The school year is about to start tomorrow, and it seems to be a consistent thing in our district for students to get a summer reading packet and other assorted problems to work on. I had thought it was something that was done for elementary school kids only (since Kaitlyn is in elementary school and has had summer homework every year), but I learned last week that high school students also have summer reading assigned.
Usually, I don’t give much more than a passing glance to many of the headlines in our local paper (we only get the Sunday paper anyway), but one caught my eye last week. “Dropped reading assignment raises questions of censorship.” I was intrigued, so I starting reading the article. Then I was even more interested.
At one of our local high schools, the students were assigned a book called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. What got me interested was the description of the narrator of the story, a 15 year old British boy attempting to figure out who killed a neighborhood dog; he is described as a “mathematical whiz, with traits similar to Asperger Syndrome.” You can probably imagine why that would get me interested.
The boy in the novel is described further as “seeing and hearing in an almost emotionless way, including when adults around him curse or doubt the existence of God.” That sounded really familiar.
Anyway, a week before the start of school, a local principal pulled the book from the summer reading list. It didn’t take long to figure out why the principal made such a decision (an idiotic decision in my opinion): concerns over “the delivery of the text.” By this point, my blood pressure was increasing, but I kept reading. What struck me even more was a quote from a parent, most likely one of the few who complained loud enough to get the book pulled, “…but to have that language and to take the name of Christ in vain–I don’t go for that. As a Christian, and as a female I was offended.” Seriously? Maybe try looking deeper and not making it about you.
I ordered the book online, starting reading it Friday during my lunch, and finished it today. Is there salty language in there? Yep. Is the existence of heaven brought into question? Yep. Is the name of Christ taken in vain? Yep. Do I think the book should have been pulled? Nope. Will I let Kaitlyn read it when she is a little older? Absolutely!
While I was reading the book, I could see different traits of Kaitlyn coming through in the narrator. Good at math. Logical and rational thinker. Difficulty with jokes and sarcasm. Literal application of words. All of those things are true about the narrator, and are true about Kaitlyn, and are true about so many other kids. It’s called Asperger Syndrome.
My advice to the mom I quoted above, and who was quoted in the local paper would be to get over yourself. It is a book, written from the perspective of someone who has a brilliant mind and no filter. That is life. As a self-described “Christian woman,” I would have expected her to show tolerance and understanding of a book written from the perspective of a child who is probably not like her perfect little angel. It is people like her, who cannot seem to accept people who are not like them, that make life difficult for people like Kaitlyn. Instead of attempting to understand people who may be “different,” they are shut out and shunned. That is not really the way I want to go about my life.
If you get a chance, pick up this book and read it with an open mind. You might learn something about yourself, and you might learn something about people like Kaitlyn.
The school year is just about to wrap up, and Kaitlyn has made it known that she cannot wait for summer to be here. Two and a half months of decompressing will be good for her after what has been a stressful (at times) and productive school year that has seen her grow tremendously on the academic side of things (she’s growing like a weed, too).
With school coming to a close, Kaitlyn will start bringing home different recap reports on her progress and where she stands. These are in addition to her report card, and to be honest, give a better look into how far she has come and where she stands now.
This past Friday, she brought home three separate reports: an AR Diagnostic Report, a language arts report, and a math report. What those reports showed us even had Amber and I shaking our heads for a minute, and nothing really surprises us with Kaitlyn anymore.
The AR Diagnostic Report basically details her reading level. Her scaled score on the report, which is based on the difficulty of questions and the number of correct responses, was 904, which put her in level 5. That is on the upper end of the chart and is the highest level that a student can reach. Her percentile rank was 97, meaning she scored better than 97% of students nationally in the same grade. Her grade equivalent is 7.9, which means that her performance is better than that of an average seventh grader after the ninth month of the school year (basically where we are now on the school calendar). Finally, her Instructional Reading Level is 6.8, which means she is best served by instructional materials prepared at the sixth grade level. To top it off, she is reading at about 170 words per minute.
On her Language Arts report, she achieved 100% mastery of all skills assessed. Her assigned course level for the year was 3 (third grade), with the requirement that she reach 4 to show that she is ready to advance to fourth grade. She scored a 5.46. Each of the sub-levels scored, Comprehension, Grammar, Phonics, Spelling, and Vocabulary, all scored over the 4 level. Her lowest was 4.85 (Phonics), and her highest was 5.44 (Comprehension).
The Math report had the same format as the Language Arts report as far as assigned course level (3) and required achievement level (4). Overall, she scored a 4.88 on this report. She achieved 99% mastery of all skills assessed on this report. The sub-levels were divided into Computation and Application strands, with Computation consisting of: addition, decimal, division, equation, fraction, multiplication, speed games (fluency), and subtraction; Application consisted of: applications, geometry, measurement, number concepts, probability & statistics, problem solving, science applications, and word problems.
In Computation, her lowest score was 4.65 in the decimal section, and her highest was 5.2 in speed games (fluency). In Applications, her lowest was 4.6 in number concepts and her highest was 5 in both probability & statistics and science applications.
Overall, not much on the reports that came home, other than possibly how advanced she really is on her reading, came as much of a surprise to us. We see her work every week and see the effort she puts in to everything, and we see how she never goes anywhere without a book in her hand. To Kaitlyn, learning really is not a chore at all and it is something she truly enjoys. Even though she claims she can’t wait to relax this summer, I have a feeling she will continue to better herself. Amber and I are proud of her in every aspect of what she does, but extremely proud of the student she is and the person she is becoming. Kaitlyn has learned and continues to learn how to use her Asperger’s to make herself and even better person, and it is wonderful to see every day.
“She’s so polite!”
“What a sweetheart!”
“That was so nice of her…”
And the list goes on and on. Think of a superlative, and Amber and I have probably heard it about Kaitlyn. All over stuff that we don’t even give a second thought to.
It really is appreciated each and every time someone complements Kaitlyn on her manners. We have worked really hard with her from almost day one to instill acting at least somewhat proper around people; we’ve had her saying “please” and “thank you” from the time she could talk. And we didn’t just have her blindly saying those things. We taught her what they meant, and the power that those words can have.
Think about it. How many times have you been out somewhere and noticed that using just the slightest hint of manners has opened doors for you that were closed for others? That’s the power of manners, and that is why we have taught Kaitlyn to be respectful and have good manners when we are around other people (we would love for her to do that constantly, but you pick your battles).
Amber and I rarely worry how Kaitlyn will behave when we are out. We know that she will be respectful of all of the adults present, and she will be kind to any kids around. It also never gets old for us to hear her be complimented for having good manners, too.
Of course, we have also extended our expectations to anytime she gets any sort of gift. Without fail, and sometimes with some complaining (she is 8 after all), Kaitlyn will make a “thank you” card or phone call. Because that is important.
Kaitlyn will always have her struggles when it comes to social interactions and situations, and that is an undeniable fact. What Amber and I hope we are doing and have started on, is helping her with a basic skill of being in a social setting. It’s work, and it takes a daily effort, but it is worth it.
Thank you for reading and continuing to do so. I enjoy sharing glimpses into our lives and the good and the not-so-good (mostly good) that comes from raising a child with Asperger’s.
Kaitlyn is absolutely excited to go to school on Wednesdays this nine weeks. Or at least that is what she told me this morning. When I asked her why, he answer was simple: “It’s STEM Wednesday, dad!” Well, ok then.
Kaitlyn has always gravitated toward math and science, and that is something that Amber and I have encouraged her to do and supported her on. There is just something about using her analytic mind and figuring out how to solve problems on a scientific level that has always appealed to her (don’t ask her to do any “common sense” problem solving. She is not wired to excel at those kinds of problems and deems them to be inconsequential to her daily life.).
A few weeks back, Kaitlyn went out back and started collecting rocks, twigs, and grass to take to school in a large freezer bag. She told us that she needed it for her gifted science class. Fine by us, less for to clean up. About a week later, we got an email from the teacher with pictures attached; the class was split into pairs and tasked with building a bird nest out of the materials they all brought in. There was really no “set” way that they were supposed to do it, just work together to build it. Kaitlyn really enjoyed doing that project.
Their second STEM project was to build a cup pyramid using rubber bands (and cups, of course!), and Kaitlyn got a kick out of that, too.
Which all leads to today. Kaitlyn just couldn’t wait to see what today’s STEM project was going to be. She seems to love the challenge of what they are assigned to do, and loves the process of completing the assignment.
It’s great that the school is exposing the kids to STEM activities at such an early age. Challenging them, especially kids like Kaitlyn, is important. It helps to keep them motivated and interested in going to school everyday. From our perspective, emphasizing areas where Kaitlyn already excels only serves to enhance what we are building with her and encouraging her to do.
I can already see that this summer will probably be one where Kaitlyn and I work on several projects that are STEM-related. I can’t wait, either.
Kaitlyn coined a new word over the weekend, and I think it perfectly embodies how she is feeling, and how I suspect a lot of students in her class and grade are feeling today. Her new word is “nervocited,” and it is a combination of “nervous” and “excited,” and she used it to describe how she feels going into this week’s Florida Standards Assessments testing (FSA). As parents, Amber and I use different, more colorful words for these types of tests.
Throughout the entire school year, pretty much every lesson taught, every piece of homework completed, and every test taken has been with this week in mind. And I think it is a little ridiculous. Teachers are hamstrung from really impacting their students more than they do (they are doing the best they can while staying within the guidelines of the testing structure), and students are missing out on tremendous learning experiences (my teachers always seemed to be able to do a fine job in getting us ready for our testing times while making school fun).
As is always the case with Kaitlyn, she is really stressed about the testing. She sets such lofty expectations for herself, and Amber and I know that she gets way too worked up about things like this. We try to impress upon her that the most important thing is that she remain calm, and she will do great.
I don’t know if the new FSA testing will be better or worse for students and teachers than the old FCAT was, but if the buildup is any indication, it will be more unnecessary stress on students and teachers. Since this is the first year of the testing, there is no baseline on which students will be graded, so that will be fun I’m sure (that was the case about a month ago when I last spoke to Kaitlyn’s teacher about the testing).
Amber and I are ready for Kaitlyn to come home from school every night looking like the guy on the right over there, and that will be if the testing went well! No student in third grade should have this level of stress at 8 or 9 years old; all that does is decrease the likelihood that they will continue to enjoy going to school, although I have a feeling that won’t ever be a problem for Kaitlyn.
This is going to be a tough week in our house.