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Homework And Autism

Homework And Autism

Image: Miguel Angel

Today was a total nightmare.

I ran out of time for breakfast because it took me so long to squeeze my feet into the ridiculously uncomfortable shoes that are mandated by my office dress code, the ones that dig into me all day so badly that I make every excuse not to have to walk anywhere in them. So I wolfed down some juice and just made it to the office in time for my first meeting, which I couldn’t concentrate on because I really needed to pee. Can you believe they only let me take bathroom breaks in my lunch hour? Do you know how hard it is to concentrate when you really, really need to pee? Stupid juice! Stupid office!

Then it’s another meeting, and another and another until finally I get to retreat to the safety of my desk. Except my cubicle is surrounded by people on all sides, yammering away while I’m trying to work. It feels like they’re standing right next to me yelling in my ear. ALL. DAMN. DAY. I just want to tell them to shut the hell up! And my goddamn shoes are squeezing my feet so tightly that it’s all I can think about. By the afternoon I’m ready to rip them off and throw them at that one lightbulb over my head that keeps flashing like a strobe light. My head is pounding and who is using that damn electric pencil sharpener??

Finally I snapped. I just needed to get the hell out of there so I headed for the door, but my boss stopped me and said “Do that on your own time, sit back down!”. So I did, with my head on the desk, as he reamed me out for the next ten minutes over my “poor attitude and sloppy work ethic”. And then. AND THEN! He handed me a big pile of work to finish at home!

Oh. Wait a minute. 

I’m sorry. That wasn’t my sucky day at work.

That’s every day in the classroom for my kids.

Most days at school for autistic kids are incredibly hard work. They’re frustrated, confused, terrified and ticked off nearly every minute until they get home. And when they do finally walk in the door to their one place of comfort, where things make sense and feel safe, they need rest and recovery from the onslaught of their day. To get ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Just like us, sometimes these kids do a great job of keeping it together during the day. They follow instructions, do their work quietly... but on the inside the stress is bubbling over. The effort required to keep a lid on their tension is exhausting, and it's often not until they get home to that safe place that the lid comes off and they reach their breaking point.

So teachers, this bit is for you...

You may not always see just how hard your autistic students are trying, or how exhausting and stressful their day in your classroom is. They might need a lot of time after school to wind down, sometimes even all night. And they need every minute of that time to recharge, because their batteries are empty and they'll need everything they've got to tackle tomorrow.

So please, go easy on the homework okay?

Image: Jessica Lucia

This article was first published in December 2012.

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