Monday, November 16, 2009

In a Perfect World

Autism spectrum disabilities frequently are concurrent with other issues, such as my son’s seizure disorder. However, this particular malady is very well controlled by daily medication. As a result, his only problems in school are related to the core problem, Nonverbal Learning Disorder.

NLD affects my son’s handwriting, because it is difficult for him to judge the spacing and size of written letters. He has used a computer to type assignments since early elementary school – although math and science teachers have always been able to decipher his handwriting when typing was not practical. Relatives can usually understand his thank-you notes; his handwriting probably is not that much worse than my own.

Along the same principle, when the Tech class moved from hand-stitching to sewing machines, my son was able to complete the task. The problem with the hand sewing was less of being uncoordinated, and more of a fundamental inability to visualize how to do the stitches and then follow through in practice. He actually searched the Internet for clearer instructions, but what he found did not really shed any additional light on this job. Additional verbal clarification and a step-by-step demonstration would have helped, although he probably still would have had trouble.

The OSD has asked for written documentation that my son will be able to safely operate the machines for the next element of the class. We’re not sure why; there is actually no reason for them to believe that he will have any more trouble than anyone else. The school has everything we have that documents my son’s learning disability, including testing results and recommended accommodations. His admission file included a letter from his guidance counselor that would have addressed his learning issues. I have suggested they contact one of the specialists at his high school if they need anything else.

My son has indicated that he wants to continue in the class, whether or not he continues in the major. Ideally, that’s what will happen. If the professor is concerned for his safety, she might offer one-on-one instruction, or have an upperclassman or graduate assistant work with my son. But I can not give them the written assurance that they would like; they are asking us to document something that doesn’t exist to any greater degree for my son than it does for other students.

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