Homeschoolers are perhaps the worst when it comes to stressing about educational gaps.
He knows, simply just UNDERSTANDS the inner workings of electronics. I can barely glaze the surface.
I see the TV remote as the black thing with the buttons that I push to make the TV do something. He sees it as it appears inside: computer boards, wiring, connections, and diodes. He loves to see how things go together and make them work. Currently, as part of his Advanced Engineering program, he is serving as a student intern at a local electronics manufacturing company. They put together all of the inner workings of our commonly used items, from earbuds to humidifiers, and many much higher tech things too.
D1’s job, along with another student, is to take these devices apart and put them back together, documenting each step in detail with text and photographs. They are designing the how-to guides for the company’s manufacturing plant workers for new products they will be working on in a few months. He loves it.
He remembers details.
Tiny details like what brand of battery was originally used in that remote control car he hasn’t touched in two years. He will also hyper-focus on that brand as the only suitable replacement when he goes to use it again. Not a strength. The strengths sometimes come with rigid rules.
He remembers dates and passwords, and where EV-ER-Y-THING in the house is. If something is missing, just ask D1. Chances are he knows exactly where it was put. By whom. And when.
Amazing visual memory.
If he is shown how to do something once, he can do it. He started my van when he was 3. He turned off our sump pump AT THE FUSE PANEL when he was also around 3. He took apart an entire laptop computer about six months after having seen a computer repair guy do it, and put it back together with no “extra parts”. (It still didn’t work, but that was no fault of his. Laptops don’t drink iced tea, which is how it died in the first place.)
The very nature of Autism, the one which generally presents itself first in a young child, is the interference with communication skills. Years of speech therapy have brought his speech to “normal” ranges but he isn’t the fastest to process and respond. At times it can be frustrating for me but one thing has become apparent: His slow responses are always thoughtful. Hasty replies from teenagers often yield snarky results, but he is usually very thoughtful in his responses and I attribute that to his slower processing which in this case is a very good thing.
Organization is a challenge with his Autism and ADHD. We had to make a deal with him: spend one hour on your room and you can have XBox time. He spent an hour folding and putting away his laundry while watching Five Nights at Freddys videos on the iPad. Clean clothes for the win! (Bulldozer for the bedroom?)
Organization is not his strength. His room looks like a bomb went off, spewing clothing, books, wires, Nerf guns. and other random things everywhere. He is not able to “go clean your room” without someone there to help him prioritize what to do first, and then next. This is a problem that carries across school work, chores, and pretty much everything that has more than one item and one step involved.
His kindergarten teacher once described D1 as “A fart in a frying pan“, meaning he was pfft over here and pfft, over there, all the time. He can disappear and reappear in the blink of an eye. The main reason for this is that he is so easily distracted.
This relates directly to his distractibility! His sensory system is always on high alert. D1 cannot tune anything out. He hears everything. Notices everything. Pays attention to everything. If something is happening in another room, he will be in on it. If he’s in a class and a kid across the room quietly mentions not being able to find something, he WILL help him find it. The rabbit trails are endless with senses this sharp.
An ongoing issue for us in that he struggles to produce written work. Yes, he CAN write. Yes, he has nice handwriting. The input from brain to paper process is very slow to nonexistent at times. We have attempted to balance this out by using technology. We’ve used everything from entire curricular programs online to having him dictate written responses to assignments into a Google document using speech to text.
While he has this amazing talent to grasp engineering concepts and make them come alive, he struggles in math. Math and Engineering are part and parcel, right? Maybe. But in my son’s case, math is difficult. Making those CAD drawings come to life in 3D is not. Why he doesn’t have a strong command of both, I do not know. Teaching a 2E child is an odd dichotomy. I only know that my high school Junior, taking Advanced Engineering, is also still working his way through Algebra 1. This is just what we do.
There are no hard and fast rules with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Gaps are invitable, and strengths can be amazing. Just go with it.