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Sunday, November 4, 2007

Problems with Patterns

Tommy's autism means that when he learns something, he learns exactly that thing that he is taught. For example, when he learns math with manipulatives, he learns to use manipulatives. He doesn't learn the theory behind the manipulatives. He doesn't learn to substitute symbols for manipulatives. And so, without the manipulatives, he has no clue what to do.

This is becoming more and more of an issue as we work on multiplication. Yes, he can now use charts which he made himself (by skip-counting) to do multiplication of single numbers through the tens tables. And he can multiply a double-digit number by a single digit number with no carrying. This is WAY more than he could do at the end of last year.

BUT - he still doesn't seem to really understand why he can do what he can do.

For example - he created his 2 times chart by putting an X on every other number. So when he sees 2X10, he simply counts ten X's, and when he's done - his finger is on the 20. He's solved the problem, and puts down the right number. But he doesn't actually know how to skip-count by twos. I know this because I've made sequencing worksheets for him - and he has a terrible time with them.

I've showed him the pattern: 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 0. He can get that pattern and repeat it, saying twenty TWO, twenty FOUR, twenty SIX twenty EIGHT. But he still doesn't understand that 30 comes next. Instead, he says "zero."

If I hand him his chart, he reads it accurately - but again, he's just reading it, not understanding it.

I'd love to be able to say "if he can solve the problem, what difference does it make how well he understands the process?" But I'm pretty sure that it matters. These are basic, simple patterns - patterns that should be self-evident. But they're opaque to Tom.


Debi (Canvas Grey) said...

Just a thought...have you tried it with objects, like blocks or toys or something he plays with alot? Possibly he could learn it through touching, feeling these things in his hands. For example, two blocks on an empty floor, skip counting and making something or having him hold the blocks in his hands to see them as they 'grow'.

His flag is wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Dear Tommy,

I can't believe you like Starwars too. I like it too. I hope you meet me someday.

Matthew (age 8)
I have autism.

Lisa Jo Rudy said...

Debi - thanks so much for your thoughts. I am actually quite baffled by the process of helping Tommy generalize from one form of understanding to another. For example - if he skip counts with objects, will he be able to then generalize back to symbols? My fear is that he will simply learn two totally disconnected skills, and STILL not see that they are the same concept presented in two different ways...

We are going to try out a math tutor next week - maybe he'll be able to help us build those conceptual bridges!


Lisa Jo Rudy said...

Dear Matthew,

Thanks so much for your note! Tommy really does love Star Wars - especially Darth Vader. He uses his imagination to make new Star Wars stories.

Do you like the books or the movies best?


Lisa, Tommy's mom