I had been in the scenario a million times before. Marco and I were practicing his spelling words (or math or fill in the blank with whatever homework nightmare is most fitting on any given day) and it wasn’t going well. It might have gone something like this:
Me: Spell ‘cat’
Me: Good. Spell ‘bat’
Me: Good. Spell ‘hat’
Me: Good. Spell ‘rat’
Me: Marco, think about it. All of your other words followed a pattern. Try again. Spell ‘rat’.
Me: Remember, you spelled bat, B-A-T. Use that to help you. How do you spell ‘rat’?
Me: Marco, you’re not trying. Stop and think. How do you spell ‘rat’?
Me: That’s it! Forget it. We’re not doing this if you’re not going to try. (escalating from here to total ugliness)
The next day when his tutor arrived I vented to her, “I just don’t understand it. He’s so inconsistent. I feel like he’s not even trying.” And on and on. She so perfectly responded, “Well of course, for Marco to remember things he needs he needs multiple sensory inputs for it to go into longer term memory.”
A huge serving of humble pie for me.
I was crazy to think that I could quiz him on his spelling words verbally while I clean up the kitchen from dinner. On what planet would a kid with ADHD and possible auditory processing problems be able to practice spelling words in that way? What was I thinking?!
But the humble pie didn’t stop there.
I couldn’t stop myself from thinking: Why did I forget to modify the instruction? Why didn’t I use different strategies to create success for him? How did I not consider that he needed visual input to practice the skills? I would have done it for a student in my classroom and yet it didn’t even occur to me to try it for my own son.
So I’m writing this as a confession: I’ve been expecting Marco to live in my neuro-typical world with his neuro-atypical brain. Simply not fair to him.
Now I’m trying hard to modify the homework just as I expect the teachers to modify the instruction while he is in class. His IEP requires it at school – how dare I not also do it at home? I won’t say that we don’t have any more homework battles because that would be a lie. But he is learning his spelling words more peacefully now that he can use his dry erase board to help him.
And whenever my husband and I notice that we’re having a moment where we’re expecting him to live in our neuro-typical world, we call out a secret code word. Ours happens to be “Hallowell” after the amazing and inspiring Dr. Ed Hallowell, ADHD expert. My son doesn’t understand why we randomly say this weird word but it reminds my husband and me that WE are the ones that need to adjust in that moment and not my son.