The Odyssey. Next Chapter Please

June 28, 2017

A week ago, we started reading The Odyssey.  We read the abridged version as it is presented in 9 chapters in Reading Mastery 6.  Usually after reading chapters from this textbook, Robert, with my help, completes 2-4 pages of worksheets from Workbook and Skillbook.

It takes a lot of time and a lot of energy to do so every evening. The problem is that Robert INSISTS on reading and completing exercises EVERY EVENING.  That might be because the story is so enticing that Robert wants to find out what are  Odysseus’ next adventure.  But it is entirely possible, that it is Robert’s need to follow the same routine every day that forces him, and me, to stuck to it and read even when we are both exhausted long into the night.

That is what happened four days ago.  We had a busy Saturday.  In the morning, Robert went with his dad to the town’s landfill to get garden soil while I cleaned the house.  In the afternoon, we went shopping and then for 4 miles walk along two sides of Charles River. When we returned home, I made dinner while Robert took a nap.  Then around 9 PM, he realized that we didn’t do our reading yet.  So he searched through the copies of all the worksheets I prepared for the whole week and pulled the ones for the chapter 3 of The Odyssey. “Read, read, read”, he said.  “No, I am too tired”, I responded, but he didn’t accept that response.  He insisted, “Read, read, read”  He followed me everywhere holding the textbook in his hands.  “You have to take a bath now” I told him.  He agreed,  went to the bathroom, finished his bath quickly, put on his pajama and…. grabbed the textbook.  “Read, read, read”. I gave up.  We read the chapter.  He read one paragraph, I read next one, and then we tried to synchronize our voices to read together the following paragraph.  Reading together was always the most difficult part, but that was exactly the reason why we were practicing it.  After finishing reading we moved on to workbook exercises.  They are usually easier to do, consisting mostly of one word answers.  Still, by the time Robert completed them I was exhausted.  My eyes were hardly open, and my mind was closing for the day.  There was no way I could lead Robert through the whole text of the chapter to help him answer questions from skillbook worksheets.  That would require going back to the text, rereading some of the paragraphs, explaining some of the details.  I couldn’t do that.  Even if I forced myself to do so, the benefits for Robert would be negligent.  I tried to put the worksheets away, but Robert protested again.  He was agitated and anxious.  “Work, work, work” he kept repeating and in clear sign of distress he kept patting quickly his cheeks.

“Robert, bring me a glass of water”, I asked.  Robert got up and went to the kitchen.  I quickly tore the two pages into many pieces.  I didn’t hide them, because from the past, I knew that he would keep looking for them.  I didn’t  just tear them into two or four pieces, because Robert would try to assemble them together like a pieces of the puzzle and keep reading.  I had to tear them into many small pieces.  Robert brought me a glass of water, looked at the pieces, moved them around, decided they were not usable and threw them away.

Next day, I made the copies of the same pages.  Without rereading, I went with Robert over the text of the chapter and then Robert answered all the questions related to the story.  With or without my help.

I though we were done with reading that day.  Robert wasn’t.  He wanted to read the next chapter.  yet again, he went to the pile of worksheets and pulled the one for the following chapter.  Luckily for me, he only found worksheets coming from the workbook and not the skillbook.  So we read, the next chapter, Robert completed exercises from his worksheets and then moved to writing in his notebook.

That let me to discover much better approach to reading those chapters.  We do that in two phases.  First day we read, talk a little about the text and do simple exercises.  The following day we review the text again, retelling the plot and then we complete skillbook exercises related to the story items.  Then we go and read the next chapter.

That helps with retaining the memory of the story.  It also helps to connect events from previous part to the following one.  So, at least in theory that would allow for better grasp of the whole book.

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The Prince and the Pauper and The Theory of Mind

June 2, 2017

The last 25 chapters of The Reading Mastery V Textbook present an abridged version of The Prince and the Pauper. Since I don’t remember the original text, I am not sure how much more complicated or longer the original is. However, I don’t find the textbook version simple. It must be specially difficult for a person with autism.  The person whose ability to take into account how the perception of things varies from reality seems to be limited. It is difficult to explain trepidation Tom Canty and Edward Tudor had to feel while being thrust into each other life. It is even harder to make sense of other characters treating Tom as if he were Prince Edward and treating Edward Tudor as if he were the poor boy from Pudding Lane.

June 21, 2017

On June 16, Robert finished reading The Prince and the Pauper.  His dad accompanied him in this endeavor and later completed with him three pages of related worksheets.   I regret that I was too tired to read with Robert that last chapter because I wanted to see Robert  reaction to the ending.  However, reading this text was extremely challenging.  Maybe more challenging for me than for Robert.  First, I had difficult time reading the parts that related to cruel mistreatment of Edward and his companion, Miles Hendon.  I wasn’t sure if I should explain the cruelty of those times.  I felt very uneasy reading about betrayals, flogging, begging, and all kinds of punishments mentioned in the book. I felt even worse knowing that Robert is reading  as well.  What pictures were created in his mind?  What emotions were evoked? Would they stay with him or evaporate at the end of the chapter?

Over and over I kept remaining Robert that Tom Canty was treated like a king. The people in the palace believed that he was the king. Their beliefs were based on the way Tom  was dressed. At first Tom protested but since his denials didn’t work, he decided to pretend to be the king. So he began to act like one.   Edward, however, strongly and stubbornly kept behaving like Tudor, he was.   Although he was confronted by people’s beliefs that he was a poor boy from Pudding Lane, he refused to act like one.  Not only he didn’t beg and didn’t steal but he also made Miles Hendon a knight and, later,  an earl.  He would avoid  mockery and mistreatment if he pretended to be Tom Canty, or at least stopped demanding to be treated like royalty.  Yet, he constantly demanded to be recognized as a prince and then as a king. He didn’t adjust his behavior to match the  expectations of those who formed false beliefs of who he was based on his tattered clothes.

Those are not easy concepts to grasp.  I struggled with explaining the plot and struggled even more trying to figure out what Robert understood and HOW he understood it.

From the way, Robert answered questions in the worksheets, I should deduce that the complexities of the situations the boys put themselves in were not lost on him.  He answered correctly.  Still, I had doubts regarding Robert’s comprehension of the whole story.  After all, Robert cannot explain anything with full sentences,  The best I can count on are one word answers.