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Monday, March 3, 2008

Roadblocks or Language Issues?

We're working on writing. I decided to download a software program called "Kidspiration," which uses graphical organizers to help kids put their thoughts together... found it was a lot of work to do something that's easier to do by hand LOL! But thought I'd try "webbing" as a way to put together a paragraph about a character in a book.

We started with Tom's imaginary friend, Lizard, and that went pretty well. So I moved on to Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I put Mr. Wonka's name in the middle of the web, and asked Tom to tell me three things about the character. Tom has watched the movie a thousand times. He's read the book and answered every readin comprehension question correctly. He told me a pile of things that Mr. Wonka DID, but couldn't come up with a single character trait. After much pushing and shoving, I got three traits -- but there was NO way he could come up with examples of the traits. It was simply asking too much.

I realized that Tom really didn't grasp the concept of a character trait. No one has ever asked him "what is so and so like." We ask "what does so and so DO," "when does he do it," and so on -- but never something as abstract as "what is he like?" Somehow, either he doesn't understand the idea -- or doesn't understand the language I'm using to describe what I'm asking for. I don't exactly know which...

I've decided to step back a bit, and use the organizers to help him write about animals -- something that will be much easier for him. We've also been making a "colonial" loom from cardboard, and he had no trouble coming up with a sequence of steps (though his choice of words, handwriting and grammar are still very young).

Had a similar concept/language problem today with skip counting. Thought I'd use SchoolHouse Rock multiplication videos to help him memorize sequences -- he got teary-eyed! Why? he was very upset that I'd mixed up TV (which is fun) with learning (which is something other than fun?!). Now, he loves educational videos -- but apparently up until now he didn't realize that they had anything to do with the kind of learning you do in school (or even in homeschool!). Wow. I just assumed he knew...

Then we went on to multiplication worksheets. Now, Tom has been able to add for many years, and adding 3 to 42 really is a no-brainer for him. Yet he cannot grasp the idea that skip counting by threes means the same thing as adding three and then three again. Yes, we've done 3+3+3+3, etc. Yes, we've made groups of three. We've made triangles. We've done hands-on 3's counting. We've rearranged cards with multiples of 3, and he's put them in the right order. We've done mazes where you follow the trail of 3's. But when he gets stuck, and I say "just add 3," he looks at me like I'm nuts and has no idea what to do.

Are we hitting real conceptual roadblocks here? Or is this some kind of language issue? Somehow, he is not connecting ideas that he KNOWS with the words to describe those ideas. I'm not sure what the problem is... so am not at all sure how to solve it...

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Try using Multiplication the Fun Way by http://www.citypress.com. It works wonders for these kids.

Carol said...

I've had similar issues with one of my daughters who, although not autistic herself, displays some of the same learning difficulties as my autistic son. We hit many times when she's just not getting the whole picture in math even if she understands the parts that make up the whole. I'm sorry to say I haven't found any foolproof way around these trouble spots but with patience and persistance we've been able to continue to work on it (sometimes for weeks on end) till it suddenly clicks for her one day. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

does he know what his sister is like? her character? might be easier to start there? rosemary

The Glasers said...

About Lizard!
I have been reading and blogging a fascinating book (Awakening Children's Minds). Chapter 3 discusses how important imaginary friends can be in developing social skills. Often children will rehearse social situations with their imaginary friend and apply what they learn real time. Does Tom do that? Neither one of my children have ever had imaginary friends.

On Traits
You might want to scaffold this by making a list of actions and traits of Willy Wonka. Then cut up the list and have him sort to see if he catches onto the concept. As you work with him, you can use lots of dialog to explain why you are sorting the way you are.

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