Lesson Learned

by PammyMcB

Damien learned a very valuable lesson yesterday. He had to sign a song for his American Sign Language (ASL) class. The teacher had told him before Christmas break about the video and let him know it was due on January 15. Damien had forgotten about the project and went to school without it yesterday.

However, I knew about the project and asked him several times if he was working on it during Christmas break. He assured me that he had done most of the work and was almost finished with it.

Because I am trying to teach him organizational skills and constantly introducing new tools to help him with these skills, I feel that Damien’s school projects and assignments are his responsibility. The child is now 17 years old and insists on living on his own as soon as he finishes high school. Damien also, most likely, will be going to college in a year and a half.

Anyway, I had suggested several times and bought day planners for Damien’s use, but he does not use them. He just tosses them aside and never even opens them. In elementary school his Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) team and I had it set up where the teachers came to him and filled out his day planner for him. We worked it up to where Damien would take the teachers the day planner, and they would fill it out for him. By middle school, he had worked up to where he was filling out his day planner himself. Damien also had laminated schedules for each class that had everything that happened in that class in order. Every day he would mark the tasks off in order with a grease pencil, and every day I would clean each for the next day after Damien returned home. Bathroom breaks, getting dressed for gym, and absolutely everything else was on these schedules.

By the time Damien got to high school, he had excellent organization skills, as he kept up with everything himself. His calendar in his room was always marked up with projects, appointments, etc., so Damien would know what to expect each day. Somehow, he slipped from utilizing the tools. It seems the more responsibility I give him, the more Damien starts to slip. I feel awful for him, but if he is to be ready for college, Damien needs to start learning to take on all the weight himself.

As his mother, it is so difficult to not do everything for Damien like I used to do. However, I cannot go to college with him and make sure that he shaves every day, brushes his hair, puts on deodorant, delegates his time to get school work and projects done, or any of it for him. We are approaching transition fast, and I fear we may not be ready. But, I know that I must let him try on his own.

Anyway, Damien was absolutely distraught and had his first high school meltdown. He worked all afternoon and until 2:00 a.m. to finish the project. The teacher did not know that he has autism and would require frequent reminding as addressed in his Individual Educational Plan (IEP), which means she did not read his file at all and has not been sticking to his IEP, as required by law. Still, though, most of the responsibility lies on Damien (It would be so easy to blame her, but I know that Damien has to be held accountable for his actions, or in this case, inactions). His teacher scolded him, as to be expected, and then, meltdown.

Last night, or should I say this morning, Damien said, “Momma, I think I learned my lesson. I thought that translating would be the hardest and longest part of the video. I did not realize that the encoding, saving, and merging of the cuts in the video would take so long. Now, I know why I can’t put something that accounts for such a big part of my grade off until the last minute.” He continued, “My teacher also told me that a college professor would not be as lenient as her in allowing me to turn it in late; and I would most likely fail the class if I don’t turn it in on time.”

I am very proud that he learned a lesson. He came home from school with a new calendar from his special education coordinator, and they are once again training him to utilize the tools to help keep him organized. I know he is exhausted at school today and may be having difficulty staying focused, but that too is part of the lesson to be learned. He needs to know the overall consequences for leaving things to the very last minute.

Damien chose to sign “Land of Confusion” sung by Disturbed. I love the video because he gets so worn out in the middle. I told him it would have been far easier to do the same song sung by Genesis because it is just a little slower. He said that he thinks that would have been a better choice, as it was hard to keep up with the Disturbed video. They were only required to do two minutes. That is why the song just stops. I think he did a really good job for his first video project.