Autism-Related Articles, Books, Services

Friday, September 3, 2010

How Does My Kid's Brain Work??

In trying to set up a collection of homeschool goals, I needed to consider my child's strengths and weaknesses. 

It sounds easy, doesn't it? 

He's good at reading, but not so good at math.  He's good at music, but not so good at handwriting.

But then it gets tricky.  And then it gets trickier.

For example...  He can grasp an author's style to the degree that he can, for example, write a novel story that sounds eerily like the work of Rudyard Kipling. Yet he can't define the main idea of the same story, and then tell you a few details.  What's more, his grammar and punctuation are atrocious.

He can play clarinet at the level of an advanced high school student if he hears and repeats it, yet he can't quite grasp the nuances of reading the notes on the staff.  He loves band camp where he spends five hours a day practicing, yet moans if I ask him to spend ten minutes on the clarinet.

He loves fine art, and can talk at length about the works of Monet, Van Gogh and Picasso.  Yet he can tell you nothing about the period during which the artists lived, nor can he accurately explain the difference between France, Holland and Spain.

What's he good at?  Where are his challenges?  As a linear thinker myself, I am finding it incredibly hard to develop a meaningful answer.  He's a good writer and a rotten writer...  a fine musician - or not.  A knowledgeable young man or an ignorant kid. 

He's all of the above.

OK, then.  Time to write some goals!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tech Tools for Teaching a Kid with Executive Functioning Problems

Tom doesn't really work well independently.  He'll do what I ask - at least the first portion - but if he gets stuck or finishes a part of the process, he just....  stops.  What that means is that I wind up at his elbow, saying things like "okay, what's next?" or "do you have a question?" 
The TimeTimer visual clock

Often I have to go farther to prompt him with directions such as "why don't you look at the next question on the page?" or "you've written the answer, but now you need to read it out loud to figure out where the commas, periods and capital letters go."  Even when we have a written list of "what to do," it can be hard for him.

The truth is, he's capable of continuing on his own.  And with only the merest nudge, he does a reasonable job of proofing and correcting his writing, finishing the project, etc.  In fact, Tom actually enjoys writing and doesn't dislike reading, math, or practicing his clarinet.  The problem is staying on task, and thinking ahead (AKA executive function).

To help him build some independence, I'm looking at software and hardware that might provide the prompts and direction he needs - so that neither I nor a future teacher will need to sit at his shoulder to prompt him.  So far, I've found some interesting software that actually prompts a writer through the brainstorming, drafting and editing process - but nothing I'm sold on yet.

A few things I'm looking at:
  • This article from Reading Rockets about assistive technology for learning disabilities
  • A database called TechMatrix, which lists and reviews assistive technology for learners
  • A site called ReadWriteThink which includes a whole mess of free, web-based interactives to support a range of projects including 5 para essays, persuasive essays, and more.
  • Inspiration Software (graphical organizing system - ordered a freebie demo to try out)
 I've also bought something called a TimeTimer - a visual clock that, I'm HOPING, will help Tom to think about and organize time - and even stay on task!  Tom's SLP (who's also a social skills coach) has used it with him effectively, so I'm thinking it may be a useful tool at home.