Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Readin’, Writin’ & Pestilence

Here, in the high desert of Southern California, the kids are officially back-to-school.  Eight days so far, to be exact, and while I’m happy (happy-happy) to have everyone on a schedule again, I am not looking forward to some of the high anxiety that school can bring.  I don’t mean the “he stole my lunch money” or “they made fun of my shoes” kind of problems.  I mean epic scary, Crypt Keeper kind of situations.

I’ll explain.

For the last three years, my son has brought home some pretty hairy assignments that have involved earthquakes, tornadoes, quicksand, children left alone at camp sites with mountain lions and one particularly bizzare account of Paul Revere that rambled on, making our American hero seem like a mobster.  No kidding.  This is just a small offering of the strange, but true homework that has darkened our doorstep over the past few years.  Kind of makes me wonder what’s in the water at those Sacramento Educational Curriculum Planning meetings.

What makes the whole concept of this especially humorous to me (and I’m a big fan of the “if you don’t cry, you laugh” school of thought) is that my son has been enrolled in a special education program since he was a toddler, due to his autism.  One of the major issues autistic kids deal with is language processing difficulties.  We’ve always said that it’s a bit like having a tiny guest from another land who is having trouble with our native tongue.  And, it has been my experience that we don’t normally bombard our foreign exchange students with boatloads of information on natural disasters, how to fend off animals in the wild or nonsensical rantings of our late night call to arms.

Even now, at 13 years old, my child’s brain is still swimming with the practical application of words like who, what, why, when, where and how.  He often pauses, trying to fish for the right word to use in written and verbal communication.  This is frustrating to watch and listen to, even more so when his homework sheet presents the problem of turning questions into statements and statements into questions — all on the subject of Typhoid Fever in the 1900s.  He isn’t learning about the specifics of typhoid fever, mind you, just how to present questions and answers about it.  Call me crazy (people often do), but typhoid fever?  Swine flu, bird flu, maybe … but I don’t see how using typhoid fever in a sentence is going to be helpful down at the supermarket or when asking a girl to dance in the junior high gym.

Maybe the powers-that-be see a bigger picture than my tired, old brain can comprehend.  Perhaps there is a master plan to prepare kids with autism for occupations that will utilize their unique strengths like mad computer skills, specialized interests and a decreased need for socialization (which I think workplace cubicles only reinforce).  It is possible that the goal is to train someone like my son to be a 911 operator?  Could work.  I can hear it now:

“Hello, this is 911.  What is your emergency?  Oh?  You’re on a remote ledge in the wilderness and a mountain lion is eyeing you?  Your parents left you and your brother alone at the campground?  No worries.  I’m here to help.”

Or, something along the lines of:

“911, how can I help you?  You’re at the beach and your sister has fallen in quicksand?  No problem.  I read about that possibility in the 5th grade.  Hold on, I’ll talk you through it and teach you how to identify it in the future to avoid exactly this kind of sticky situation.”

I swear to Pete, both os those stories were right out of the required reading in elementary school. And to recap, in case you forgot — required reading in the special education class.

Now, I suppose with the world as unstable as it is, I should be grateful to the California Board of Education that they are helping to toughen my kid up for the wild and wooly ride that awaits him in adulthood.  It well may be that I should dig down a little deeper to find gratitude in my heart, that while my son may never have complete command of the English language, he will be able to pull his sorry, soggy old mom out of the quicksand should I happen upon any in the near future.  Then again, he may decide not to bother, once they add the chapter on the Mayan calendar predicting the end of the world to his homework schedule.

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