Friday, May 8, 2009

Living Autistic: Learning Comprehension

Back in my school days, I hated math. Not only did I hate math, I hated story problems even more. To this day, I can do math but it gives me a headache if I do too much of it. I often think that my brain simply doesn't want anything to do with numbers. Now, reading and writing I like. I get along great with that, but that's just me. When it comes down to our comprehension in school as students, we have to stop and take a look at how we are wired with our autism or other conditions. It's fairly commonplace that we have learning difficulties. Our comprehension is generally at the top of the list. Comprehension is how well we understand information that we take in. If that information is muddled by our senses going awry or because we are weak in the subject matter, we have a hard time. So how do we fix this? Patience is a virtue and practice makes perfect. You may also have to get a bit creative. When handling something we are having trouble understanding we need to slow down. Frustration makes the ol' brain spin faster and compounds confusion. So take a pause and let the student catch his breath for a second, then reapply a little more slowly. Especially for math in my humble opinion. Break the problem into pieces and take each one to the student and then bring it all together again. In reading comprehension, take the story small parts at a time. Ask questions. "What do you think Harry will do next?" "Do you think Harry throwing the rock was a good idea?" Use visual aides, especially for math in my humble opinion.I've used dice and other small objects to help my son with math. When I read him a story or he reads a story I ask him questions about it. If there's a weak subject, I plut extra time into it.For a weak subject, you can put extra time into it without too much effort. For reading you can simply point out words as you go about your business and ask him what they say. You may have to pause for a moment while he sounds out the world or help a little bit, but enough of the attempts will sink in. Point out activity in pictures and ask about events in them. What's going to happen next? What is that person doing? These are comprehension skills and, while small, they add up. The same goes for numbers. Go grocery shopping and ask about how many cans of soup you just put in the cart. Have him count them. Show him prices on the shelves. Numbers are everywhere, use them. It's really important that teachers and parents are in the same boat when applying these skills so everyone knows what needs to be worked on. Be involved in your child's education, up close and personal.This certainly does't guarantee that comprehension problems will go away, but if you don't work on them, you guarantee they never will.

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