Academic Skills are Life Skills
During Cody’s senior year of high school we had been advised by Cody’s teachers that he could have stayed in public school until the age of 21. But given the curriculum they had employed with him on a steady basis for the course of his four year enrollment, and the fact that it just was not producing the kind of results we had wanted to see, we felt that a change was needed.
Cody had hit a plateau and stayed there, particularly over the last two years. The only benefit that we could see to leaving him public school was for social interaction. Sadly, I felt that socialization within the public school was much more structured and controlled for students in special ed programs whereas the academic side of the program for them was not. So, we decided that Cody needed to go ahead and graduate out of the system.
It was not until we had met with the first of Cody’s caseworkers through the Department of Social Services that a transitional plan was discussed and we were given a list of programs from which to choose. There was vocational rehabilitation, day habilitation, a technical center specifically designed for those with cognitive challenges and daycare services for adults with disabilities. We had explored each of these, ruling out some completely due to the fact that we felt the programs did not offer anything that would address what we felt were Cody’s most immediate needs. We tried some that weren’t right for Cody. And then there were those that we felt could be of great benefit to Cody by addressing all of his needs and meeting all of our expectations. But there was the issue of the waiting list for funding. We ultimately decided day hab services would best serve Cody’s needs and finally, when the waiting came to an end and services for Cody began, a solid plan of what staff would assist him with could be laid out on the table.
One of the most important things that we have incorporated into Cody’s daily agenda is the continuation of working on academic skills. I have often been questioned about my decision to do that. But I believe that my reasons for the inclusion of academics in his program have solid merit. For instance, Cody has always had difficulties in mathematics. I’m not speaking about trigonometry or calculus here. I’m talking about math skills we all use every day. Addition and subtraction, multiplication and division are skills we use throughout every day of our lives. We spend and make money. We keep track of our schedules. We measure cooking ingredients and laundry detergent. These are all important things Cody needs to learn to help him become more independent.
Reading is something we must do every day. We read directions and street signs. There are instructions we must follow for certain things, whether it is for following a recipe or filling out a form at the doctor’s office. Reading for Cody will give him information to help him throughout the day just like it does for all the rest of us.
Proper grammar and sentence structure is something all us of should know to the best of our abilities. If Cody uses proper grammar and appropriate sentence structure when communicating with others then he will be less likely to be judged by someone who may not realize he has autism. People are more likely to be more focused on what we say if we employ proper grammar and sentence structure. However, if we do not then people may focus much more on our grammatical errors than an important point we are attempting to make, or a message we are trying to relay.
As his mother, it is important to me that Cody learn all the life skills he needs to know. But continuing to learn academic skills will enhance the lessons of those life skills so much more.