FIGURING OUT THE UNSPOKEN RULES

One thing that made schoolwork a little easier for the Navigator was that he loved to create power point presentations.

He enjoyed experimenting with slide transitions and object animations, adding videos and gifs, and recording music and voice-overs.

Add to that his teachers’ willingness to allow him to adapt assignment to subjects that he enjoyed, and we would get amazing power point projects.

A project on climate became a project on the climate of the Cretaceous period; or a project on how scientific method includes modifying theories became a project on why the brontosaurus no longer exists.

When his Gifted and Talented teacher asked his class to do a “passion project” – a project on the students’ favorite topics – and gave them a cool tool (it looked like a March Madness bracket form) to help them narrow down their choices, I thought it was a no-brainer.

He was kind of glum when he told me about it, though. When I asked if he wanted to do the project on dinosaurs, he said no.

So we went through the tool together – and when I say “went through together” I mean I walked him through each bracket and he responded as if I was asking for a donation of a tooth at each step.

He finally decided that he wanted to do a history of video games, and we mapped out the different pieces of it that he could work on at a time, so that it would be more manageable.

Then he refused to do it.

I was mystified. We had a topic he chose, and he got to create a power point. It should have been a win-win!

Still he resisted and resisted, and he started refusing to go to that teacher’s class. I was perplexed.

Finally, I realized what was going on – he had not expected to get work from that class.

In his mind, online school had school work; his time at his zoned school was for socialization, not for school work.

The assignment of the project had broken that unspoken rule, and so he was not going to do it.

I discovered the rule by focusing on things that went against the norm, things outside the understood and expected routine:

  • His refusal to do something he normally liked to do that was an understood and routine part of school … because
  • The assignment came from a class that did not usually get assignments – it was not understood as something that could happen, and was not part of the routine

This was all subconscious, of course. Once I suggested the idea of the rule to him, and he agreed that was what he was feeling, he was able to get the power point done.

But it was a reminder that as a parent sometimes I have to ferret out his rules. Sometimes the rules may be unspoken and unconscious, but they will still impact him as powerfully as a stop sign on a street corner.

It is my hope that recognizing situations like this and discussing them with him will give him the skills to be able to recognize his rules on his own. Then he can decide whether he wants to follow them or not.

Published with the permission of the Navigator.


Also published on Medium.

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