Anachan's Corner

One woman's journey through marriage, motherhood, and the classroom…

Oh! The Pain!!

Written By: Anachan - Feb• 19•14

Whenever my daughters have come home with project assignments from school, I have cringed in terror.

I know, no matter how much the teacher clearly explains the project, I will end up dealing with pain.  Although I will not be doing the project, I will be helping with research, encouraging reluctant writers, refocusing distracted daughters, reminding about due dates, and keeping a bright face while calming panic attacks.  Just about as much time and energy is spent on the project by me as is spent by my daughters.

This is especially true when the victim (did I say that?) is my autistic daughter.

It is easy for her to become overwhelmed by the amount of data out there for her to sift through or the process of writing or presentation-making, itself.  It got to the point where I had to place her computer back-to-back with mine, so I would be readily available for reassurance while I worked on my own computer, without having to get out of my seat over and over and over.

As my daughters have grown, the issues have lessened, somewhat, but this particular daughter, because of her special circumstances, still occasionally becomes overwhelmed.

Today, I had to “get in her face” in the library, as tears started streaming down her face in frustration and fear, to tell her she could do this.  After all, an eight-page research paper would not be too difficult for a junior in high school, with the topic she had chosen (How to plan a novel), and she just had to take it bit by bit.

“But, Mom, there is so much information!”

I knew the signs:  She was overloaded.  And worse, instead of being the parent sighing in dread when my child came home from school with an assignment, I had assigned it to her.

I found myself in an interesting conundrum.  Here I was, the English teacher, having to assign my own daughters the kind of assignment I hated to watch my children do, as a parent.  Not only was I having to deal with 60 kids who constantly needed reassurance they were on the right track, I had to go home and deal with my own daughter, reminding her of the due date, cajoling her into working, bargaining that if she gave a good, solid hour’s work, she could go watch some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles YouTube videos.  (Yes, being autistic sometimes means a child doesn’t mature quite as quickly.)

There was no escape!!!!

“But,” you are probably saying, “if you are the English teacher, couldn’t you just skip this assignment?”

Nope.  It is a requirement placed on us by the school district that the juniors or seniors complete an eight page research paper as part of a portfolio.  After discussion with fellow faculty members, I had decided it would be best for my juniors to ensure they had this requirement completed sooner, rather than later.  After all, with the teacher turnover in our district, there was no telling who the next senior English teacher would be!

And so I found myself at my emotional wits’ end, dealing with my distraught daughter.

After the bell rang to end that class period and start my prep period, and after I had chowed down about five cookies from the office in a vain attempt to relieve some of my agitation, I sat down and researched a few more simple sources for my daughter.  If information overload was tipping her over the edge, it was time to toss out a few of the resources she had found and, as Thoreau says, “Simplify, simplify.”

Hopefully, with some simpler sources and a little hot chocolate, she’ll be able to peacefully make some progress tonight at home.

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