By Lillian Csernica on January 8, 2015
Winter break is over. School is back in session. This means the temporary ceasefire is over and we’re back in the trenches for the Homework War.
I love my sons. To me, John and Michael are the two most important people on the entire planet. There are many joyful moments with my boys, but there is also a really staggering amount of frustration.
John is a sophomore in high school now. Even with the adjustments made for his autism, the assignments are getting more complicated and more difficult. Today’s Video Production homework included a handout that explains the five types of documentary film making. I read it over. No wonder John tried to say he didn’t have any homework. Each of the five types is explained in a paragraph where at least half of the words must be translated from the abstract into the concrete so John has any hope of really understanding what they mean. Imagine having to break down the meanings on seventy different words, with repeated efforts until the meaning of each word is grasped. Now imagine doing that five times in a row. And that’s if everything goes smoothly.
Again and again John kept rejecting my explanations of the assignment. It didn’t seem to matter to him that he’s part of a team and everybody has to make his or her contribution for the group project to turn out well. John loves superheroes. Even my explanation about how Superboy or Robin would never let his teammates down had no visible effect. John just kept refusing to do the assignment, repeating over and over:
It’s too hard.
I can’t understand these words.
My mind is too mixed up.
My mind won’t let me do this.
At times like this I ask myself, how much of John’s resistance is his processing disorder, and how much is simple teenage stubbornness about doing homework? I don’t know. I can’t tell. I have no idea if there is a way to make the distinction. And so I feel terrible frustration and heartbreaking sorrow for my son.
Does he really believe these things he’s saying? Does he really see himself that way? I can’t ask, because I do know that John is clever enough to take any road available out of a task he wants to avoid. One of the first things I teach a new aide is to watch out for John’s sneaky streak. He will play Mom off Dad until he gets the answer he wants. We all have to talk to each other to make sure John isn’t trying to get away with something. This leads to even more frustration because running all over the house double-checking with each other is tiresome.
It gets to a point where I have to treat the homework issue as a discipline problem and start taking away privileges such as computer time. Like most boys his age, John loves his electronics, so this is usually effective. Today, however, John got to the point of being in tears over his frustration with the assignment. What am I supposed to do? Punish my ASD child for being the way he is, something over which he has very little control? A large part of me cries out against that injustice, and yet I know I have to hold the line and get John to do his homework. If I don’t, the problem will snowball into notes from the teacher and meetings with the caseworker and John being tagged with even more stigma over his diagnosis.
I hate this. I hate watching my son suffer. I hate being the cause of any further suffering, especially when I don’t know whether or not that’s what I’m doing to him.
Every single day is a battle. Please, pray for John, for Michael, for me and our whole family. Thank you.