Monday 11 July 2011

The horror, the horror

Imagine that you have a child whom you love very much. Now imagine that you go to collect this child after work every day. Now imagine that every day when you pick your child up its first words to you are: "Do I have to clean my teeth tonight?" Regardless of what you say to your child -- yes, yes of course, yes just like last night, yes because otherwise you'll get sore teeth,  yes you know you do, yes, everyone else does, yes, we've been through this, yes, come on now don't be silly -- your affirmative response will prompt anything from 20 minutes to two hours of negotiating, arguing, shouting, tears, temper tantrums or hysterical meltdown. By the time your child has brushed its teeth, you are both exhausted and swear to each other that it won't be like this anymore. The teeth will get brushed, you won't shout, you'll both be friends. You hug and kiss, exhausted.

The next day you go to pick up your child and the first thing it asks you is: "Do I have to clean my teeth tonight?"

This is what evenings with Grace are like, except that her question is: "Do I have to do my homework tonight?" 

To be clear: Grace's teacher does not give her masses of homework. What she does give her amounts to about half an hour on four nights a week. Or an hour on Sundays and maybe ten minutes for four nights a week. Subjects she must do can include spelling, story-writing, reading comprehension, maths, reading, occasional history or special subject assignments. Then there's piano and guitar practice. Some of these things take her five minutes. Some of them mean both of us sitting down together for an hour and a half. 

There are many and varied reasons for Grace to detest some of the homework she sometimes has to do, many of which are related to her having AS and have been touched on already in previous entries here. I am glad the school gives her homework. I think it's necessary for her to learn, it's a good discipline and much of it is enjoyable. She loves singing and playing music and doesn't want to give up learning her instruments. 

But the daily task of getting her to accept that she's got to do it is driving me mad. That sentence doesn't do justice to how it feels. It's not just mad like: arg this again. It's mad like proper, ancient, deep-in-the-brain lunacy. It's mad like the dark places poets and criminals and people in scary films go. It's mad like Sylvia Plath's wild, bald moon and the Joker's rictus grin. 

Sometimes I feel like running out of the house even as I'm thinking how much I missed her while I was at work.

Today to calm myself as Grace raged I counted up the number of days left in which I have to do this. It's two weeks til the end of term. There won't be any homework next week and most of this week's is done. So really I've probably only got one more night of this. I calculated that so far this school year we have had homework negotiations on 196 nights. No -- take off Fridays -- that's 156 nights, or 156 hours if I average out the length of time we reason or row.  6.5 days. So, nearly a week of madness. 

Put in that context, I've had another 51 weeks which are better, fine or even great.

So what am I complaining about?

Year Five starts in September. We can do it.


  1. Hi, your post resonated with me as I have an 8yo dd with ASD- it's not easy for others to understand our crazy lifestyle! Good post :)

  2. I have an AS DS of 9 years old and we have the same issue with homework and getting ready - I feel your pain because you don't want to keep nagging them as they need to find a way to be self-sufficient but at the same time if you left them to their own devices nothing would ever get done!

  3. Hi,My son is nearly 16, has severe ASD amongst other debilitating conditions. He is only able to communicate his basic needs to us and lives life through a 'first and then' format. Giving him verbal instructions does not give him the reassurance he is looking for (he is a visual learner), and so we started writing things down for him. eg/ first close the gate, then close the gate finished. Writing a vareity of statements as frequently as 50 times a day became the bain of our lives. And so the 'flashcard' was reborn! I typed up the most frequently used phrases into boxes, printed and laminated them, put them onto a split ring, hung them on the kitchen cupboard door and voila! Everytime my son looks for that verbal and (visual) written reassurance, I flash him the corresponding card. For this to work for my son is amazing! It may not work for your daughter, but it's worth trying, if only to save your sanity of repeating the same thing over and over again. You could pop them into your handbag and show it to her as soon as you greet each other. Maybe she can take responsibility and look after them herself?

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