This year, with a focus on building his executive function skills by giving him the tools to push through completing school work, there has been more for him to complete both at home and at school.
His teacher has been great about communicating what they have been studying so that we can follow-up and reinforce at home.
A couple of years ago he created a dinosaur timeline and this year we added a timeline that tracked the movements of prehistoric animals and peoples. Our goal was to keep him interested by connecting it to dinosaurs.
We were consistent in communicating that we don’t really care about what grades he achieved, just that he does his best. In looking at his graded schoolwork it has been easy to see the connection between his completing the work and his grades.
When we met with his teacher for a conference last week she gave us the news that he was probably going to get straight A’s for the first time in his elementary school career.
Autism Dad and I got excited, thinking that the Navigator would be excited at this tangible result of his hard work. The Navigator didn’t really respond.
We thought maybe he didn’t understand and explained that the A’s reflected how hard he has worked. Still nothing.
He has become so good about communicating his feelings that I decided to wait instead of asking him unpack his lack of reaction.
When he melted down over doing homework a couple of days later, I decided it was time to talk.
“How do you feel about getting all A’s?” I asked him.
“Terrible,” he answered. I tried not to feel astounded.
“What makes it terrible?” I said gently.
“It means there will be more work,” he said.
In short, he hated that now that he had achieved A’s he felt as if he would always need to achieve A’s. This was the exact opposite of what we had hoped he would feel.
Autism Dad and I could filter our perception of his grades as reflections of his completing his work, but the Navigator was unable to separate the rewards of working hard from whatever other conceptions he had about his grades.
We really want him to focus on completing his assignments and not his grades and so we made the decision to not tell him what his grades are anymore.
Instead of letting him see his grades or telling him what they are we will talk about how we can tell that he completed his assignments or not.
We have also talked about giving him tangible rewards that are meaningful to him, like turning off the timer on his computer when we can tell he has completed his work, and turning it back on if he starts to slide on his work completion.
Down the road he may decide he wants to know about his grades, and we will share them of course.
For now, mum’s the word.