Ben had a rough start back to school.
He missed April, May and June in hospital post-surgery, then he had to stay home the first week because of bronchitis. A week later, he got a bad cold and missed a couple more days.
He's still hobbling around and one of the reasons is that his operated-on leg is now one-inch shorter than the other leg. This is apparently a common result of the kind of hip surgery he had, though we didn't know about it in advance. We're hoping a lift in his shoe may help.
When Ben was in hospital for so long we had a bit of a reprieve from worrying about his learning; our attention was focused on his physical and emotional care. We wanted him to survive the body-cast ordeal and weren't sure if he would walk again. That was about all we could focus on.
Now the never-ending question of how to help Ben learn is again front and centre.
The other day I had a call from the school to let me know that Ben had refused to do his “art” work and had broken the teacher’s ruler in protest. Ben isn’t able to do conventional art because his hands are so weak, small and uncoordinated (though I thought it was quite impressive that he had the strength to break a ruler!). For the same reason, he can’t write functionally. In order for Ben to be successful at an art project, it has to be adapted in some way.
I was told he would be bringing home any work he didn’t do in class from now on.
So he came home with a sheet of paper where he had to colour in some squares on a grid using pencil crayons. I sat with him while he scribbled outside the lines, because he simply doesn’t have the dexterity with pencil crayons to colour neatly inside the lines.
I couldn’t understand why Ben had been given this task, knowing it was something he couldn’t physically do. He knows he can’t do it, and he knows he can’t be successful at it.
Now that Ben is home again, I have time to see all of the gaps in his understanding and communication, but it’s hard to know where or how to address them.
In the small amount of time we have every night, do I try to teach him some new signs, do simple math, work on his reading, or encourage him to practise his keyboarding? How do I work on his reading when he can only show he knows a word by signing it, but we haven’t taught him (because we don’t know) all the signs? I ordered a math workbook but we’ve had great challenges teaching Ben math before. Is it because of the approach we’re using? Or, like the art, am I asking him to do something that he just can’t be successful at?
Ben’s intelligence can be seen when he navigates a computer to find a movie on Youtube he wants to see, or to complete a mission with Indiana Jones or Batman on his Nintendo DS. But he can’t express that intelligence in traditional ways – through speaking or writing.
And he’s so frustrated and anxious now. Anxious, I’m sure, that he’s going to be asked to do something that he can’t.