Regaining Balance while Sheltering at Home

April 28, 2020

I am in search of words to describe the obvious and not so obvious changes to our lives brought by COVID 19 pandemic. As I wrote in my previous post, at least two weeks before Robert’s program was closed, I was trying to prepare him for time without HMEA, without swimming pool,  horseback riding, without skiing, and without trips to Cape Cod.  So we should be ready to face the challenges of sheltering at home. But we weren’t as  our first reaction to staying at home was oversleeping. That Robert slept until 10 or even 11 each day is not surprising. He  seems to believe that there is no point of getting up if nothing is planned for a day. And how something could be planned if every place Robert liked to attend was closed.  However, the fact that I kept sleeping past nine was harder to explain. I always get up at 6 AM even on weekends.  Now, I wanted to stay in bed longer as if I too lost focus and /or balance. I had to force myself to  resume basic daily routines and to adjust to new circumstances. Moreover, I needed to  entice Robert to do the same.

I felt obligated to fill Robert’s day with meaningful activities but I had neither will nor strength to do so. During the first three weeks we haven’t not been even study together. I felt drained.  I was also afraid that if we continue with our daily lessons, Robert would expect to go to his program as if nothing changed. That might cause some unnecessary friction, I wanted to avoid. There was also another reason for that, I wanted Robert to adjust to staying  home on his own terms. I wanted to see how that would go.

And yes, Robert slept a lot.  His naps, however, were intertwined with periods of watching Netflix on his IPAD or …. watching TV. That was new as in the past, Robert rarely, if ever, chose to watch television at home. Now, he discovered Bee Gees’ music and rediscovered Sesame Street.

Soon, Robert learned that he still could order what would be for  dinner the following day (the same way he always had done it before) . He also knew that the next day he will go for a walk with dad.  The walk became the highlight of his day and offered him something  to look forward to.

As he became, more and more comfortable with staying at home, he took charge of the laundry,(well, he still needed to be reminded of pouring detergent in the machine) and emptying dishwasher.  Moreover,  he also started rinsing the dishes  and placing them IN the dishwasher.

When, after a few weeks long break, I proposed that we return to studying together, Robert didn’t protest. We skipped writing in his notebook, he used to carry to HMEA as a communication device. Instead we enriched our time together by making folders from Take It to Your Seat workbooks. Finally, Robert colored two identical pictures from two Pirate Coloring books.  Originally there purpose was to teach Robert to color the same way I did AND to color differently than I did. But I was extremely happy that Robert colored both all by himself without me giving him any directions at all.

A few days ago, I started cleaning the bathroom.  Robert came in. “Do you want to clean?”

“Yes, yes, yes”.

And so he did.

As he was spraying the sink with a cleaner, I realized that he really wanted, much more than I expected, to contribute to our life and enrich his own.









Establishing New Routines, Food.

April 25, 2020

Long ago, before the times of COVID19, Robert had his life all figured out. He was going to HMEA from Monday to Thursday, On Friday, he did different chores with me which might have included picking up and depositing his check, paying one of the utilities, cleaning bathrooms, doing laundry, going for a walk to Stony Brook and eating in McDonald’s. On Mondays. Wednesdays, and Thursdays, Robert ate one of four dishes: hamburgers, chicken fingers, poblano, or eggplant. On Tuesday he went with Tim to Five Guys for dinner. On Saturdays or Sundays he either ate at home – potato with cheese or latkes or we ate in the restaurants on a way from one of the day trips.

No, Robert would not eat poblano, eggplant, hamburgers, or chicken fingers at home on any other day but on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays and only if on those days  he attended HMEA programs. That presented a problem when he had to stay home for days, weeks, and months. He protested vehemently when I tried to prepare one of the four dishes during the first week of “Stay at Home” advisory. So, for the first three days, he ate mostly potatoes with cheese and latkes for dinners. On the fourth day, I decided to prepare his food any way but during the time he was still sleeping.  As I anticipated, faced with such fait accompli Robert relented and not to let the his food get wasted, he consumed it, although a few hours before dinner time. The following day, I prepared his eggplant during the time Robert and dad took a short walk.  Robert didn’t mind.  Now, however, he decided to regain some control, and from that day on, he let me know what dish I should prepare for him the following day. Moreover, if he wanted either chicken fingers or hamburgers, he always moved them from freezer to the fridge one day before. He also kept checking if there were all ingredients needed for the dish he requested the following day.  If that was the case, he kept saying “store, store” and wrote on a notepad what he wanted.

With established dinner schedule, we moved to the next step in which Robert began to participate in cooking his own dishes.  He had used to do that when he was at school, but as he kept returning from his adult programs more tired and hungry I made sure (rightly or wrongly) that his dinner was waiting for him.

Eating apples at home was another issue we encountered. Robert ate one apple everyday at lunch time in his program.  He also ate apples in the car during our day trips. The apples belong to those times and those spaces. I decided to make a special celebration for eating apples together.  I told Robert about the special  apple family afternoon during the breakfast and the lunch.  “At 5 o’clock , we will all eat apples.”  . And that is what happened.  Apples were served in a glass bowl. Each of us reached for one that day and every other day afterwards.





Learning at Home, Again

April 24, 2020

As COVID 19 is still a real danger and Robert is staying home, we returned to more divers teaching and learning.

Today, Robert and I prepared three new  folders from three different Take It to Your Seat Centers. Each of them required a new skill to be used to complete previously acquired knowledge.

1. Prefixes.

The concept of prefixes is not new to Robert.  Many times he practiced adding “re”, “un” “dis” “mis” to other words. Today however, he faced previously unknown prefixes “co”, “fore”, “super”, “sub” “multi”. and “im” .  With new prefixes came  words, he was not familiar with: forewarned, coexist, supersonic, immature, submerge, multipurpose.  I gave him a few examples, but of course I didn’t expect him to master them yet.  I opted for creating a vague idea of their meaning and possible usage.

2. Name that Relationship

Robert and I completed many sets of analogies in the past. I dare to say that he was rather familiar with them and able to finish quite a few independently. Today’s task, however, was a different one. The analogies were already completed.  Robert’s assignment was to decide what kind of relationship were they based on and place them in one of the 4 categories: Cause and Effect, Part- Whole, Antonyms, or Synonyms. That was slightly confusing as it required Robert to change the focus and opt for more abstract ideas.

3.Compare Decimals

Robert encountered two kinds of problems while working with this folder. He had unexpected difficulties with the first kind. He was so unsure of himself, and made so many errors that I started believing that he forgot how to compare numbers in general, not just decimals. Then I realized that adding a new element to comparisons baffled Robert. There were already mathematical signs of “less”, “more”, and “equal” placed between numbers but sometimes those signs were correct and sometimes not. Robert had to decide if those were true or false statements. He clearly didn’t want to disagree with what was in front of him and thus hesitated, seemed to smell a trap and trying to avoid it he chose the wrong answer. When I realized that, I covered the sign with my finger and asked Robert which one of two number is larger.  He knew that.  I took my finger out and allowed him to decide if the answer on the page was the same he gave me. Now he realized that when the sign didn’t match his response it meant that the inequality was false and if the sign agreed with his answer then the inequality (or equation ) was true. I do hope that it was also a lesson in understanding that he should trust and rely on his own judgement.

Not surprisingly the task of just placing correct signs in the empty circles between two decimals was an easy one for Robert since there was nothing to misdirect him and confuse him.