Training Up Independent Learners: Autistic and Gifted Alike

I have two very different children that always seem to surprise me with how similar they are!

Today I gave my 11 yr old daughter only one assignment for the entire day...Make an iMovie about the North Korean rocket launch.  This event has meaning to her because she has shown an interest in this region and conflict since she was a little girl.  I remember checking out DVDs from the library when she was in 2nd grade about the Korean War and she has followed the Kim regime ever since.  She has similar fascinations with other countries like Peru, Saudi Arabia and Cuba.  I might have the future Secretary of State on my hands...she does love her some Condi Rice too:)

I sent her away at 9:30 with no instructions besides, "Make a 2-4 minute iMovie on the rocket launch." She sprawled out on my bed with the laptop, snacks and the dog, and at 2:30 she emerged with this:

She layed out her process for me afterwards which included:

1.  Internet research from:  Business Insider, Fox News, and CNN (all bookmarks on the laptop).
2.  Cornell note-taking
3.  Photo selection and editing
4.  Music selection and editing
5.  iMovie creation based on notes
6.  Final editing
7.  Laughing at mom because she had no idea how to do any of that herself!!

And while this project could have been a lot more intensive and in-depth from an informational stand-point,  I really wanted to see if she could independently move through this process without my constant direction and/or nagging.  I have been trying to transition her to a more independent learning environment that allows for her establish the time and tempo required to complete big projects.  I know this will be helpful once she hits middle school next year.

As for Jackson, I have tried creating a similar environment for him in regards to his life skills.  Less than 3 months ago, I was still micro-managing most of his daily activities to ensure he checked all the necessary boxes of personal hygiene, academic work, household chores, social activities and behavioral management.  But as he roars full steam into the teenage years, I have had to step back and give him a lot more independence than I am comfortable with, but know how critical it is that he take on these responsibilities himself.

I am completely out-of-the-loop on ALL personal care and hygiene issues and he has done a tremendous job!  He is the least smelly teenage boy I know, and very receptive to any changes or new introduction to his routine in this area.  So thankful for this!!  He also has no need for my assistance with any of his household chores.  He empties the dishwasher, carries in and puts away all the groceries, puts his dirty clothes in the laundry, takes out the trash, and starting this spring, will be mowing the lawn.  He will do any work you ask, as long as he knows what time you expect him to start work and for how long.  He is a human timer and has an expiration buzzer for sure - but will work hard when he understands the expectation and task.

Academically, since he has been watching Caroline, he has been asking me to leave him alone to do his work.  He occasionally asks for my help, especially in math, but does a great deal of work alone.  I usually supervise from afar or pretend to sweep near him so I can keep an eye on things, but he is wanting more freedom, which is terrific!  Socially and behaviorally, he has come so far, but still has a long journey ahead.  He recently tackled the good manners vs. bad manners issue with great success!  He is very proud of himself when he can be polite in public and have good manners when he is frustrated.  It is hard for me to do that, so I commend him for the effort!

Paul and I were joking that Jackson is the odd combination of autistic and extroverted, which makes for some pretty interesting social situations, but he is learning to shake hands, respond to questions and make better eye contact.  He wants to interact with a variety of people, and has varying levels of success, mainly based on how receptive the other person is to his unique communication skills.

In summary, I am being pushed WAY outside of my comfort zone with these 2 kids.  They are each growing and developing by leaps and bounds, and I feel left in the dust most days.  I am exhausted trying to stay ahead of them so I can prepare the way for the next milestone.  But at the end of the day, I just need to:

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing this snippet of your life. I initially clicked on the Pinterest link because the picture of your son looking so happy buckled in the car with his giant stuffed dog just so reminded me of my 12 yo son with Autism. Then, when I read the entry about him getting on all fours and barking I just couldn't believe that because my son has been known to do that at the most in opportune times! I have been dreaming of homeschooling (I have 2 other gifted children as well) and reading through your blog has really been wonderful, encouraging, and eye opening. I especially like the daily schedules. Thank you


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