9th Grade Boy's Autism Curriculum
9th Grade Theme: Decisiveness
I came home from an hours shopping trip to find Jackson on the couch with a towel wrapped around his waist. He had taken a shower while I was gone, and upon finding no clean shorts in his dresser, he just sat in his towel until I got back to find him clean clothes. He promptly said, "Pants please" when I walked in, to which I responded, "this year, buddy, we are going to work on your problem solving skills!". There were clean shorts in laundry basket NEXT TO the dresser!
True Story #2:
Jackson's favorite drink at Starbucks is a Cool Lime Refresher, but occasionally they are out of the mix that is required to make the drink. When this occurred last week, I turned to him and asked, "What would you like instead?" He looked at me like there were worms crawling out of my head, even though I know he likes many other drinks there, like lemonade, iced tea and this yummy berry concoction. So I said, "this year, buddy, we are going to work on your decision making skills!" and promptly ordered him an iced unsweetened green tea, which he sucked down before we left the parking lot.
I have always assigned a general theme to each year of Jackson's homeschooling, and this year is no different:
6th: Recovery Year - Trying to undo the 8 weeks of stress that middle school caused and get his academics back up to speed, so the vibe was peaceful and comforting.
7th: Push Forward Year - Challenging him in all areas of academics, behavior, and life skills, which lead to a more angst filled home as we challenged him to push himself.
8th: Free at Last Year - After a year of raising our expectations for Jackson, he beautifully embraced his independence and showed us just how much he could do on his own! This did cause some friction with people and organizations that still treated him like a needy child and not the confident young man he was becoming.
9th: Decisive Year - This year we are going to focus on helping Jackson learn to be decisive. This is a character trait the my husband values above almost anything else (go figure as a former Army officer), and one that we have emphasized with out 12 yr old daughter so much that she knew the meaning of that word at 5! We have never expected decisiveness from Jackson though, and we can see how this has been a detriment to his development. Problem solving activities and decision making scenarios will be the two focus areas that will help foster this skill.
1. Critical Thinking Book Series:
- Following Directions by Teacher Created Resources
- Puzzles and Games that Make Kids Think by Teacher Created Resources
- Building Thinking Skills by The Critical Thinking Company
Each of these books come in a series ranging from K-5th grade. I have started at the 1st grade level for all 3. This will help Jackson quickly gain confidence in his problem solving and critical thinking skills. Each book addresses a different topic and helps build his non verbal, written, and audio problem solving abilities.
2. "What Should We Do?" Scenarios
Instead of trying to always make every experience with Jackson and smooth and trouble free as possible, I am going to create daily situations that require him to think through solutions, without me jumping in to fix everything. For example, if his book on CD is skipping, instead of giving into the "Mom, fix the CD please", I will ask him what to do...as he's seen me take it out and clean it with my shirt 50 times. These may seem like little things, but creating an environment of self-reliance is crucial to his future ability to function independently, and me jumping in at every wrinkle will not set him up for success. At this very moment, the dog is barking at a crew of painters who are roaming around the outside of our house. Usually, I will just go quite the dog down as to not upset J, who hates the sound of him barking, but I need Jackson to figure out how to handle the dog on his own. If that means him deciding to ignore the barking and deal with the loud noise, then that is a problem solved as far as I'm concerned!
In the past I have always dictated his daily schedule...see them all here:
But this year, he will be required to plan out his own day. I will give him a packet of work for the week on Mondays, along with a calendar of the pre-determined activities, i.e. yoga class, Adapted PE, appointments, Caroline's classes, etc... But from there, he will need to make decisions about when he wants to work out, shower, eat, study, play, shop, and so on. I imagine there will be a steep learning curve for both of us, but I am willing to stick it out if he is willing to engage in this process.
2. Life Skills Book Series:
Each of these books will present everyday choices for Jackson to learn how to work through. I plan to use each of these scenarios as a jumping off point to recreate in his daily life. For example, he will be required to read Caroline's basketball schedule and decide which games he's like to go to. He will also be required to begin paying for all his items in cash so he has to make some hard choices about whether or not he is going to buy strawberries or grapes with the $10 he has, because he can't get both. This might take a loooong time to master, but we need to begin at some point, and now is as good a time as any!
This year, Jackson's school work will consist of a math and reading focus. We will do some special social studies and science units, but both within the context of math and reading. We will continue to push forward with more complex math that will help with his real life decisions. Fractions, money management, measurement, geometry, and pre-algebra are all very important for daily life success. Reading will focus on non fiction and technical materials to help him develop a familiarity with consumer related options and choices. He loves spending long periods of time reading and listening to books on CD, so we will definitely continue that practice. He is reading the Artemis Fowl series this summer totally by his won choosing. We are excited to add a "NightTime" unit to his program, as he is obsessed with being outside at night. We will be doing everything from constellations to moon phases to animal's nighttime habits to special lighting and photography.
Jackson's life skills have taken a giant leap forward in the past 12 months. He is able to do things we never thought possible 10 yrs ago. To us, that means he might not have to live with us for the rest of his life, but can possibly achieve semi-independent living. If history serves us well, we can not even imagine what he will be like 10yrs from now, so we are choosing not to limit him anymore. So check back with me in June of 2015 to see what amazing things he learned how to do that are not even on my radar right now:)
I hope this summary of J's 9th grade curriculum has provided you with both encouragement and motivation that you can also create something uniquely amazing for your special needs kiddos! The sky's the limit when us parents are at the helm and throw wide open our doors of expectation and wonderment at our children.