The Cheetah Keeper’s Sister gets homework from school every week. It’s a weekend
chore joy as we extend her learning from the previous week off to an extra dimension. This is (obviously) in addition to her 10 spellings she needs to learn, her piano practice (which she loves and is also brilliant occupational therapy and physiotherapy for her finger and postural muscles) and as much gross motor skill physiotherapy as we can squeeze in.
The homework topics are varied – ‘numeracy’ (‘sums’ in old school speak), ‘literacy’ (yep, writing), drawing, researching and talking about stuff.
This term’s highlights have included finding out about her favourite animal, drawing it and making a fact sheet about it (sealions, obviously), talking about how to resolve conflict at home with siblings or with friends, researching then writing and drawing about the signs and symptoms of tropical diseases (yes, really – I left the death statistics out) and this week learning a tongue twister off by heart.
She doesn’t find any of these easy. Her Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome makes holding her pen hard – it’s tiring and it hurts. She has to work to make her eyes track together to follow what she’s doing. She finds ‘sounding out’ words difficult because she has difficulty saying them in the first place and getting everything in the right order is a constant challenge.
She didn’t really talk until she was 3 and a half. Her oro-facial muscles and her tongue weren’t strong enough to be able to form the right shapes to make the sounds and she stammered. Speech and Language Therapy got things going and she now has a comprehensive vocabulary and is pretty easy to understand – unless she’s tired or ill when it becomes all a bit slurred and garbled. The stammer returns when she’s trying to answer a complex question quickly.
We were discharged from the Speech and Language team with a letter that said that there were still issues that needed resolving and a subtext that there were other children far worse off and they didn’t really have the budget to deal with an Ehlers-Danlos related issue. So we trundle on and at the moment are trying to ascertain whether her problems with sounding out words and speech are educational or medical. Obviously neither party wants it to fall under their watch so much faffing is going on and not much progress is being made or support offered. It’s down to me to keep pushing and liaising and chasing and applying pressure so that she gets the help she really needs.
Back to the homework – She Sells Sea Shells on the Sea Shore.
These are all sounds that she finds difficult to produce on a ‘normal’ day – let alone having to stand up and recite the full tongue twister in front of her class. To me it shouts that her teacher has not considered her needs/underlying issues AT ALL.
Would you genuinely set a piece of homework that a child, with a named medical condition and a set Individual Education Plan would find nigh on impossible? Do you expect them to ‘raise their game’ above and beyond what their body can do? Or will you expect them to ‘perform’ like everyone else, stand up and humiliate themselves in front of their peers?
Alternatively you could think about the needs of that child and find an alternative tongue twister that meets the needs of the topic but doesn’t destroy that child’s confidence?
This week I’m not going to force her to complete her homework. She’s got an extra art project tomorrow (fine motor skill challenge), a school trip on Wednesday to the Science Museum (uber exciting, uber tiring), her class assembly on Thursday (with lines to learn) and then allegedly to deliver her homework in front of her class on Friday.
IF her teacher says that she has to miss part of her ‘Golden Time’ (free play) on Friday because that homework’s not completed I will be up at school making my opinions very clear. Fighting over not doing homework? Yes. If that’s what it takes. Because sometimes you have to think around ‘normal’ to make sure everyone’s got an equal chance.
What would you do?