12/5/12

The Littlest Test-Taker

Orangeboy was the only seventh grader to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) on Saturday at the high school.  He was invited to take the test by the Duke TIP program for gifted students.  I wonder what all  hose high school juniors and seniors thought of the 4 foot 8, 60 pound seventh grader taking a college aptitude test along with them?
 
As for what Orangeboy thought of them : not much.    He had nothing at all to say about all those big students with which he spent half a day.   His first comment when I picked him up after the test; "Well, it was pretty challenging."   But he said "pretty" as if it mitigated "challenging" rather than as an intensifier.  This is the boy who, at home, will spoon food onto his plate and then ask me if he got enough or too much because, as he says, he's "not very good at estimating".   And yet, he can apparently tackle pre-calculus just fine.

Orangeboy's other big concern for the morning also had nothing to do with being around high school students, or finding his way around at the high school, or what he would do during breaks; but instead, he was interested in the rules posted on the door at the entrance to the building.  He stood in front of the poster and read them carefully before he went in - and then did the same after he came out four hours later.  Apparently he wanted to make sure he hadn't unwittingly violated any of the rules while taking the test.

And yes, this boy who took a four hour test, read every question, and didn't complain about being bored or tired out by it, is the same boy who cannot sit to watch a 30 minute television program and who doesn't like movies because they are too long and boring!

Go figure!  I know Orangeboy would be glad to.

5/2/12

Waving Arms for No Reason

Sometimes I wish I could just read their minds.  Not knowing what's going on inside their heads makes it hard to help.   Assuming I know what is going on in someone else's world leads to false assumptions and misunderstandings.   

I learned group music at a young age.  I was taken to church and sang hymns, I was sent to childrens' choir and learned about keeping time with the director and the basics of reading music.  By the time I started in the school band in fifth grade, I already knew that the director was marking the beats of each measure with the wavings of his arms and that I needed to position my music stand so that I could see the music and the director in order to stay in time with the rest of the band.   I assumed my children who also went to church, childrens' choir, and elementary music had learned these things by the time they started band this year in sixth grade.  To my surprise, I discovered just last night that I was wrong!   

Orangeboy and his sister are both visually impaired, but they are really quite adept at faking good vision.  I can understand when they fool others, but I always feel guilty and especially duped when I discover they have fooled me, their Mom.   Last night at the dinner table Orangeboy's sister was telling us that while she was over visiting her grandparents that "Pops" had shown her a video of him in his pre-retirement days directing his middle school band at Festival.  She seemed amused when she recounted that he was "just standing up their in front of them waving his arms around."
I remarked in a mildly sarcastic tone, "Yes, that because he was the Director." (Like, duh, that's what the Director does.)
Sister Antagonist responded with, "Well, I didn't know what he was doing until he told me."

I was perplexed by her remark because she has been going to band rehearsal almost every school day for eight months now and learning to play the flute.  I know they have a band director who directs the band.  How did she not know that her band teacher was up there waving her arms for a reason?   When I inquired further I discovered that Sister had no idea that her Band Director was up in front for the purpose of directing the band while they played.  She admitted that she couldn't really see what she was doing with her arms.  I then to turned to Orangeboy, who plays trumpet in the band.   He said, "Well, I did actually know that Directors do that, but I can't really see what she's doing up there."

So there it was.   All these years in church when the music minister stood up and waved his arms to lead the congregation or choir in song, and the years in children's choir when the music started and the children sang, and for the last eight months in middle school band, my children did not see that they were being directed.  They were making do on their own with less direction than the rest of the group and they were excelling!
But it had to be more difficult, didn't it?  They had to discover their own cues for knowing when to start and how to stay together.  They had to work harder to know what everyone else was doing.  

That's what Orangeboy is dealing with all the time.   No wonder he gets frustrated and angry.  No wonder he prefers to spend his time engaged in solitary activities.  When he misses a cue or can't interpret it, he has to find his own way of doing things and it is so much harder to keep up with the rest of us.

For years I've been trying to get inside his head and figure out what he's thinking and what he's missing - and I still get surprised.

1/4/12

Pictures Aren't Necessary

For Christmas, Orangeboy received The Manga Guide to Databases, among other things.  He spent most of Christmas day with his face in this book. I finally asked him what he thought about his new book on databases and his assessment was, "Well, I don't care much for the graphics, but it is very informative."

Yes, people, this manual on a tediously boring subject is illustrated with exciting anime characters in a comic book style in order to make it more palatable to the average young reader, and Orangeboy prefers a focus on just the dry information.   It shouldn't be surprising that his second favorite tome is a thick old book about Chess strategy.   He has read it many times and has become a pretty good Chess player, but he doesn't play often. He isn't really enamored of the game itself - just the rules and strategy.   

The good news is that he is actually creating some databases.  I'm not sure exactly what he's doing, but it's something about all of his video games and all the rules, characters, points, levels, bonuses, etc, etc...
And he said something about creating a database for his closet so that he never runs out of hangers and makes sure that he always gets every item back from the laundry room.   I think he is forging ahead with one even though I told him it might be bad idea to track his laundry, unless he is going to start doing the laundry himself.






12/19/11

Holiday gift guide: Books about autism

Holiday gift guide: Books about autism  from the Washington Times Communities

Also:  All Cats Have Aspergers Syndrome, Kathy Hoopman is a sweet photo book explanation of Aspergers.

12/9/11

Is this about bullies again?

This isn't really about bullies the way you might think.  It's more about the public service that a certain amount of what might be called bullying can provide the child who is a little - shall we say - "Out of Sync" with the rest.

I know - shocking.  With all the victim tragedies out there and all the prevention campaigns, this may not be the time to appear to defend bullying. Actually, as a past victim of bullies myself, I'm rather grateful for the efforts made to unearth this scourge in our schools and for the actions being taken to prevent bullying - for the most part.  But the other day something happened that made me think; could this anti-bullying campaign go too far; just like the zero tolerance policy for weapons did?   Do you remember news stories about young students being suspended, expelled, or even arrested for bringing pocket knives or toy guns to school?   It makes me wonder, will we hear of students being harshly disciplined for so-called bullying if they so much as point and laugh at a fellow student whose behavior is beyond the pale?

If you were an elementary or middle school student with a classmate who consistently behaved in ways that made you uncomfortable, what would you do? Point and snicker? Elbow your friend and whisper, "Check out the weirdo"?   Maybe you would be bothered enough to say something to the oddly-behaving peer like; "Hey Goof!  Cut it out!"
Maybe it would be better to studiously ignore the odd kid? But could you be accused of bullying if he noticed you and others were purposely ignoring him?

All these thoughts came to me when I was driving up to retrieve my three students from school the other day.  As I followed the line of cars up the parking lot to the covered walkway behind the school where all the car-riders wait, I spotted Orangeboy lying flat on his back on the sidewalk.   He wasn't actually lying completely flat on his back.  He was wearing his backpack on his back and so he was technically lying on top of that.  He appeared to be talking or singing to himself.  He then rolled on his side, jumped up and with a big goofy grin on his face, he began swinging around a pole by one arm.  I noticed that all the other students standing around were not looking at him or saying anything to him.  I decided it was odd that none of them reacted in what I would have thought was a normal way for young teens to react to that sort of display of social cluelessness.  I concluded that either all of Orangeboy's peers are suffering from a similar state of social isolation, or they had been so thoroughly indoctrinated against bullying that they couldn't even point and snicker for fear of being accused.

When he hopped into the car, I asked Orangeboy why he was lying on the sidewalk; which is, afterall, designed primarily for walking and not for lounging.  He told me he wasn't. I told him he WAS, I saw him.  
He said, "Oh."
I guess nobody actually noticed his odd positioning on the sidewalk, including Orangeboy himself.  Which brings me back to the teasing or taunting that could be called bullying; it could have helped Orangeboy.  I'm merely claiming that if a fellow student had made Orangeboy aware that his behavior was not acceptable for a cool middle school guy, Orangeboy might be more alert to the fact that he probably should remain standing in a casual slouch while waiting for his Mom to pick him up after school. 

A little peer pressure can go a long way.  A lot of repeated pressure from some peers can be bullying.  I hope we don't get the two confused because I hear that future employers can be rather judgmental about such things as lying down on the job.