Homework!

“It’s turning dark outside. It’s so bedtime, Becca. I have to go home to Mommy,” M says now that I’ve turned off his America’s Funniest Home Videos marathon and laid his homework out on my dining room table. Today, we’re reading and writing. I’ve even set up my Scrabble board in an attempt to spice up our regular reading drills. He feigns a yawn and stretches dramatically.

“How about we play later? I so sleepy, Becca. Let’s watch AFV.”

Homework with M isn’t the most exciting thing for me either, but we didn’t get where we are today by watching poor quality videos of people falling off of things.

“Sit your butt down,” I say and he giggles. There’s nothing like a quick butt reference to get a little boy to crack up (pun intended).

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Scrabble forces M to use a combination of spelling and mathematical skills, and will help to broaden his vocabulary.

I learned to tutor M using Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) principles from the St. Amant Autism Program, a non-profit organization in Manitoba. The ABA programs taught M the concepts that most children his age had already mastered, but that would take him a little longer to grasp.

M and I practiced forming sentences, reading, and writing. We counted hundreds of macaronis and said words like “thrash” until our lips were numb (M has trouble with pronunciation). The programs covered everything from communication skills to how to tie shoes. Many of M’s major breakthroughs to date happened thanks to St. Amant’s programs and tutors.

St. Amant Autism Learning Programs

Since M started third grade this month, I’ve had to start creating my own curriculums to teach him during our tutoring sessions. I can no longer use the effective lessons from St. Amant because the government stopped funding them for him. According to the province of Manitoba, M now functions well enough as an Autistic 8-year-old to complete his education without additional support.

Manitoba cut funding for school-age students with special needs by 8.2 percent in 2015 and M is just one of many children who will be affected. Below are links to stories of other families affected by the cut.

Richard Byrnes, 8, via CBC News

Jacob Reid, 11, via CBC News

I can’t deny that M has made astounding progress in the past few years, but I’m nervous that he could stop improving or even regress without his in-class educational assistant and the programs from St. Amant. For me, planning lessons is hard. I’m a 20-year-old Creative Communications student, not a teacher. Nonetheless, I’m happy to give it my best shot.

So, using the same types of drills that I learned from St. Amant and some ideas of my own, I try to fit a homework session in with M at least twice a week, even when he hates me for it (and he often does). There will always be time for AFV later.

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Writing short paragraphs about his day is good practice for M’s spelling, speech and sentence forming skills.
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