Letters and Numbers

Tad’s teacher has started sending homework sheets home most school days.  Usually, he will have one word/language sheet, and one math sheet.  I’m already familiar with the math worksheets, because this is the same math curriculum that is used district-wide and Ane did these during her first grade year.  The language worksheets were a little more interesting, as they integrate reading comprehension, letter sounds, and handwriting into one page (front and back) of work.  And they lacked specific directions on “how to do” them, so I actually asked Tad’s teacher if he was doing them right.  (We were close enough, it seems.)

Tad is really struggling in math.  He can count easily enough to 20 now, with “one-to-one correspondence” – meaning that if he is given a number of objects to count, he will count them correctly without over or under-counting them.  But the idea of “arithmetic” – adding and subtracting – is difficult for him to grasp.  He operates in such reality-based learning that abstract concepts are going to be tough for him to grasp.  (I am feeling somewhat grateful that he might never have to deal with anything too abstract, like trigonometry, because I think my brain might explode.)

The strange thing is, for a kid with such severe speech issues, letters make more sense to Tad than numbers do.  I think we have cleared a huge hurdle for Tad in speech – communication.  While we have known for a while that he can understand us, making himself understood was so much harder.  I think we really have reached a point where he can tell us what is on his mind – well, at least, he can tell me.  Since I’m the person who spends the most time with him, I “speak” Tad much more fluently than anyone else.  Ane runs a close second.

Tad’s ongoing speech issues are now directly linked to two things – learning the English language in an almost ESL fashion (because he has never picked up things like tenses or plurals simply through exposure, these have to be deliberately taught to him), and his developmental dyspraxia.  Dyspraxia often goes hand-in-hand with autism, and it accounts for Tad’s weak oral motor skills (which he was diagnosed with as a two-year-old) which keeps him from being able to shape his mouth and tongue to even form sounds correctly.  Ever noticed that English is not exactly the most forgiving of languages when it comes to pronunciation?  Tad truly is learning American English as if it is his second language – it’s just that it should have been his first language, as it is the primary tongue he’s heard all his life.

Such are the wonders of the wiring of the autistic brain.

But ever since Tad could put together that letters made words, words meant things, words made sentences, and sentences told stories, his reading skills absolutely took off in a way that I never anticipated (though Friend once predicted it, long ago).  His scripting skills and visual memory, along with the iPad, made reading fun.

So the language worksheets are miles easier than the math ones, even if Tad’s fine motor skills are weak and his ability to write letters legibly has been a product of practice, practice, more practice and the iPad’s drawing app.

I have been on the hunt for an iPad app that would be more appropriate to Tad’s math skills, but so far, we’ve had no luck.  Ane has gotten more use out of the ones we have found.

In the meantime, we’ll keep slogging through the math pages and breezing through the language ones.  And I’m never going to stop being amazed at how far Tad has come.

He’s come a very long way from the two-year-old who had a vocabulary of five to ten words.

2 Responses to “Letters and Numbers”

  1. Aunt Lynda
    October 16th, 2012 06:41

    I feel bad for the autistic children who don’t have a mama like you to help them. The time you put in with Tad now will be so valuable later. And I admire you so much. Hang in there, mama.

  2. Auntie
    October 16th, 2012 12:14

    I feel bad for your blog readers when you write so much and there is no picture of Tad to break up the reading! Just a suggestion (and a good one at that). Please & Thank you :]

    P.S. I can try out my new teaching Elementary math skills on Tad! College just might come in handy after all!