So… Yesterday’s first moment that I wanted to keep, to store, to share was all to do with Sweet Girl and this strange situation we find ourselves in. She is not really in school, nor is she home schooled. Much of my day is spent ferrying the children to and from school. We cycle or walk in at about 8am to take Tom in, then come home. At 9.30 we cycle back in to take Kesia in. I cycle home and dash around trying to do the grown up things such as washing, cleaning, tidying, shopping, cooking. I have started keeping aside one hour for me – which generally means knitting because that is the fastest way I know of to a moment of calm for me. At 11.40 I cycle back to school to pick her up, and we cycle back. Of course, if we’re walking I have to double the time it takes! We’re are on our bikes once more at 3pm to fetch Tom from school. And before you know it, the day is more than half over, with very little time to achieve much of anything.
And yet, in the last week we have begun to find a little routine of sorts. Lunch is a calming moment where we sit together peacefully watching the Gilmore Girls – one episode only. It’s a show I love (see this post), has the delightful characteristic of being totally unthreatening for Sweet Girl, and offers endless opportunities to discuss relationships, emotions and social skills. It’s also charmingly “coming-of-age”-y, which is perfect for Kesia as she enters puberty. This short hour gives us both a good transition from school (which is often stressful for her) to home, without piling on the pressure of discussion and conversation.
Once done with lunch, we embark on our afternoons. We’ve been starting with our topic work on Ancient Greece, mostly because Kesia has been finding it difficult, so there is something of a “let’s get it out of the way” approach. As ever, the biggest difficulty is in beginning. She has a good amount of stroppy “I don’t want to do it” going on which I have made clear is simply not acceptable. I dis ask her yesterday if she would like to go to her room and have her meltdown before beginning as I’d rather not witness it if at all possible! That got her laughing and for the first time she did her reading in good time! In typically obsessive Aspie style, she gets very frustrated if she does not understand everything she is reading straight away, or if she does not retain every piece of information immediately. Her strategy for dealing with that frustration? Shutdown. Nothing in, nothing out. We are slowly showing that when you learn something new, reading is step one. The assignments that follow will consolidate that reading, and we call that studying!!! Three exceedingly frustrating hours later (three days’ work), she knows a good deal about the geography of ancient Greece, the Minoan people (well, she knows that we don’t know much about them!!!) and the Mycenean people. She also knows how to make bronze and how to cast a bronze sword, though we didn’t do a practical in that particular subject!
Yesterday was especially difficult because the assignment asked her to do some creative writing… uh oh!! She was to imagine she was a Mycenean soldier who had just received his bronze helmet. How did she feel about it? What would she say to the metal smith? How would he respond?
I know many kids whose hearts would sink at the thought of such an assignment. But I have to stress this was a very short piece of writing. Knowing my darling daughter’s real difficulty with any kind of creative writing, with her inability to “put herself in others’ shoes”, with her intense need to be “correct”, I came to the table prepared. I had plenty of alternate ways of doing this, even up to and including a time travelling Willy Wonka. ( It does make sense, really!! She had recently done a piece of writing describing WW, and felt she could use that as a starting point. You had to be there, but honest, it was a valid way of doing the assignment.)
Then there is this strange, difficult, head banging against the door infuriating aspect of their personality (their: Kesia, Zack, Darling Man… most people I know with Asperger’s have this to some extent…): “no”. “I won’t”. “I can’t”. “But the assignment doesn’t tell me to start like that, it’s your idea so I can’t use it”. AAARRGGHH!!!!!
40 minutes of talk, waiting, cajoling, listening (to largely just squeals because she had lost the ability to speak at that point), getting a little cross, waiting, always the waiting, suggesting etc etc etc.
She completed the work. The standard was not great, it was certainly not what anyone might expect from such an intelligent little girl, but it was done.
Now, all of this rigmarole might be understandable if I was forcing her to do extra work of my choosing. This is not the case. She wants to do some work because she is incapable of keeping herself busy, will not take suggestions, and feels strongly that she “should be doing work because it’s a school day”. She doesn’t want work from school because “it doesn’t fit at home”. She herself asked me to find her some work to learn about Ancient Greece (though she is interested in the Gods and we haven’t got to those yet).
In the 40 minutes of maddening purgatory, I did suggest to her that we leave it for a while. I didn’t want to give up on her, but I’m aware that we are trying to manage anxiety and that she was on the verge of totally losing control. Glory be, was that the worst suggestion of all!!! She was desperate to do the assignment!!! She simply “couldn’t”.
Such is the nature of Sweet Girl and her experience of Asperger’s syndrome.
We followed Greece with some violin practice and music theory. They were hard uphill work because she could not shake the mood she had got herself into earlier. Once again, any suggestion of waiting, taking a break, doing something utterly different was met with desperation and near tears.
I’m glad to say that about five minutes before ending our work to fetch Little Man, she suddenly “came back”, and was wonderful and over the moon at what she had done. She continued working when we returned from school and wrote her brother a letter, did some more music theory and some reading.
This is the rollercoaster I’m on with Sweet Girl. Day in, day out. How I love her!!! And how I’m looking forward to her being in a school environment that can help her!!