I think that any parent with more than one child struggles to make sure that things are fair, and that goes quadruple in the case of having a kid with special needs. No matter how many times I intone, “Fair doesn’t mean equal” to my kids—and I do believe that, by the way—there are always going to be cases where one feels they’re being slighted while the other is getting more. More attention, more privileges, more love, more WHATEVER; it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s a balancing act, giving them what they need, keeping my sanity, and keeping the peace.
It can be even more difficult now that they’re getting older and Chickadee can understand that Monkey gets certain accommodations at school and is oftentimes treated differently at home, too, as part and parcel of his “special needs.” And yes, the air quotes are required. Always.
Anyway, I thought it was time to shine a light on the whole “special needs” thing, as it applies to homework. Because some people may not understand what it means to have a special needs kid when it comes to something like this, and the process I go through 4-5 days/week with these kids.
To wit: I present to you, A Typical Afternoon Of Homework Around Here.
When Monkey (“special needs” child) gets home
He says hello, puts his stuff down, and tackles the dog. I ask how his day was, and he tells me about something that entertained him in class. I ask if he has homework; he says yes. I ask if he’d like to get a snack first; he says he’ll get a snack and eat while he does his homework.
He fixes himself a snack. He eats it while doing his homework. He is done in twenty minutes and goes back to tackling the dog.
I check his homework and he puts it in his bag. Done.
When Chickadee (neurotypical child) gets home
She says hello, puts her stuff down, and kisses the dog. I ask how her day was, and first she says “fine” but then tells me a convoluted story whose underlying theme is the unfairness of a particular teacher whom she is certain hates her guts. I ask if she has homework; she says “yes, but” and tries to explain why she cannot possibly do it right now. I suggest she get a snack and do her homework; she grumbles and gets a snack and sits at the kitchen table, eating it as slowly as possible.
I finally ask her to take the dog outside and she tells me she can’t because she has to do her homework. I resist the urge to tell her what else she can do. She takes the dog out and comes back and says she needs to use the computer for homework. I okay the computer but tell her to stay off of chat; this sparks a 10-minute “discussion” of whether it’s beneficial to “work with” friends on homework. (My position: No. Her position: YOU DON’T LOVE ME.)
She sits down at the computer and after calling into my office periodically for “help” on various things (all such requests are met with a cheerful, “I already went to 7th grade, thanks!”) for an interminable hour, informs me that she’s emailing me the finished product for printing. [The children’s computer is no longer hooked up to a printer owing to abuse of printing privileges, and because I’m a big meanie.]
It’s time for dinner. Afterward I return to my computer to print her homework.
I open the file mailed to me and look it over. I point out that one of her “meaningful sentences” is not only not particularly meaningful, it’s actually factually incorrect. Would she like to change it before I print? She wails that she can’t think of anything else and I need to help her. My automatic offering of “I already went to 7th grade, thanks!” is cut off and derided. I suggest the dictionary. She says “FINE!” and goes back to Instant Messenger and, I presume, gets a friend to give her a sentence idea. She comes back to me with half a sentence. I begin modifying her homework file in front of me with sentences like “This word means many things and stuffs and I am really smartish” while she watches in horror and dissolves in giggles.
There are jazz hands involved. Several times. I can’t explain; it was kind of a blur. FINALLY the rogue sentence is sufficiently tamed and I print out the assignment for her on my printer. She says, “You’re the GREATEST!” and proceeds to leave her homework on my desk until I threaten to run it through my shredder an hour later. Done.
Now. You tell me: WHICH ONE of these children is the one with special needs…?