Adventures Of Fatherhood – November 23, 2018

Adventures Of Fatherhood – November 23, 2018

School grades are viewed differently in our home.

In a perfect household, as if that exists, every child would be held to the same standard with mirroring expectations. That’s not the case at all in our family.

We expect Beckett to excel and do well in school. When he doesn’t meet expectations, as was the case recently with an unusually poor test grade, we make sure to let him know it’s unacceptable. He calls it unfair to expect so much of him and reminds us he’s not perfect. I respond we don’t expect perfection but do require him to try his best and put forth solid effort. When it’s clear he’s dogging it, we make it known that’s not going to fly, and there will be consequences.

In our house, Beckett’s graded work folder comes home on Monday and Carson’s on Friday. Beckett has recently learned of this fact and is prone to bringing his little brother up whenever he gets in trouble.

When his poor test score came home on Monday, he asked how Carson was doing in school and wanted to see his most recent papers. He said it was to see what he’s doing in third grade at his school compared to what he did in third grade at his school. He was certainly not fooling anyone with the attempted misdirection.

I directed him to where his little brother’s materials were from the previous week. He pointed out a couple graded papers that he thought deserved some response from us. After explaining how he needs to mind his own business and not be concerned about his brother’s work, he kept at it with the questioning of why Carson wasn’t in trouble for scores he received.

I then reviewed a conversation we have had dozens of times with Beckett. Expectations for him as a neuro-typical child are higher than for his brother, who is special needs and requires accommodations and unique services in the school setting. Bringing up what he sees as unfair multiple times a week accomplishes nothing and changes nothing.

In Beckett’s defense, there’s no question his home life is different than other 10-year-old boys as a result of his little brother’s disabilities. It’s natural for him to play the unfair card when he sees us regularly stricter with him than Carson. It’s just something he must accept rather than harp on. It’s a fact of life for us.

It’s a tough lesson, but it’s one I think will ultimately make him a better person once he becomes more accepting and realizes life is not always fair. As he matures, he will also become aware there’s nothing his little brother would want more than to be treated just like his big brother.

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Being nonverbal, Carson uses his iPad to communicate through several different apps and programs.

For years, we, along with his school support team, have been encouraging him to communicate through his device. There was a time when he preferred to sign because it was easier, but he has slowly, but surely, become more competent with his device.

For many years, he was shy about using it, presumably because it makes him different. It’s tough to argue that point, but it’s what he needs until he develops more speech.

I’m often asked by kind people how Carson is doing, specifically if he’s gaining speech and whether we expect him to ever talk. We respond yes to both of those. In my heart, I believe Carson will talk. I reserve mild expectations, however, because he’s incredibly shy. In speech sessions, he will say many phrases, but when asked the other day to say a simple “Hi” to a friend outside the area on a phone call, he refused. He shuts down when put on the spot. There’s clear anxiety.

I believe Carson’s speech struggles will be lifelong, but my hope is he will be able to speak enough to communicate modestly with people around him, especially in emergency situations. I hope he will be able to speak enough in public situations he can function in society independently.

For now, he relies largely on body language, some signing and his iPad to express himself. His school team has put some new programs on his iPad recently in an attempt to see if he prefers one over the other. He has become quite adept at using them in short order. Of late, they have provided him some opportunities to show his sense of humor.

For example, when Pam took him into his speech therapy appointment on Monday, my 9-year-old used his iPad to say to his speech therapist, “Hey, hot stuff.”

While at the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru the other day, he used his device to inform the employee, “My dad is 43 years old.” In pure spectrum fashion, he then manipulated the sentence to incredibly slow and fast rates and high and low tones.

Since we do all we can to encourage him to use his device to communicate with us and the world, I thanked him for that and corrected him that I have a few more weeks before that’s true.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.