Comes the Dawn

Recently I wrote about experiencing setbacks with Nigel’s development and how it gets me down. It seems like I’ll never get a break. But what I didn’t remember is that usually when setbacks occur, soon afterward something happens that’s positive, a step in the right direction. And that’s exactly what happened today.

The school subject that Nigel has the most trouble with is math. Yes, math. Is that “anti-autistic?” I seem to read so much about how math appeals to autistic people because of the formulas, the predictability of working with numbers, and I don’t know why else because I’ve never liked math, so trying to come up with reasons to like it is a stretch for me. But I’ve always done okay with it, learned the basics, use them regularly, and identify the importance of mathematical knowledge as I’m trying to teach Nigel. But he has so much trouble with it (and no interest – must be genetic), that even when we go over the same problems and I walk him through so many and do them with him, he still doesn’t get it. After working on multiplying fractions for close to two weeks with no hope of him retaining any of it, I wasn’t sure what to do.

Then I remembered: break it down into written steps. That’s the only way I’ve been able to get him to pick up his room. That’s how some of his classroom teachers got him to work on activities and follow directions. And that’s how he was able to just get through the day when he was younger: having a schedule broken down into steps. I decided to break down the steps of what he was having the most trouble with – changing improper fractions into mixed numbers. Here is what I wrote for him:

Steps to convert improper fractions to mixed numbers:

1) Divide the numerator (# on top) by the denominator (# on bottom)

2) Write down the whole #

3) Multiply the whole # by the denominator

4) Subtract that # from the numerator

5) Answer is the new numerator for mixed #, placed over same denominator

He did the next problem completely unassisted in less than two minutes. I have to remember to break things down into written steps more often. Why do I forget? It should be common sense to me by now! Maybe I’ll remember better now, since I’ve written about it here. I think that’s something that works for both of us. 

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