really didn't care about us or what would make our lives easier; she'd suggested it because she thought it would help my son. I didn't appreciate how true this was of this particular Doctor until I met some of her other patients and discovered what her most frequent recommendation actually was: Parent better, you irresponsible idiots.

She did, however, now unleash that on us. She was just…angry.

I do sometimes wonder, at this remove, if we made the wrong decision at the time. I do wonder if it would have made it easier for him to focus and cope in the classroom. I'm still not entirely certain.

In that classroom, during the months we waited for the appointment to begin his first psychological assessment, my son was only barely keeping his head above water, and was only managing that much because of his very fine teacher and his principal, Jane Fletcher. And because this has gone long again, I will talk about what his classroom was like tomorrow.

Comments

( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
teenagewitch
Oct. 22nd, 2010 06:45 am (UTC)
I was put on Ritalin as a teenager and I was put through a drug rehab when they had to take me off of it. Talk about horror. Be absolutely glad you didn't put your child through it. I still have nightmares because of the withdrawal. Its not fun.
msagara
Oct. 22nd, 2010 06:55 am (UTC)
I was put on Ritalin as a teenager and I was put through a drug rehab when they had to take me off of it. Talk about horror. Be absolutely glad you didn't put your child through it. I still have nightmares because of the withdrawal. Its not fun.

That sounds horrible =/.

The reason I'm still uncertain is because one young man who started Ritalin at college age (I believe; it was a while ago that I read it) was definitively Never Speaking To His Parents Again. He was furious at them because their anti-drug stance had kept him off ritalin during his grade school life, and he found it made a very big, and very positive difference to both his ability to study and his ability to interact with his peers.

So he felt that their prejudice against drugs and deprived him of a social life, and of the ability to think clearly, for a decade. He was very resentful.

This shocked my husband, who had never considered that someone might feel this way about the lack of drugs.

My son doesn't resent us for the lack, but... he's never tried ritalin.

ETA: He's now at an age where, if he wanted to try, it would of course be his decision, and we'd support it; he's expressed zero interest in it, but no distaste at the idea, if that makes sense.

Edited at 2010-10-22 06:56 am (UTC)
manga_crow
Oct. 22nd, 2010 07:22 am (UTC)
You've hit on my exact fears as well. Intellectually I know that there are many people that have had great success with medication like Ritalin, and that it can make a huge difference in quality of life.

That doesn't stop the idea of giving it to my son less terrifying =/
lyssabits
Oct. 22nd, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I have such mixed feelings about psychotropic drugs.. on the one hand, they're clearly useful. On the other, they can be abused, over-prescribed because they're "easy'. There's all kinds of research coming out about how bad they can be for kids but.. then I look at my cousin, who I believe ended up being diagnosed with ADHD, but only after he became a drug addict. He was taking street drugs as a method of self-medication. He's doing so well now, but it's sometimes scary to think how bad it could have been had his parents not found out when they did. He wasn't disruptive enough in school to trigger a diagnosis, apparently, but was anguished enough inside to turn to drugs. He was hiding his problems from everyone, I can't imagine his parents would have denied him medication, but I'm just guessing that as the youngest of three *really* rowdy boys, it was tough for my aunt and uncle to notice where his brothers' rambunctious but normal behavior left off and his pathological behavior began.

Edited to add.. oh, there was supposed to be a point!

It's tough to know what to do, in situations like these, I think it's sometimes better to err on the side of no medication and try not to beat yourself up too much. Your son's not the only one who has trouble with choice. ;) I think everyone does to a certain extent. Sometimes more choice is great, but sometimes it means you're never going to be wholly at peace with your choice, since either option could have been equally good or bad. Having just come through pregnancy and childbirth, another situation where you have a lot of medical options that all come with a surprising amount of controversy and Very Strong Opinions I have plenty of conflicted feelings about my choices on that front, even though objectively, I know I probably couldn't have made any better decisions. Somehow the guilt and conflict is still there. It doesn't help that for some reason when it comes to kids, everyone has an Opinion That Is The Right One and aren't shy about letting you know what it is.

Edited at 2010-10-22 05:59 pm (UTC)
manga_crow
Oct. 22nd, 2010 06:52 am (UTC)
I'm very thankful that I have not had to make that choice about medication; so far, my son's doctors have all agreed that it would not be helpful. But I'm very afraid of what will happen if they decide it's the best thing for him - I have such a deep seated distrust of all psychiatric medication that I'm not sure I could make a rational choice.

(insert an all too common story about my pointlessly over-medicated childhood)

Sigh, being a parent is too. damn. complicated.
chamois_shimi
Oct. 22nd, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC)
Just butting in here - we've talked about the medication thing with my son's doctor, his therapist, his preschool teachers, and a friend who taught special ed for 30 years. On their recommendation we're going to be doing a "medication" trial for our son, who's 4 and a half. The "med" we're trying is a stimulant, as is usual, but what it is, is caffeine. If it doesn't have an effect on the H part of his issues that doesn't necessarily mean he is NOT ADHD, but because of the way ADHD brain chemistry works, if caffeine does calm him down, then he almost certainly does have ADHD.

Now, if he didn't have the H going on with the AD, then a 1 week or even 2 week trial wouldn't be long enough to tell, really. As a friend of mine who's ADD all her life said, what it is is giving you a chance to learn different coping mechanisms, different strategies, different ways of going through the day that aren't possible when not medicated, so a trial that way is more subtle, and takes longer to see a difference.
green_knight
Oct. 22nd, 2010 09:19 am (UTC)
Whether or not to use medication must have been an absolutely frightening decision, because there's no way you will know what was the right thing to do. There are just too many factors in this, and no way to plot an ideal path through the labyrinth ahead of time.

msagara
Oct. 22nd, 2010 03:05 pm (UTC)
Whether or not to use medication must have been an absolutely frightening decision, because there's no way you will know what was the right thing to do. There are just too many factors in this, and no way to plot an ideal path through the labyrinth ahead of time.

I think it's a microcosm of parenting anxiety, though: you make your decisions for your child, but you're never entirely certain that they'll be the right choices in the long run. In fact, in my case, I always felt certain that some of them would be the wrong ones -- but I didn't know which ones those were, and probably won't until he's older and can assess them for himself.
la_marquise_de_
Oct. 22nd, 2010 09:47 am (UTC)
It sounds like your assessment system is very like the one we have here: long and arduous and stressful. A friend with a son with severe autism has had many similar experiences. And you know, you and your husband are great parents. I hope one day to have the privilege of meeting your elder son: he sounds splendid.
msagara
Oct. 22nd, 2010 02:57 pm (UTC)
I hope one day to have the privilege of meeting your elder son: he sounds splendid.

He was at the Worldcon in Montreal, but I don't know if he was still with us when we met you there, or if he'd found Greg Ketter's son by that point (he discovered the ever-moving gaming room, and spent most of the weekend there, joining us for meals; he joined us at the DAW dinner as well).

He had a great time at the Worldcon :)
la_marquise_de_
Oct. 22nd, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC)
Ah, yes. I met him at dinner: he's utterly delightful.
controuble
Oct. 22nd, 2010 11:38 am (UTC)
My son was put on a different medication at first. When the insurance company made a rules change, the doctor put him on Concerta which is a form of Ritalin. That lasted for 4 days. He went on an emotional roller-coaster that neither of us could deal with, so I called the insurance company about the new rule and was able to get him back on the original meds. He was 6 at the time and would go from being happy eating dinner and watching TV to crying his eyes out for no reason either of us could determine several times within an hour. I never want to put him through something like that again and I have never again let one of the doctors put him on any kind of Ritalin.
msagara
Oct. 22nd, 2010 03:11 pm (UTC)
He was 6 at the time and would go from being happy eating dinner and watching TV to crying his eyes out for no reason either of us could determine several times within an hour. I never want to put him through something like that again and I have never again let one of the doctors put him on any kind of Ritalin.

That sounds similar to a bad valium reaction - I had a friend in high school (and also a relative) who, if given valium or valium derivatives, would suddenly have long crying jags and anxiety.

But my family in general has iffy reactions to medication, which was part of the reason I was so hesitant.
solan_t
Oct. 22nd, 2010 01:02 pm (UTC)
So many horror stories, but that just makes me want to tell my son's more. The reports of 'disturbing' behaviour started in nursery school, but I couldn't tell you exactly what they found objectionable because I could NOT see it - he acted just like all my brothers, as far as I was concerned. But parent-teacher conferences got progressively nightmarish from kindergarden, to first to second. He was disruptive, we were told, loud and wouldn't sit still.

We took him for testing, as you did, and then tried various things (of the 'parent better, idiots' sort,) but nothing really seemed to change. He DID get in Special Needs, too, but that didn't make things enough better, either.


So, we tried medication (and, soon after, changed to an alternative school that specializes in behavioural and develepmental challenges). I'm crying here, even at this remove (he's 13 now). The difference is just too much to describe. This is his first year back in mainstream public school and we just had his first parent-teacher conferences. They were glowing.* We were told he participates well (maybe too well) in class, which we were all worried he wouldn't. And he likes going to school. How many kids is that true of?

*keeping in mind he doesn't write well. He's still Special Needs and we still do IEPs. But most questions for essay and journal writing are of the 'What do you feel..' What do you think...' or 'What is your favorite...' variety and that's just not something he's good at.
msagara
Oct. 22nd, 2010 03:03 pm (UTC)
*keeping in mind he doesn't write well. He's still Special Needs and we still do IEPs. But most questions for essay and journal writing are of the 'What do you feel..' What do you think...' or 'What is your favorite...' variety and that's just not something he's good at.


Oh, I know =/. Those are exactly the type of things that would cause him to completely lock up at school; he can answer questions like that now, but. Amorphous questions like that are, I *think*, supposed to be flexible and to allow the child a choice. And yes, choice is difficult for ASD children.

He was disruptive, we were told, loud and wouldn't sit still

Yes, yes, and yes.

My son had the advantage of being able to write -- and speak -- quite well, when he chose to do either. But even so, specificity was his friend in assignments. Or at least his parents' friend, as we were the ones who were supervising homework.
mightydoll
Oct. 22nd, 2010 07:03 pm (UTC)
funny story about B. (maybe I already told you this one, but I'm reminded by this thread) - In grade 5 he came home with a math test, in which he had answered only 1 question. I had to laugh - Mrs Cheng had asked them to list "as many possible problems" that would result in a certain answer.

Poor kid spent his whole allotted time filling the page with ways to get that answer. Sarah was very understanding about it (as she often was - she was lovely) and gave him another opportunity to do the rest of the test with that question removed.
msagara
Oct. 23rd, 2010 05:10 pm (UTC)
funny story about B. (maybe I already told you this one, but I'm reminded by this thread) - In grade 5 he came home with a math test, in which he had answered only 1 question. I had to laugh - Mrs Cheng had asked them to list "as many possible problems" that would result in a certain answer.

I laughed so hard when I read this because my own son had almost exactly the same reaction; they really, really had to be specific or he'd be going for days; we once tried to explain that "as many possible" didn't actually mean that, and it caused huge stress, poor kid.
artbeco
Oct. 22nd, 2010 04:24 pm (UTC)
The whole medication issue is one I've always found very scary, and I'm not even really sure why. Riley's evil Kindergarten teacher (whom he had the second half of Kinder) hated him with a passion. He was wiggly and loud and spoke up in class without hesitation and publicly corrected her grammar. She told me in no uncertain terms that Riley needed to be put on medication for his behavior and it spooked me. A lot. Because while Riley is rowdy and energetic, I don't think he needs to be medicated to sit still and behave like a quiet little automaton. She didn't care about how well he was doing academically (he was way ahead academically); she wanted him to sit still and shut the hell up.

So I'm very wary when people talk about medicating rowdy boys or girls; some kids are just more rowdy than others. The people who generally have suggested that route to me are either teachers like that one, or other parents who have quiet, well-behaved little angels who Do Not Get rowdy kids. I do know a few cases where the parents did put their kids on medication and it worked wonders, though, but that was with lots of testing with professionals and agonizing on the part of the parents.
chamois_shimi
Oct. 22nd, 2010 09:05 pm (UTC)
One thing that may comfort you - if a child is *not* ADHD and is put on medication for it, it will *not* work. They're stimulants, for non-ADHD kids it just makes them hyper, like any stimulant. It's a brain chemistry thing. I knew the word for it last week, but now my own brain is failing because I only had about 2 and a half hours of sleep last night. Um. The something or other that regulates the dopamine. Tyrosine, that's it. Amino acid something or other is converted to tyrosine which is converted to something else which is part of the makeup of dopamine, which is what produces feelings of calmness and such. The ADHD brain doesn't make enough dopamine. (The root cause of *that* is debateable, I guess, but there's a few genes that might be involved. Something to do with enzymes? *waves hands vaguely*)
msagara
Oct. 23rd, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
So I'm very wary when people talk about medicating rowdy boys or girls; some kids are just more rowdy than others. The people who generally have suggested that route to me are either teachers like that one, or other parents who have quiet, well-behaved little angels who Do Not Get rowdy kids

Yes; the Angry At Us doctor in the entry above felt very strongly that the majority of children don't require the medication their parents were seeking. It's why she was so furious with us, though; she really, strongly felt that it would help him. The emphasis was, for her, always on my son.

I would almost say that the people who insist your child needs medication because it would be convenient (in their own mind) for them should be (more or less) politely disregarded. I actually opt for the Less Politely, but that's just a matter of personal style.
mightydoll
Oct. 22nd, 2010 07:08 pm (UTC)
In terms of meeds: B was prescribed....damn I don't even remember what it was... in grade 4. I was for giving it a try, because his inability to focus was really causing him huge problems and taking really nasty toll on his self-esteem. His father was pretty against it, and I simply wasn't convinced ENOUGH that it was the right decision to convincingly argue my case, so we never did fill the prescription.

What I've found since then is that I have no doubt at all that ADHD meds would make standard schooling much easier for him, but that the alternative school he's at is working out awesomely, too, and with fewer side effects ;)

We may, together, decide as he gets closer to university that the added help maintaining focus on those fundamental, but less interesting steps towards competency in his chosen field(s) of interest will be advantageous, but for now, we're pretty happy just letting him explore in his own way. :)
dansa
Oct. 22nd, 2010 09:32 pm (UTC)
My son is ADHD. We got the diagnosis for it when he was in kindergarten, but I completely refused to contemplate medicating him beyond 'no' when he was that young. I was (and still am) such a firm believer in the fact that so often, children are 'diagnosed' with it for just being children, and I was terrified - so many zombie horror stories - of what the results would be on him. He's such a sunny, happy, creative kid. I did not want to lose that, and at that point, it was just me (and his dad, to an extent) making the decision. Yes, the school wanted it, but I think if they'd insisted on it heavier, we'd just have gone to a private school.

In first grade, he was really starting to struggle. It started to become clear that it was perhaps more than just being a kid. I don't know that even at 7-8 he was really able to make an informed decision, but we still sat down and talked with him about it, and ultimately did leave the final call to him on whether or not we were going to try it out. I'm not going to say it was his choice, because at that point it was mine - if I wasn't accepting of the fact that we were open to trying it, the choice never would have been put in front of him. But I was torn, and I wanted his input on it. Even at that young. Certainly doesn't absolve me of the responsibility, but. Yeah. ANYWAY.

He said that he wanted to try it, so we did. Once it actually got into his system (those first few weeks were like hell for all of us), it...at home, there weren't really a lot of changes. He seemed pretty normal (where by normal I mean usual for him) to me, save a few small (in the grand scheme of things) adjustments that were all the same pretty major as far as day to day life - being able to complete tasks without any nagging on my part. Which..I guess really isn't very small.

Even so, I was severely opposed to keeping him on the medication. Until, in one of our various discussions about it, he said straight up that he liked it because it slowed his brain down enough for him to think. His words, expressed so very clearly for us. That, the discussions with the teachers, his night and day performance at school - okay, perhaps having him on the medication is a good thing. So he's been on it, for the school years. Off it, for the summertime.

I won't ever know if I actually made the better decision of the two in front of me for him, but I did the best I could, and I think that's really all we can ask of ourselves. He's in 6th grade now, and I actually had an IEP meeting this morning - basically to tell me that he doesn't really need an IEP any more, they're dropping one of the two things he was on, he's got one tiny little segment of speech therapy he's going to finish, but as soon as she's finished teaching him how to self-correct and drill on his own, they're done.

He's happy, he's healthy, he's doing well in school, he's still sunny and creative and geeky and silly and so incredibly brilliant. How different would it have been had I gone the other route? Better? Worse? I don't know. I won't ever know.

We do the best we can. If our children are prospering, than maybe it wasn't the best/right decision (because again, never going to know that, not really), but it was still a good decision. From everything you've said, your son is doing well. Mine is doing well. Thus, we've done well. We are good mommies. If things had started to go horribly badwrong, decisions would have - I'm sure - been changed.

I make a lot of mistakes as a (now) entirely single parent. I'm human. My self-evaluation on that front is, though, how well he is doing. And from everything that I can tell (and from all the feedback that I get), I'm doing it right far more than I'm doing it wrong. =)
msagara
Oct. 23rd, 2010 05:02 pm (UTC)
I make a lot of mistakes as a (now) entirely single parent. I'm human. My self-evaluation on that front is, though, how well he is doing. And from everything that I can tell (and from all the feedback that I get), I'm doing it right far more than I'm doing it wrong. =)

You're doing exactly what I would have done :). We decided against it at six, but had things worsened greatly over the next year or two, would have revisited the issue at the time. We've no strong moral imperative to avoid medication, but do have the usual parental fear-of-side-effects reaction.

But the deciding factor for me would definitely be the son's observation that it was hugely helpful, because I'd say that if he was self-aware enough to articulate that clearly, he's able to make that decision.

And...yes, tick of mine: I want the sop of feeling like it's not a solution I've dropped on him from Above, so the informed consent is something to make myself feel better.
crookedfeet
Oct. 23rd, 2010 06:39 am (UTC)
Re your comment about the young man in college:
I had a friend in college who had that experience. Now, when my friend was in elementary, Ritalin didn't exist. She began taking it at the age of 21, because college was very frustrating for her, and she is not a stupid person. However, after an assessment she began taking it, and the difference to her ability to concentrate and complete classwork on time was amazing.(When I met her she was already on it.) However, I have seen other parents that I know misuse the drug.

msagara
Oct. 23rd, 2010 04:57 pm (UTC)
However, I have seen other parents that I know misuse the drug.

I know of children on Ritalin, but in my immediate crowd, no. So I would guess I've not seen it misused. I think every parent considering its use has read all of the horror stories, though =/
davidcook
Oct. 23rd, 2010 01:00 pm (UTC)
I actually mention this because it was one of the key aspects of my son's interaction with his school work and tests. He hated to make mistakes. He hated it. All of his tests would come home, and the answer portions would either be correct or…blank.

(I just asked my son about this reaction, and this is one of the things he remembered: he hated to guess. It felt as wrong to him as just writing a random, stray word would have felt. And, given the way he thought, it would have been exactly the same thing. There weren't degrees of possibly correct answers; there was the right answer and everything else was the wrong answer. Everything else. An educated guess and a random scrawl of letters were the same thing to him at the time.)


Oh ... I know that one very well. Does/did he also struggle with essay-type answers ? There was a reason I generally stuck to maths/science/computers, and avoided the Humanities. I worked best in areas which actually had right/wrong answers, and well-defined ways of finding them. I couldn't wrap my head around the way people could "waffle" their way through an English test and somehow get reasonable marks for it.

(errr, should mention my background: Almost certainly ASD, but never been diagnosed as such - but it explains very well the way I think and especially the troubles I had through school. Now (age 40) life seems to be going ok)
msagara
Oct. 23rd, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC)
Oh ... I know that one very well. Does/did he also struggle with essay-type answers ? There was a reason I generally stuck to maths/science/computers, and avoided the Humanities. I worked best in areas which actually had right/wrong answers, and well-defined ways of finding them. I couldn't wrap my head around the way people could "waffle" their way through an English test and somehow get reasonable marks for it.

I just read the question out loud to my son (interrupting the Starcraft game he and his younger brother are playing), and when I hit 'essay-type' he laughed in the way one does when one recognizes oneself in someone else's words :).

I would qualify his answer (which was a strong yes), though.

As he's gotten older he a) still really struggle with essay-type assignments but b) does very well with them. As math has gotten increasingly complicated (AP math this year), and the 'right' answer isn't something that can be trivially held in mind, but rather, involves quite a bit of tussling with various formulae and conceptualizations, it's not evident to me that there's much difference -- from an external perspective, at any rate.
freyaw
Nov. 23rd, 2010 01:14 am (UTC)
It took me until late teens / early 20s to get the hang of estimating. In year six, we were given lots of maths problems we were supposed to estimate the answers to, and I didn't understand why they wanted me to give the wrong answer when I could work the right answer out in my head. People tried to explain it, but they never gave me hard enough questions for their explanations to make sense *headdesk*
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