• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”
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Update/Observation on Aspie Teen’s Grades

Aspie Teen and I have spent the past two weeks getting ready for his final exams. Despite the fact that, to date the school system has not finished their evaluation for services, and/or IEP which the Teen desperately needs, I consider semester one of High School a success.

The Teen worked hard all semester, and although he could not complete, or keep up with the course load that was assigned to him, he did well in the courses he could handle. This semester (his first in high school—and online) he was assigned World History, Physical Science, Physical Education, Language Arts, Algebra I, and Spanish.  Unfortunately, Algebra and Spanish were a wash. I informed the school in the beginning of the year that I was requesting a waver or delay of the Spanish class because he had too much difficulty understanding the spoken Spanish words and articulating them was near impossible—so we did not work on the Spanish class at all.

Algebra he worked diligently on, but still could not grasp the concepts. I could teach them to him, but I would first have to learn them, and they spend many many hours on one lesson—time we just do not have in a day. He was able to complete only about half of the semester’s course work, and not because he didn’t put the hours in, but because five hours of work usually only translated into one lesson.

In the past two weeks when it became apparent there was no way he could pass that class, we abandoned those efforts.  I decided that his focus and energy would be better spent on classes that he had the possibility of passing. There really is no sense in wasting all his time on that class, and then not being able to pass any of the others because he ran out of hours in the day.

The Teen completed all his coursework in P.E. and has a passing grade.  He worked VERY HARD on English (not his best subject because reading comprehension is a problem area), and ultimately managed a passing grade (I think it was in the low 70’s). His English teacher waved the final exams so that left us to work on two important classes: Science and History.

Aspie Teen completed all his coursework for the semester in both of these classes and just had to study for the final. He got through Science by the skin of his teeth, passing with a 71% even after getting a 92.5 on the final!

Special Interests

World History on the other hand is his favorite subject. He read his texts, contemplated the subject, and even woke me in the middle of the night to discuss what he had read…do you see the difference in the degree he is able to focus when it is of interest? He completed that class with an 87 average! History touches some of the Teen’s special interests so he can maintain more focus.

 

Studying

Helping the Teen study can be frustrating. His need to articulate every word on the page, and repeat it over and over again derails my thoughts, and causes my own focus to waver. Unfortunately, it does the same to him. He must read a text multiple times before he “gets” it. His current History teacher hit the nail right on the head though. He provided the Teen with a PowerPoint presentation as a study guide for the final exam.  A combination of the visuals and ME READING ALL THE MATERIAL OUT LOUD to him while he read silently did the trick. However, if I did not read the materials out loud, he had to re-read it many times.

 

The Exams

I knew that the Teen had difficulty understand and following instructions at times, but did not realize just how bad it was until we sat to do these exams. Him being in an online school afforded me the opportunity to sit next to him during these exams and help him understand them. The first thing I realized is that the Teen misread, or misinterpreted almost every question—especially the ones worded: which is NOT a sign of________; which is NOT a feature of _________.

Additionally, he often misread the answer choices.  My simply reading the questions out loud, and each multiple choice answer made all the difference.  I could see it—visibly—the proverbial light bulb coming on when he heard the questions vs. when he read the questions. He is a audible learner (unlike me) he needs to hear to learn and understand.

Semester End Result Without Accommodations:

Passed Physical Education, World History, Physical Science, and Language Arts. No work done in Spanish class, and only half of the semesters work completed (with less than a 45% grade on the completed work) in Algebra.  Overall I consider the semester successful because worked hard and completed several very difficult goals!

Our goal now is to get Aspie Teen some much needed accommodations that will allow him to complete all his courses. Although this semester was a good start, if he can only complete 4 out of 6 classes each semester, it will take him a very long time to graduate, that is, if he doesn’t give up before then.

 

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Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.