being julia 

Julia news: we are very much in the two steps forward, one step back frame. Forward: After a discussion about the Native American woman coming to talk to Julia’s literature class today – the class is reading “Touching Spirit Bear” – Julia wanted to know where Native Americans came from. A good question. After I answered, she opined that she was a Chinese girl fro China being raised by a Ukrainian mother from Ukraine–not quite that simple but close enough to be correct. And then, she asked what her father was. “My father.” She has never said that before and never asked anything like that. I said Jewish and she quickly asked if we celebrated Chanukah and Passover because David was Jewish. Then she asked is she had to believe Jewish beliefs. I was impressed, perhaps she is listening in RE class, but we were getting into a discussion that was too big to take on before waffles and tea.  
Lots of growth in that discussion.

Julia really enjoyed learning about the periodic table in science. Doing pre-teaching of all of her academic subjects on the weekends helps her weekdays. She did well on the modified-but only slightly- test.

Likewise, she learned the countries, mountains and major waters of Europe last weekend and enjoyed that test.

And slowly, more complicated clock time is practiced and understood. Theory at first, time is an incredibly hard topic to teach to one for whom past and future are threats to survival. Homework is: “If it is 1:20 now, what time will it be in 55 minutes?” Weekend work is the time it takes to do a sheet of those problems and how long did it take to do that last Saturday.

Back: Two weeks ago, Julia kicked her gym teacher in the shin. He was shocked and yelled at her. At home, she reported much more on the yelling than the kick and her first draft of apology reflected how she felt about being yelled at. Her kick was not out of the blue. New gym equipment that was big and noisy scared her. She didn’t want to use it and the teacher offered no way to refuse his direction to start exercising. Ya’ just can’t do that with a kid with autism. If there was a way to just demand they follow the crowd, do as they were told, millions of dollars of therapy money could be saved. Julia is many things, stubborn comes right to mind, but she is not defiant. If she says she can’t do something, there is a reason, however inconsequential I may think that reason is, and she will not do what was asked of her.

Her unpredictability scares me. This teacher is no monster. Julia likes him and he has taken time to help her with other activities, but that day, he thought he could ‘force,’ and I don’t really know how much persuasion there was on his part, her to comply. Maybe he said the exact same thing to her 100 times and she responded well. But that day, the big, scary, noisy machines were not like the canoes or basketballs. How could he know that exercise machines were so different from canoes? We talked it all out. We gave her language to use instead of kicking. At least when exercise machines are in the gym. Next week, there may be balloons in gym and she may not react well. Generalizing is never easy.

My head spins with implications whenever these kinds of things happen. All my training to stay in the present moment goes out the window contemplating what work-a-day world Julia will be able to fit into one day.

And my worry does no good. Still, I am the queen of worry.

And then, Julia refused to stop sketching in class when asked by her teacher. When the teacher insisted, Julia called her an “idiot.” Another bad choice of words and behavior. She is complaining about homework. I think perhaps she is associating the sheets she is given with the work we do at home in a real way. She kicked a desk when picking up her spelling sheet and she proudly announced to me, “I hit no one.” At cello lesson, she banged her bow on the music stand during a piece that is still hard for her.

Looking at all of this together, I see the forest and although the individual trees are problematic. We scaffold the learning but there is more and more of it all the time. If she learns x, we want her to learn y and z too. And keep them all in her head to call up when asked. Not always easy for typical kids. And she is 15 and her grown ups want maturity. And being 15, I think she needs more sleep that she wants to surrender to.

And we go on.

Note: Please excuse the lack of formatting and paragraphing.  I am using my iPad because my laptop is out of commission again and WordPress is not cooperating.

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