He Is Not Ready Yet

Nothing sounded more rational, convincing, and more depressing than  the opinion, “He is not ready yet”, expressed  many times by specialists on teaching, on cognitive development, and on language. Many times, my suggestions  that a topic, a skill, or a concept be introduced to Robert must have sounded insane because  they were immediately rejected by listeners, as the skills, I wanted  Robert to learn,  seemed much above his performance level.  The truth is, they appeared  unreachable to me as well.

The alternative I was facing, however, was not pleasant. I had to choose between teaching Robert what ‘he was not ready for’ or not teaching him at all.  Of course, I was familiar with so-called “prerequisite skills”.  But the conundrum was, that teaching prerequisite skills seemed as impossible and /or as difficult as teaching the skill itself.

Only after I jumped, head first, into teaching something new, I was able to  learn how to teach and how to address in the process the prerequisite skills.  Some of those prerequisite skills (or rather parallel skills since they were taught simultaneously) clarified themselves to Robert when they were connected to more advanced concepts.

Unfortunately, the specialists didn’t feel willing to do the same.  I remember asking two speech pathologist to work with Robert on gathering some information about his peers (or one peer) by filling a worksheet from Sabrina Freedman book “Teach Me Language”.  It would be a great opportunity  for Robert to practice asking  questions and initiating contacts with peers.  The answer I received was, “He is not ready yet.” And so, he has not become ready for the next four or five years.

When I started practicing with Robert conditional phrases which started with “ifs”, I didn’t share information about this  activity with Robert’s speech pathologist.  I knew what she would say and I knew that her words  would have discouraged me from trying.

Instead, I approached the conditional statements without any preparation and by trail and error I chose one method as the most promising.   When I  assessed the skill as “emerging”,  I sent the workbook to school.  As far as I know the speech therapist never continued and the book disappeared.

Whenever I hear someone telling me about my son, “He is not ready yet”,  Icecome sad as I know that  I have encountered one more person not ready to teach Robert.


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  1. Jean

     /  October 24, 2012

    Robert could gather information from Nolan, if you want to try using the worksheet from Teach Me Language, and perhaps Nolan could gather information about Robert – so they would both benefit.

  2. Let’s do that!

  3. Irena

     /  October 27, 2012

    This is actually a comment on your non-review review of the play Falling on the NYTimes Web site, in which you stated you would not see Falling because “I won’t see the play, as nothing offends me more than people presenting themselves as victims of someone with autism.”

    It’s unfortunate that you somehow perceived this play in this manner. We saw it recently, and let me say, the play was most certainly NOT about victimhood. If anything, it was about unconditional love and the fierceness of parents devoted to the well-being of their autistic son. And the playwright knows of what she speaks as she has an 18-year-old son, who lives at home with her and her family. This was a play about commitment, love and acceptance of what is and creating a world of love and compassion for a much loved child.

    Was it realistic? Yes. Did it contain some painfully honest and revealing moments? Yes. (Including an out-of-the-blue twist that once it was understood, then revealed, in greater depth, the family’s true devotion to the well-being of their son, which included keeping him at home with them because of the mother’s concern that 1/no other place would be as safe for him (even if it put them in danger) and 2/her concern that if they placed their son elsewhere, he might perceive that he was not loved.

    Condemning a play you haven’t seen (or even researched very well, it seems) , based on your own issues, is your option. But it isn’t helpful or accurate. (Oh, yes. One character–the teenage daughter–very realistically, from what I’ve seen in life, portrayed her own negative feelings about her brother. But then the play went a bit deeper to reveal that it was not really a hate of her brother, but a deep concern about the physical well-being of her parents. And besides, autistic sibling or not, teenagers often act like victims about everything in their lives that they don’t like.)

    You wrote: “That New York Times and New Yorkers love top hear about suffering parents is beyond me.”

    This was not a play about “suffering parents” although, yes, they had challenges. This was a play about unconditional love. Love challenged, explored in how it is expressed, love that includes physical danger. but first and foremost about the fierceness of a mother who loves all her children and would rather put herself at risk than put her autistic son at risk. LOVE. Not victimhood (your word choice, says something about your own hot buttons)

    Anyone who needs to be educated about autism, to have a look inside the world of it, from one person/family’s perspective, would benefit from seeing this play–and I hope they will. The entire audience, many of whom were either parents of autistic children and/or autism educators, certainly praised it and its emotional power.

    FYI: My nephew is on the autism spectrum. My sister-in-law has never, ever, in the 18 years of life with her son seen herself or him as any kind of victim. And that is why, despite the many challenges, her child thrives in the “real” world. And she is one of many mothers who fight long and hard to get their kids what they need.

    I didn’t write the play, so I have no personal investment in your response/criticism. I just think your personal experiences have so colored your thoughts on various aspects of how people react to autism that you don’t even recognize when something is about shining positive light and hope on autism. About showing the fierce and unremitting love of parents for children even while honestly acknowledging that this, like other aspects of parenthood, requires selflessness (not victimhood!) and letting go of hopes, dreams and fantasies even while exalting in each and every moment of the world their child lives in.

    This applies to all parents, not just those whose children are autistic.

  4. Irene, You are right. I didn’t see the play and I still don’t intend to. I read the NYT review twice and I am sure that the review stated that the play (with a title “Falling”) emphasized a changed family dynamics. Changed by a person with autism. I also saw a photograph from the show. Badly dressed, relatively young man with autism acting up (sort of – I cannot say more since that was only a snapshot) and two deeply sadden people glued to each other – for support, for understanding. The young man with autism standing alone. Two people sitting a little below so human.: scared, lost, and hurt. That is exactly how my son was perceived by some of his teachers, and that is exactly how this teachers perceived themselves. That is why I was told “It is not fair to the teacher to have a student like Robert.” I wrote about that in the post “The Hardest Punch”
    So, you are right again when you state that my experiences colored my thoughts. They did and they still do.
    Thank you for taking time to write as it forced me to analyze my attitudes.


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