Here’s a title with a difference, LOL! Last Wednesday, August 20th, I went along to Eastern Creek Raceway with B’s (my youngest son) school to see his class compete in this event as B had been chosen as one of the team to drive and push their vehicle (basically it was a billy cart designed and made by the kids, using recycled materials to build it with).
The KDC-NRMA Technology Challenge is an exciting program where students, teachers and local communities work together to design and construct a vehicle to detailed specifications. It requires a team effort including all students, and promotes a connected outcomes approach. More info here…
Naturally being a proud mum I was eager to see my baby do his best but also secretly apprehensive that because of his Asperger’s Syndrome he’d stuff up and embarrass himself, which has happened before. Overall he and his team did very well – two classes from his school had entries and both teams came second in the majority of their events. Because he’s in a mainstream class I think his teacher tends to forget that he does have special needs. I don’t have a problem with B’s teacher this year, or his teachers in previous years. For the most part they’ve all been great (with one exception who was simply waiting out the 6 mths before her retirement and had obviously lost her passion for teaching) and they have all tried their best to accommodate B’s needs.
It’s the education system and lack of funding that’s the problem. B’s differences and difficulties might be comparatively mild compared to other more severely affected kids, but he does still need classroom assistance; however its only the more obviously affected kids who get any decent amount of aide time, and they could always do with more time too.
Meanwhile my little guy is fast slipping through the cracks in the education system – he’s too “normal” for an autism class, but just a little too “aspie” for a mainstream class. Mind you, he has made tremendous progress over the last couple of years, in part because of the private tutoring he attends in an attempt to “catch up” to his peers and the expected outcomes for his level of the curriculum, but also because he’s a smart kid who really tries hard and always wants to do the right thing, and therefore has developed a good relationship with all of his teachers, including the school principal. He really thrives on positive reinforcement and encouragement, which this year’s teacher has used to greater advantage than perhaps some of the previous teachers have.
Anyway, back to the Kids’ Design Challenge… during parts of the pushcart race I could see that clueless, panicky, flustered look come over my little boy’s face when it was obvious he didn’t fully understand what he had to do or how to do it, even though all the other kids in the team seemed to already know. Unfortunately he doesn’t always pick up on implicit info – only the explicit. He needs to see and do something to learn it, not just hear verbal instructions – they tend to go in one ear then out the other and off into the universe! As he’s not in a special ed class his teachers tend to forget this and assume that because he appears to know what he’s doing in a lot of situations that of course he can transfer that knowledge to other situations. But, that’s not always the case, and transferring knowledge from one situation to another is not an Aspie strong point. However, he managed OK and didn’t cop too much flack from the other kids for not doing what they thought was obvious – eg. in the relay race he tried to get into the cart before it had been turned around. Then when he had to do a quick changeover from driver to pusher he didn’t understand how to help turn the vehicle around – all seemingly obvious stuff to everyone else who managed to do it all smoothly, but things he should have been specifically coached in to ensure success – a bit like using “social stories” to help explain what’s going to happen and why, commonly used to prepare aspie & autie kids for something they’re not yet familiar with; situations that “NT” kids wouldn’t have a problem with. But, he coped very well with the whole day and I was extremely proud of him. 😀
Parts of the days events were on the TV news later that evening, but unfortunately I almost missed it completely and only got a glimpse of B as he drove past on the TV screen – and I hadn’t thought to put a tape in earlier to record it. POOP! 😦