I have been sick for a couple days. It seems every time I take my kids to get their vaccinations (Yes, I still vaccinate), I come down with a cold or flu. So I am a little late relaying the results of our experiment.
Just to review, this experiment was meant to give Daniel an opportunity to be 100% in charge of deciding how to meet all of his responsibilities – both at school and at home – while balancing them with his privileges and to do this on a daily basis.
It was my observation that Daniel did very well handling his daily at-home responsibilities. These consisted of chores, getting ready for school every day, eating meals and getting ready for bed each night. When it came to his school responsibilities he chose to almost completely ignore them. These responsibilities included reading on a daily basis, studying spelling, practicing multiplication and completing the simplest of his assignments, math. He also struggled to be responsible at school for having his agenda signed daily, completing his work in class, bringing home homework, attending class on time and keeping his hands to himself. This is what I needed to convey to Daniel.
Last Saturday, Daniel and I went out to get a birthday present for Robert’s birthday party and to talk about what we had learned from our experiment.
Daniel started. He thought that the good outcomes were that he did well in the mornings and that he could watch as much TV and play as much Wii as he wanted.
“The bad thing,” Daniel explained, “was that I wouldn’t do things like my chores and homework so instead I could watch TV and play Wii.”
I was surprised to hear him explain so clearly and recognize exactly what I had seen.
“Do you know what that is called?” I asked. Daniel shook his head.
Daniel was visibly stressed. He picked at a scab on his arm as we talked.
“There were two things I noticed,” I continued, “You procrastinated and you struggled with impulse control.”
I reminded him of the hands-on issue he had in PE that week. He looked very unhappy. He knew where we were going.
“Procrastination is not an Asperger’s problem,” I explained. “It is an eleven-year-old kid problem. In fact, it is sometimes a 32-year-old adult problem,” I smiled. “It is something that everyone struggles with at some point in their life and it is important to tackle it head-on and overcome it. The impulse control is also a normal problem, however, people with Asperger’s tend to be particularly weak in that area. If you are weak in an area, then you need to make sure that area gets extra help. Video games do the opposite. They are largely impulse driven. You see and you react. Video games are going to make your impulse control weaker. We have seen that over and over again. Whenever you spend a lot of time playing video games, you start to have trouble with things like keeping your hands to yourself.”
By now, Daniel was almost on the verge of tears. It always kills me to see him so unhappy about these struggles.
“Let’s plan how to tackle these problems,” I hurried on. “First, I need to tell you what I learned. I learned that I really have to start letting go of my tendency to be in control of everything. I need to let you take over in the areas where you are able. Like the morning routine, I don’t think we need to change a thing about that. You shine in that area.”
Daniel began to smile a little.
The smile was short-lived as we planned how to get on track and tackle the work ahead, both personal and academic. Through some tears and intense moments this is what we came up with:
Starting immediately, Daniel is restricted from all TV, video games and the computer. This will give him undistracted time to regroup and make progress toward his academic goals.
Daniel doesn’t do anything until he has completed the following:
– Reading his leveled reader
– Practicing his multiplication or division 10 minutes
– Completing one spelling practice assignment per day
– Completing any homework assignments (math, etc.)
– Presenting the completed work and his agenda to me for review and my signature.
Once he has done this for 5 days in a row, he can use the computer for Skype again.
He has to read during his spare time. If he achieves his lowered goal of 30 RC points (Reading Counts) by winter break, he earns back educational games on the computer and maybe limited TV. If he achieves his previous goal of 40 RC points by winter break then he earns back his TV.
Finally, when his grades come back at the quarter we will assess any additional consequences or rewards based on those grades and what they show. For the time being, his Wii is packed away in the garage.
Daniel seemed hopeful and a little more settled. It was harder than he expected to handle all of his daily responsibilities. The stress of worrying about losing his video games had built to a level that was overwhelming him. Now, the video games have been removed as an option and it seems to be an unexpected relief. He knows he needs to prepare and execute a plan to catch up on his school work and accomplish his goals. He also knows he has help for that project and that seems to be an additional relief. Hopefully he will remember these feelings of relief as the plan is put into action.
I think my biggest disappointment in all of this was the response of Daniel’s teachers. I had hoped they would be more firm. I had hoped that Daniel would be more clearly confronted by his choices compared to their expectations. I am particularly unhappy that his ESE teacher lowered the RC goal. I would have been completely in agreement if they had lowered it because it was an unreasonable expectation from the start. However, the 40-point goal became a difficult goal simply because of Daniel’s choices (not his disability). Therefore, they should not have lowered the goal. I explained this to Daniel. I told him that I still thought he needed to meet the 40-point goal. In response, I put a reward for meeting the 40-point RC goal when we put together his plan.
This experiment will not be a huge turning point for Daniel. It will be another small piece in the puzzle for us. It has given us a clearer but not complete picture of what works for Daniel. I have to always remind myself of this so I am encouraged while also being cautious in my optimism.