5 Aspects Which Matter More Than Your Child’s Grades
“He’s just slightly touched by autism,” she said.
“What do you mean by slightly touched?” I asked.
“Oh he’s high functioning. He just completed his 10th grade. With God’s grace, he’s able to cope with academics. Of course I had to work very hard, but somehow we managed.”
I’ve been down this road many times. Still, I continued prodding.
“That’s good to hear. Does he have friends? Does he connect with you and the rest of the family? Does he share how his day went with you?”
“I ask him many times but he doesn’t tell me. But you know, he scored 74% in the CBSE exam this year.” She continued.
“I’m happy for you.” I said, genuinely feeling her joy. But I had to ask the next question. “How independent is he? Does he take decisions on his own?”
“He follows what I say, most of the time. He can make choices.”
“I don’t know what he should do next. Maybe I should enroll him in a vocational center. She voiced anxiously.
Just at that moment, the youngster entered my cabin. His mother asked him to sit down. She had to tell him where to sit. I noted that he was prompted to answer every question. He seemed anxious.
My heart sank.
This time I ask myself a question I’ve asked many times: “Will we always measure success based on how well a child scores in the 10th grade?”
Scoring high marks makes you, the parent feel that your child is ‘just like everybody else.’
Dear Parent, your child is different. You’ve experienced this. Why do you continue to push him towards being just like everybody else? Accept he is different.
Work on those academic scores, by all means. But that shouldn’t be the criteria for success. Have a vision for your child that exceeds academic scores.
Focus on this factor instead: Relationships
I don’t mean a question-answer relationship. I mean a deeper, meaningful, reciprocal relationship. I can hear you say, “Is that even possible?”
Yes it is.
Start with these steps to build that relationship.
Get your child involved in what you do.
Do you wake up and make your bed? Involve your child. Give him an active role. Do not instruct. Do not prompt. Let him watch what you do and figure out what he needs to do. Remember the 45-second rule.
Do you make breakfast? Let him assist you. Let him get you the ingredients, cutlery and crockery required. Watch him. Does he figure it out on his own?
“This will jumpstart a back and forth relationship between you both.
“Put your child on the spot for thinking.
“One mother handed her child the mixer and asked him to help her grind some spices required for a dish. He took 5 minutes to figure out where to plug the mixer in.
“It was amazing that she didn’t prompt him. She gave him time. Give your child time to figure things out on his own. This may seem superficial, but the truth is it leads to enhanced neural connectivity in the brain.
“Besides, it makes your child a thinking individual. Do not rob him of thinking.
“One of my students was poor at conversations.
“He would speak jargon and come up with unconnected responses. We worked out a dinner table ritual. After dinner, the family would start a story telling session. They would invent a story as a team. Each person had to build on a part of the story that the person prior to him/her had stated.
“After 4-6 months, we found substantial improvements in conversation. Dumb charades is a wonderful game to play too. No words, just facial expressions and gestures. Let your child guess what you’re trying to say.
“What a fun way to work on non verbal communication!
Your child may know hundreds of words. Does he put them together meaningfully to have a conversation with you? Playing these games works on building foundations of communication.
Your child will automatically get better with speech and language, once you work on foundations.
“School can be a difficult place for your child. Work on enhancing your child’s mental health and reducing his co-occurring conditions.
“Anxiety and depression are alarmingly high in people with autism. They’re different and they know it. They try to fit in and don’t understand social nuances or why their classmates are mean to them.
Look out for signs of anxiety and withdrawal in your child. Get in touch with a mental health professional to guide you through this.
One of my students would wake up with the same nightmare over a period of years. It was about his school mates chasing him down to a bathroom he was hiding in.
Do address these important issues. They should not be swept under the rug.
Strengthen experiences in your child’s mind by taking pictures or writing experiences together. Create self awareness.
View pictures, videos with your child often. Let him observe them himself. Spotlight emotions and feelings. Your child will become more aware of himself.
You may have guessed I don’t like to use the words ‘high functioning’ or ‘low functioning.’
Every person on the spectrum manifests differently. They’re individuals in their own right and need to be respected for who they are. Each of them faces issues with some core conditions.
By working on these 5 points, building a relationship with your child, you will remediate the core deficits of autism.
Reach up for the stars, dear friend. Have loftier goals for your child. Focus on your child having gainful employment or holding down a job.
Work on building relationships and friendships. Work on him living as independently as possible.
Your child too has the ability of a winner. Let him soar. Be the wind beneath his wings.