For the past two weeks, I’ve been sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned through tutoring John, a 13-year-old with High Functioning Autism.
Working with John has taught me that sometimes we just have to smile through our struggles, because when things are beyond our control, there’s no point to getting so stressed out. He’s also taught me a number of things about communication.
The final lesson I’d like to share is that we need to hold kids to high standards. We are absolutely doing them a disservice if we do not hold them accountable. I feel like some of John’s teachers have been afraid to push him; as a result, they’ve sent the message that it’s okay for him to do less than his best, because he’ll just get another chance. This mentality of, “Oh, if I fail I’ll just get to do it over,” or, “If I don’t do it, they’ll understand, so I can do it later,” just does not align with reality.
Sometimes I tell John, “I know what your best work is, so that’s what I expect from you.” He has these flashes of brilliance and insight, and while I know no one can be perform at 100% all the time, I also know what he’s capable of: therefore, I’m not afraid to insist that he tries harder sometimes. It’s important to teach kids not to make excuses. It’s important to teach them to do things well, and to do to them on time.
I’m not just trying to help John become a better writer. I’m trying to give him what I can in terms of tools for overall success. In as many ways as I can, I treat him as though he is typical. We have to do our best work to progress, and I don’t feel as though we should accept anything less than that. If we hold people to high standards, there’s at least a chance that they will rise to the challenge. If we don’t, what chance do they have? We push because we care.
Happy Autism Awareness Month.