Try This Tuesday #17: Brainstorming

Try This Tuesday

Note: I would like to continue expanding this column to include more of your ideas or challenges. If you would like to have one of your tips featured here or have a specific issue you would like some input on from fellow parents, please email me at trish[at]anotherpieceofthepuzzle[dot]com.

As I was looking over the daily communication forms from school in preparation for our recent team meeting, I noticed several trends. Some of them were things I expected to see and thought could be addressed by consistently providing the supports already listed in the IEP.

But there was one thing that kept popping up which I hadn’t noticed before— arguments and even meltdowns over “not following directions” during creative tasks. A couple of examples from art class:

  1. When told to draw an animal you don’t see every day and given examples such as a giraffe and other wild animals, Michael began drawing a puppy. He was reprimanded for not following the directions and was told that he could only draw what he wanted after he completed the assigned task.
  2. Given “free drawing time” on another day, Michael again got in trouble for not following directions when he decided to write his letters. The teacher suggested making the letters fancy, which led to him becoming very upset when that was too difficult for him.

After explaining to the team how heartbreaking it was to hear that my son, who had resisted all manner of coloring or drawing until the age of four, was willing to make an attempt at these creative assignments and was then being given the message that his ideas were wrong, I went on to suggest that we needed to examine the way the directions were given.

Just because the instructions seem clear to the teacher, and even if the rest of the class appears to understand the desired intent, that does not mean they are clear to Michael. He takes everything very literally and also may not catch every part of a verbal explanation. And after all, it wasn’t specified that the drawing in the free drawing time had to be a picture, and he doesn’t see a puppy every day.

The team agreed that there needs to be more education given to the regular ed teachers regarding the nature of Michael’s disability and how to effectively communicate with him.

I then suggested that they take it one step further. After making sure the directions are clear to him and he understands the task he is supposed to do, could they take a little extra time to help him think through some possibilities and come with his idea before he starts?

The OT’s eyes lit up and she said, “Brainstorming; that’s a good idea!” To me, it’s just the same goal he’s had since Early Intervention—to expand his imaginative play—applied to the next stage of his education.

But of course, it requires that the teachers involved have an understanding of how his brain works and the amount of stress these “pull it out of the universe” assignments put on him. So, I guess it’s time for me to follow up and see what has been done about our conversation!

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Trish can be found writing here at 5MFSN every Friday in addition to hosting Try This Tuesday. You can also find Trish at her blog, Another Piece of the Puzzle.

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