Tag Archives: homework

A Failure to Communicate

by Lillian Csernica on March 19, 2015

Once again, I find myself in the position of wanting to start shouting loudly enough to shatter a few windows over at John’s high school.

At the beginning of this year, John and all the other sophomores received their class assignments and went off to locate the text for their courses at the school library.  John ended up not having any texts to pick up because some decisions had not been made at higher levels about which texts would be used.  OK.  It was rather late in the day for that kind of indecision, but no big deal.

A few days later, John’s classes got switched around and one was changed to something entirely different.  Nobody bothered to ask the permission of this special need student’s parents, namely Chris and me.  Nobody bothered notifying us after John started attending this class.  Good thing his IEP was right around the corner.  I printed out all the emails between John’s caseworker/teacher and myself and took them to the meeting to demonstrate the fact that we had been neither consulted nor notified.

All of this is prelude to what I’m angry about today.


The change in schedule put John into Graphic Design.  This was problematic for several reasons, but I’m going to focus on one in particular.  At John’s school, the computer system has lots of lovely software programs so the students can work on their assignments in class or at the Computer Lab.  Nobody told us that in order for John to be able to do the homework for Graphic Design (which nobody bothered telling us about, period), John would need to do as the other students had done and purchase a package of software programs totaling $293.00.

I don’t know about you, but for us that’s a big ticket item.

My husband is a software engineer.  He was already seriously unhappy with a number of things that went on last year when John had to take Digital Literacy.  Guess what?  The same teacher is in charge of Graphic Design.  He’s a nice enough man, but he’s of a rather abstract turn of mind, so his thought processes are diametrically opposed to the way John, being ASD, can learn.  A number of the same issues that came up in Digital Literacy have now arisen in Graphic Design.

I am in a screaming hissy mood right now because John has been sent home with work he’s supposed to do over the weekend, using the software we do not have and, for a number of very good reasons, my husband refuses to buy.  Once again, despite me really hammering this point home at the IEP and in a number of emails, the teachers and school aide do not seem to grasp the point that John CANNOT do these assignments at home.  Not because of any processing issues on his part, but because the autocratic yahoos took it upon themselves to leave us, John’s parents, out of the loop, in violation of his IEP, common courtesy, and common sense.

Have any of you found yourselves in this kind of situation?  What did you do about it?  How do you get the administration to really listen and retain the crucial information about what’s interfering with your child’s education?  As my husband said, I really cannot believe we are the only family who didn’t and doesn’t have almost $300 to pay for a software package essential to the coursework.


Filed under autism, Depression, Family, Goals, Special needs, Writing

Frustration Station

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.


Filed under autism, Depression, Family, Goals, love, Self-image, Special needs, Writing

Never A Dull Moment

by Lillian Csernica on October 26, 2014


 Monday — Did one last copy edit on Sword Master, Flower Maiden before I emailed the manuscript to my agent.  Does the story work?  Will she like it?  The waiting begins.



Tuesday —  Chris and I took John to see his neurologist for a checkup.  We discussed John’s medications and the difficulties he’s having with his schoolwork.  The doctor was not happy to hear about the communication trouble we’ve been having with the various people who help John at school.  The doctor’s orders: “Less homework, more social interaction.”


Wednesday — John’s triennial IEP.  He’ll be sixteen at the end of next month, so that means this was the last triennial he would have before he graduates.  That being the case, the school officials did all the appropriate assessments to compare those results with the assessments done when John was thirteen.  This meeting took three and a half hours.  Chris and I brought a letter from the neurologist giving his orders.  I had copies of emails I’d exchanged with John’s caseworker/teacher.  I asked for John’s one to one aide to be present.  I went in there with a list of questions and concerns and I walked out with every single one of them answered and addressed.  That was essential.  We’re facing John’s “transition,” which means we have to start looking at how he will function in the community once he graduates from high school.  This is stirring up all kinds of conflicting emotions inside me.  It’s not easy to focus and make long term decisions.

Thursday — I had an appointment with my new therapist.  Good timing on that one, right?



Friday — Another appointment, this one with my psychiatrist.  He thinks I’m doing pretty well handling the daily ups and downs around here, to say nothing of the big stuff like the IEP.

Saturday — My mother and I took John down to the community center where he was part of a “Zombie Flash Mob.”  He’d been attending the dance classes for three weekends, so he was looking forward to it.  We got him dressed up in some old clothes that we slashed up and stained red here and there.  The Mob organizers had makeup artists on hand, so John got quite the makeover.  When he looked in the mirror, he must have jumped a foot!  While we waited for Zero Hour, John and I joined the folks who were making masks.  John made one that looked like “Raven” from the Teen Titans.  I used green paint, green glitter, and pipe cleaners in red, brown, green and yellow to create Medusa!

Sunday — Here I am, folding clean laundry, putting up the last-minute Halloween decorations, and trying to catch up on everything else I had to push back this week.  My mother is downstairs with John working on her Halloween costume.  She’s going as a tree.  That’s right, a tree.  Complete with bark, leaves, a bird’s nest, and a squirrel.  Mom will be entering a costume contest.  Both Mom and my father contributed to my competitive streak.  In my family we’re quite fond of trophies.  😀  Another thing we’re quite fond of is naps.

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