This post is a follow-up to A Prayer Request I shared in November.
Stephen, our 9th grader with AS and anxiety, ended the first semester on the honor roll. Since then things seemed to be going smoothly until a couple of weeks ago, a month into the second semester, when Stephen came to me with that familiar whine in his voice. He had projects in art and German both due that week and time was running out. He had a lot of reading to do in English and other work was mounting. It was all piling up and he couldn’t figure out how to get everything done. In my usual enabling way, I took the burden upon myself, tried to encourage him to finish the work that he could get done that evening and go to bed. The projects would have to be worked on as he had time. I told him to talk to his teachers, explain to them the situation he was in and ask for their help creating a plan to get the work finished. I knew that was a stretch, but I had to suggest it anyway.
If I had let it go from there, I think I would have been better off, but from that moment on the anxiety seemed to be more mine than his. I told Bobby we should request a meeting with the teachers because we need to get ahead of this downward spiral before things got out of control. Mean time, Stephen was going to school, coming home and going out to throw the football with his older brother for an hour or two each afternoon. Then, having dinner and settling in to work on homework for the evening. No one was sensing any anxiety on his part about his school work. But I was still anxious enough for both of us.
We prepared an email for the teachers explaining the current situation and requesting a meeting (not an official IEP meeting, just a ‘let’s touch base and discuss how Stephen is doing’ meeting). We heard back from half of his teachers that he was doing fine in their classes and didn’t seem to be struggling. The German teacher told us that the project had been assigned for a month and they had gone over 10-12 examples in class (this is when I have to ask myself, is this an issue of disability, poor time management, irresponsibility? Is this one of those times when I need to just let him suffer the natural consequences of his choices?) We heard nothing back from the other half of his teachers, which I presume means they detected no problems.
In the week and a half since that email was sent Stephen has continued to work on the projects that are now late. When we suggest he spend more time on them he complains about how much time he has already worked. He doesn’t appear to be anxious about it. So, I have given myself permission to stop being anxious on his behalf. I decided instead to have a conversation with him explaining that I expect him to be responsible for his assignments and will allow him the freedom to make choices about when he works on them. I told him the way to avoid anxiety about his assignments is to manage them ahead of time and not after they are past due. (This is where I inserted a reference to future college & job situations.)
I think my own questions have been answered. Stephen is old enough to understand that his choices have consequences. While Asperger will pose difficulties for him socially, and anxiety may cause him to view problems disproportionately, these are issues that he has to learn to manage in his life. He is also becoming old enough to learn that for the most part his poor choices are not my responsibility or anyone else’s for that matter. While he still needs guidance from his father and me, he also needs the freedom to make decisions and to learn from them while still living in the safe and loving environment of our home.