Tuesday, November 30, 2010


A rough day, today.  Well, it was relatively calm until I sat down with S to try and do some homework.  She is not able to just sit down and do homework by herself; for one thing, she can't read the directions at all, and further, there is no way she could complete really any of her homework papers independently.  And these are not difficult papers to do.  The sticking point today was using a number line and completing the 'blanks' when asked the numbers used to count by 10s, 5s, 2s, and 3s.  She couldn't do any of it.  There was no point at which I could start the thinking process and she could finish it, and write the correct number on the line, without my pretty much telling her the answer.  It's becoming more and more clear that when she doesn't truly understand the concept, she starts to mentally check out, and then keeping her focused on the work is just about impossible.  Today, the scene ended with her crying angrily in her room (where I put her, and then really slammed the door, which we've consistently told the girls NOT to do), and me sitting at the table writing a note to her teacher and then sitting with my head in my hands.  It sucked.  It shouldn't surprise me at this point, how much she really, truly does not understand when it comes to math concepts.  Reading homework is not quite as challenging.  If repetition is the key to learning when working with children with PWS, then I think S is still at the point where the most basic math facts still need lots and lots and lots of repeating.  As I wrote in the note to the teacher, S doesn't consistently understand, at this point, even the basic fact that 1+1 = 2....how on earth can we expect her to understand counting by 10s???  She can certainly memorize the series of numbers 0-10-20-30 etc, but she truly does not understand what she is doing when she says that series of numbers.  The same goes when she counts by 2s or 3s or any other number. 

The math curriculum my school district uses is based on a "spiralling" technique, where the teacher covers a concept a day, and then moves on to the next one, and then in a week or two or three comes back to the first concept and reviews it, adding to that concept gradually.  I'm thinking this curriculum does not work well for kids like S who are significantly challenged in terms of short-term-memory.  For all I know, maybe her teacher covered that same math material in their classroom today what was on that homework paper...but S is not going to remember it until they've gone over it 50 times in a row (and even then, is she understanding it or is she just memorizing numbers?).  I'm not expecting her to ever overcome the inherent learning challenges that all PWS kids face - but why send this kind of homework home when she clearly is not at that level yet?  In our conference with her teacher last week, I did mention that if it ever becomes a choice between forcing her to get homework done and maintaining quality-of-life - i.e. some kind of sanity - in our home, I would be choosing sanity and peace over homework, and they all agreed with me.  So I'm more than ready to send the papers back to her teacher with a note saying "we just couldn't get this done", and I know the school staff wouldn't have a problem with that (how she would then be passing her grade level I don't know, but I was also assured she would never have to repeat a grade, so ???).  The problem arises with S; children w/PWS are very attuned to following the rules and following the routine, and she got very upset today and on other days when I made any mention of sending the paper back unfinished.  Sending anything back unfinished is not routine, it goes against the pattern we've been following since school started.  I want S to work at her own pace and not be absolutely a terror when trying to get work done.  Her teacher feels the same.  I do not enjoy getting frustrated with her as we try to do homework.    S is stuck on the idea that homework must be finished every night and taken back to school the next day.  We are only a few months into first grade, and the homework is, even if it is simplified for her, only going to get harder. Today's episode with her really, really sucked - and an hour later, she was pretty much over it, and me? Well, it's 4 hours later and I'm still recovering, partly because there is more homework on the way tomorrow.


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