View Full Version : So, what's the unschool-y solution to this problem

12-11-2012, 05:29 AM
Unschool-y because the article about the perky family made me wonder about what do you do when there's an organic situation that, as a parent I don't see time resolving.

I always thought B1 was on the autism spectrum (his preferred descriptor not mine) with a dollop of ADD/executive function disorder. But watching him in school I'm beginning to think I got it backwards. His ADD is a much bigger problem than his social quirks, although his social quirks reinforce the negative and positive aspects of the ADD.

He's unhappy enough in school that I wish there were some other way to help him learn what I think he needs to learn to be able to function in the adult world - go to college, hold a job etc. He isn't miserable, he likes his humanities classes and his latin and music he participates in all his classes and his teachers say he's fun and interesting so this isn't an urgent problem. He's noticing some of the other kids (and BOO is determined to help him make a friend). Unfortunately daddyo only models "do it if it's convenient and/or fun" lifestyle and he's got the trust fund to make it possible (although if the divorce is ever final that will change) and he's the biggest influence on B1.

Here's what B1 needs help with and he doesn't understand and may never understand why these are good skills to have: organization - whether it's writing a paper, time management, keeping track of stuff etc he's hopeless. I can and have set up checklists they don't help (I struggle with this too so that doesn't help). Understanding that he is a part of the equation, I don't know quite how to describe this but he doesn't seem to understand that it is within his control to call me if he doesn't want to go to school and I will call the school and at least let them know he's going to be late. I finally changed the wireless password a couple of weeks ago and told him he couldn't have it until he finished something. He sulked for two days until I goaded him into getting the work done. It took him half an hour. His stuff is who he is, it isn't going to change over time, just as if he were type I diabetic he'd always need insulin, he is always going to have to be aware of how his brain functions and malfunctions

I'd love to pull him from school, get him some tutoring so he can learn how to learn, and set him free to explore early soviet cinema on youtube (he loved the battleship potemkin) teach himself a more robust coding language, read whatever (Jane Austen and the new book about modern American generals are current favorites). But I don't know, I don't know if he'd ever learn how to engage that starter motor we all have to use when we're faced with a task we don't want to do.

The school is actually really supportive of whatever we decide is best, they are consistently amazing in their flexibility and dedication to all their students. So this isn't an anti-school thing.

Sheesh this in long winded.

12-11-2012, 06:50 AM
I wish I knew what the answer was...I have seen the starter motor (great description, btw!) in fits and starts in my own son when it comes to things he has to do, and I've seen it take off fast enough to leave me in the dust in things he WANTS to do.

I hope someone here will have some ideas for you!

12-11-2012, 12:48 PM
I would look at this CD
Learning the R.O.P.E.S. for Improved Executive Function: Patricia Schetter: 9780976151708: Amazon.com: Books (http://www.amazon.com/Learning-R-O-P-E-S-Improved-Executive-Function/dp/0976151707)
I have the book version (I don't think they make that any more). It's essentially a collection of organizational tools to help with executive function. As one of our many tutors (and adviser to the author) told me, the goal is to help the kids see the many dots available, and how to connect them independently. First they have to see the many dots. Then they have to connect them. Then they have to learn the skill of generalizing the connections between different but similar events. Then they learn to predict based on past connections. It's all very systematic and I expect the CD is a bunch of organizers, like venn diagrams, cause and effect, then cause, effect, prediction organizers, things like that. I like it because it starts with the most minuted details you and I take for granted, like setting aside a certain amount of time for something. We know that making dinner will take X minutes and so we start at around Y o'clock so we can plan to eat at Z o'clock. Our kids might not get this. Like, even a little. My oldest predicted "infinity minutes" for doing his math assignment years ago. After a week of compiling notes, he saw that it took him on average 40 min. Part of his infinity prediction was joking, but part of it was that he had no conceivable idea. He never ever paid attention to that detail. No wonder he hated math. It took forever. Literally. ;-)

12-11-2012, 01:20 PM
Good luck with that Pefa, I am still learning it at 44.

12-13-2012, 04:56 AM
Lakshmi - amen sister.

One of the reasons I'm worried for B1 is that disorganization ha held me back in serious ways throughout my life. I'm just thankful he's the only one who appears to have inherited the trait. My sister and I were talking about things that it would have been nice to have had as kids and a big one was this recognition of how to break down tasks etc. (Whether we would have listened is another story.) I don't want B1 to get lost because he doesn't get why he has to get things in in a timely fashion. He's so ferociously smart that he a lot of his deficits get masked.

Albeto THANK YOU. I hoped you'd have something up your sleeve. The book/cd looks great.

Rueyn - certainly it's a universal problem, who wants to do what they don't want to do?

So we'll see. School isn't horrible for him, we're amused by what he notices (the pattern on a teacher's skirt, how kids with the same name spell it differently etc.) and he's having to push himself to get the organization piece which is also good.

Thanks again

Stella M
12-13-2012, 04:34 PM
The problem with school is that it sets up so many artificial tasks. I don't know about B1, but I have a terribly difficult time motivating myself to care enough about artificial tasks to get organised with them.

I agree, disorganisation can hold you back. And I acknowledge we all need to do things we don't want to do. However, there's a difference between doing tasks you don't feel like doing but make internal sense - you value the outcome, see the neccessity, like the cash :) - and tasks you don't feel like doing that are utterly artificial.

But feel free to ignore me. I'm jaded about school and enjoying not having to engage with the ridiculousness of the 'academics'.

12-13-2012, 11:42 PM
Love the term "artificial tasks" Stella! It does seem to be true, that when a bright person recognizes that a task is not only boring, but also absolutely unnecessary and carries no actual reward, that the person's common sense kicks in like a horse rearing up spooked after scenting something wrong on the path it was urged toward.
Trying to go through the motions at something you really have zero interest in, is like trying to fake enjoyment in other aspects of life that aren't mentionable in nice company. It doesn't fool anyone, but wastes everyone's time.

12-14-2012, 04:58 AM
I totally agree about the busy work, and there's a lot of culture clash going on that doesn't make things easier. Some of the stuff that goes on in the schools just makes me cringe.

Heck, I think this is something we can all agree about: none of us want to do the things that we don't want to do.

It's not that he doesn't do the things he has zero interest in (I don't care about that kind of stuff) it's that he can't do the things he has a lot of interest in. And it's not a willpower thing either, he physically/mentally/whatever can't do it. I'm trying to figure out the appropriate external bracing system so I won't have to be his goad forever (because I love my kids but I don't want to live with them forever). School has a place in this process.

It's a journey.

12-14-2012, 03:45 PM
When my sister found out her academic difficulties could be explained by dyslexia, she found it a huge relief. 20 years later, she's learned how to be an advocate for herself, learned what clues to look for to prevent misunderstandings, learned to predict potential outcomes to certain events, and has taught her son with executive functioning challenges the same thing since he was very small. A lot of what they do is focus on identifying the problem. With her son, it was identifying every single variable she could think of, from feeling hungry to being confused about some school assignment in particular. She'd have scheduled check-ins throughout the day where they could focus on those things that the rest of us take for granted, like knowing if we're hungry, tired, irritable, and other emotional variables that contribute to our mental strengths. The also did external checks, kept the house organized, kept on schedule, listened to music that didn't inspire lots of impulsive behavior, and the like. The point being, she taught her son to pay attention to everything because she was never taught that herself and it didn't come naturally (I think dyslexia is only one of her challenges, personally). Making lists, tons of organizing strategies, planners, and all kinds of external tools are used where the rest of us tend to make a mental note. For example, she has a Polaroid photo with all her fine serving dishes that show the utensils that go with it (this silver bowl is used with Granny's heirloom spoon), so on the day she has a fancy luncheon for her husband's coworkers, she doesn't have to think about that, but just follows the directions she laid out when she had time on her hands. My mom thought that was genius. Me too, to tell you the truth. I know most people can probably make these mental connections in a fraction of a second, but those of us with ADD and ADHD, our brains connect points A-B via points D, O, N, H, and Z (and I'll be darned if they aren't all perfectly logical in our heads!).

I guess just to say, yeah, I agree with you that it's not a matter of will. I happen to think people assume laziness is the the culprit which only serves to teach a child to feel guilty for having a non-compliant brain. It's blaming the victim and that's a shame, I think. So, good for you, and I think you can do a lot just by stopping and taking the time to identify and verbalize what's going on throughout the day and how mental connections are best organized. Giving your son the skill to recognize and not be embarrassed of how his brain works is as awesome a gift as any mother could give.

12-14-2012, 05:36 PM
The great news about your son's struggles (and my son's struggles) is that a lot of them do have to do with Executive Function and those are SKILLS. They can be and are learned. The thing is...it's just like albeto is posting...the brain functions differently so the key is to help the person see that they even have a problem first of all and then work on the solutions to that problem together.

I like the idea of natural consequences. Like when he was 10 and would go out the back door each morning to take care of his chickens and then return to the house to find the door locked. He'd knock and I'd let him in. I got tired of the routine so one day I stopped opening the door. I pretended I was in the shower or something. He knocked, kicked and banged and eventually (and I do mean eventually) he walked around the house to let himself in the unlocked front door. This repeated itself a few more times and then he learned to unlock the door before he went out. He's never locked himself out again. My son is extremely good at solving problems. He even solves problems others have. But he's horrible at seeing problems. I know that telling him to unlock the door first wouldn't work for him. It's just not how he works. He has to realize there is a problem.

How do you teach a kid the importance of time management? With natural consequence? Hmmmm.
How do you show a college kid the natural consequences of not managing their time? That's pretty expensive--no, that's seriously expensive. There are a lot of things in life that *I* see as problems that he doesn't see. I can teach him how to solve those again and again and again. But it doesn't stick. He doesn't learn to do something even after I've told him, shown him how, etc. The key is: HE has to see THAT it's a problem and then he has to solve it. Then it sticks. We've had to learn together how to identify problems. That's sort of tricky. Lots of times he just thought the only problem was a mom who was complaining. :) He didn't see the problem I saw. So no problem...no reason to solve it. Once we learned to communicate in a way to help him see the problems he got really good at finding his own solutions and those do stick.

I recommend another book "Smart but Scattered" by Peg Dawson & Richard Guare. This one was helpful too.

I'm glad to hear that he is doing so well in school with the material. Breaking tasks down and managing time is difficult to do. Tracking several classes at the same time is difficult to do too. Task initiation (the starter motor) and goal directed persistence can be really tough with ADD. But these are skills. They are learned.

My son has a short term memory issue and that is physical. It's a brain defect kind of thing that really doesn't change much. So his working memory stinks. He's adapted by learning to use long term memory for things that most of us use working memory for. But he's just going to have to use lists, planners, calendars, timers etc. to get by. It's learning to use adaptive technology for his disability. But it's still a learned skill and he understands that. He doesn't like it. He's 20, so it's not cool. But he understands that. College wouldn't go so well without having Executive Skills in place.

12-14-2012, 08:42 PM
It's learning to use adaptive technology for his disability. But it's still a learned skill and he understands that. He doesn't like it. He's 20, so it's not cool. But he understands that. College wouldn't go so well without having Executive Skills in place.

Technology has come to the rescue for us so very often. Some kids are just more expensive, and I have one of those. He doesn't require more spending just for the technology, but for the many (many, many many) times he will lose/break/ruin something on the way to learning this skill, not to mention finding out just what works. It takes time, and it takes money, so we budget for that.