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Thread: Helping an older student with figurative language?

  1. #1
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    Default Helping an older student with figurative language?

    So my older ASD kiddo I have asked about in the past has done so well since switching to almost all MP work. We have had several very successful years.
    Right now he 13 almost 14...so 8th grade...my dd did the core he is using in 7th but I believe since the updates it is now 8th...

    I had noticed an increasing frustration around the last 18 months with vocab after years with doing well with it and having a fairly advanced vocabulary and lately he has been complaining that he "can't" do his work, not "won't" or "don't want to" which usually indicates anxiety about something.

    And then something that happened last week gave me pause... He is doing the guides for Wind and Willow and he is enjoying the book, he finds the character's dialogue quite funny but on our first day back to lessons he came to me in tears and asked me to read the chapter to him which he hasn't done in almost a year. So I agree because he was obviously upset. After I began reading he was fidgety but doing ok until I get to this passage...

    "Such a rich chapter it had been, when one came to look back on it all! With illustrations so numerous and so very highly coloured! The pageant of the river bank had marched steadily along, unfolding itself in scene-pictures that succeeded each other in stately procession. Purple loosestrife arrived early, shaking luxuriant tangled locks along the edge of the mirror whence its own face laughed back at it. Willow-herb, tender and wistful, like a pink sunset cloud, was not slow to follow. Comfrey, the purple hand-in-hand with the white, crept forth to take its place in the line; and at last one morning the diffident and delaying dog-rose stepped delicately on the stage, and one knew, as if string-music had announced it in stately chords that strayed into a gavotte, that June at last was here. One member of the company was still awaited; the shepherd-boy for the nymphs to woo, the knight for whom the ladies waited at the window, the prince that was to kiss the sleeping summer back to life and love. But when meadow-sweet, debonair and odorous in amber jerkin, moved graciously to his place in the group, then the play was ready to begin."

    And he got agitated so I pause and ask if he understands what is happening. And he lost it. So upset. He is completely confused. So I work through it really slowly image by image, word by word and after about 20 minutes he says "WAit!! You mean They are remembering June and it was NICE?! Why didn't the author just say... They remembered how nice June was!?"

    He just put his hands in his head. Poor kid. But it triggered a thought and I said hey the way you are feeling right now...is this how vocabulary is making you feel? He shot out of his chair "yes!! Why are there 15 words for red! Why don't people say RED?!"

    During the next chapter which I also read we had a similar problem with all the personification of Badger's furnishings, smiling plates and what not.

    So now I think I see where the frustration and problems have been lying...his readings are getting more complex and including more figurative and nuanced language. Nuanced and poetic language is where my oldest kid thrives. And my kids always joke oh no mom is in metaphor mode again...I am having trouble understanding how ds thinks because he really never uses things like metaphors. Things are. Just are...they are not like anything else. He has just recently started using puns like his dad and they more cudgel than word play but he is trying...just wham no nuance yet ha. I have worked hard the last few years to really be very direct, almost to bluntness, in my conversations with him in order to avoid mishap and misunderstanding and hurt feelings. What seems polite to us often feels duplicitous and entrapping to him. When we use indirect language he thinks we are trying to get him in trouble or are being intentionally unkind. It never occurred to me he would have the same comprehension issue in his reading. Another ball dropped I should have seen coming sigh. So this is all new for me.

    Thank goodness for new things...I hear that keeps your brain young bwhaha!

    Anyhow I am a bit worried about his lessons. I am not sure how to work on this for him...other than begin reading aloud to him slowly and helping him parse out meaning. Is this type of understanding even a skill that can be learned? I don't really want to start reading all his work again. I mean my turn for head in hands just feeling like I "can't." But he is really reaching out for some hand holding.

    Thinking of the next 2 years cores I have done with dd I am becoming apprehensive. In my head I am all maybe no literature classes and two math classes for high school ha. I know he likes books and literature but he has become so narrow in his choices of series and authors and I bet if I go pick one of this favorites I will find little description and lots of dialogue.

    So much of what dd has done the last 2 years in Literature and Classical Studies and even her SAT prep is all about figurative language I don't how or if we can prepare.

    It is such a tricky thing, he knows what dd has done and compares himself mightily, any adjusting of pace is met with "But that is not how it is done" He knows what grade he is "supposed" to be and struggles to tolerate any deviation from what his personal expectations are even if they become obviously unrealistic. We really don't know where his upper limit is yet...will he live independently, will he go to school beyond homeschool or hold employment let alone when...the older he gets the murkier the answers are to those questions and I know a lot of his anxiety comes from "I should understand this/be able to do this" He really does not like 'maybe' in his life. He is really being stretched as a person and a student with the 8th grade core...not a bad thing all together. just changes. As far as the rest of his subjects go they have been work and maybe a bit of stress on some days but not sources of confusion and meltdown. Though a few times we have heard, "I really don't want to do high school, it is so much work, I wanna stay little forever!" My poor Peter Pan. We all have those days.

    He does not want to drop his books when asked...but I hate having returned to a time of each new days next lesson being met with an onslaught of fretful tears and I am not sure how to push on..though perhaps it is just moody teen boy stuff too...hard to say, he still looks so much like a little boy to me! Heh.

    I know some of you have homeschooled Autistic teens...anyone had this struggle with moving into higher level literature and understanding? Any suggestions on approach?

    It is hard because I feel like often the more expectations and challenges we have of verbal ability the less of his cognitive understanding/functioning he is able to use...we know that anxiety severely limits his cognitive function...like a frozen computer...and this kind of language really seems to flip that anxiety switch. He has come so far from the non verbal preschooler he was but verbal does not always mean easy.

    Anyhow thanks for any ideas you may have. And as always sorry for the tomes and tomes. I process best while writing what can I say.
    Fall 2017 :
    DD 16- mix of upper grade options for yr 11 with remediation/support
    DS 13- core 8 with remediation/support
    DD 10 -core 5 with remediation/support
    DS 8 mix of SC /Core 2

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Helping an older student with figurative language?

    1) ...So I work through it really slowly image by image, word by word and
    2)... after about 20 minutes he says "Wait! You mean they are remembering June and it was NICE?! Why didn't the author just say, ‘They remembered how nice June was!?’"
    ...He shot out of his chair "Why are there 15 words for red! Why don't people say RED?!"
    ...During the next chapter which I also read we had a similar problem with all the personification of Badger's furnishings, smiling plates and what not.

    1) Good for you. I know that took patience on both your parts, but it was what I would have done.

    2) This made me laugh! After *I* read the passage you quoted, I thought the same thing. I’m not one for flowery description and over-lengthy metaphor. (William James gave me hives in college.) But your son also has ASD. Impatience with language almost always comes along with that. And, ASD or not, boys tend to like straightforward speaking in general. Add to that any latent talents your son may have in Mathematics or spatial relations and you may have An Engineer’s Brain on your hands. They’re not known for high tolerance of metaphor. Bless him that he takes mastery of this material so seriously — enough to weep over it — but stress to him that an entire profession is generally populated with people who also don’t understand why there are 15 words for red, when “red” suffices quite nicely. (I married an engineer, I know this first hand.)


    3) So now I think I see where the frustration and problems have been lying...his readings are getting more complex and including more figurative and nuanced language.I am having trouble understanding how ds thinks because he really never uses things like metaphors. Things are. Just are...they are not like anything else.
    ...
    I have worked hard the last few years to really be very direct, almost to bluntness, in my conversations with him in order to avoid mishap and misunderstanding and hurt feelings. What seems polite to us often feels duplicitous and entrapping to him. When we use indirect language he thinks we are trying to get him in trouble or are being intentionally unkind. It never occurred to me he would have the same comprehension issue in his reading.

    Three of my four children are likely “on the Spectrum” (unofficial mom-diagnosis) and I also have the aforementioned Engineering Hubby. If you were a fly on the wall at my house, you’d think sometimes that I might be rude or tactless with my children and too blunt with my husband. Not so. Indirect conversation gets lost in their “servers” — like too much data.

    Think of it: if there are two lines of code that you need to run a program, why would you make the code fourteen lines long? The programmer has to fish out all the extraneous data to run the program. It’s exhausting — especially when you only have a certain bandwidth. If you keep giving “the programmer” too much data — consistently, day in, day out — you’re going to fry his circuits and — yeah — he might think you’re purposely trying to make his life miserable (an incorrect assumption, of course, but there are fewer alternatives to that assumption, in his mind). And this is not limited to oral speaking. Languages are easier to dissect if they are in print, but the fact remains: there is just too much data “in the code” for your Little Programmer to wade through.


    4) Anyhow I am a bit worried about his lessons. I am not sure how to work on this for him...other than begin reading aloud to him slowly and helping him parse out meaning. Is this type of understanding even a skill that can be learned? I don't really want to start reading all his work again. But he is really reaching out for some hand holding.

    If he needs help, help him. He can’t figue this out on his own. And he wants to! This is not a lazy child, by the sound of it. He just doesn’t understand (like me with Trigonometry or Geometry).

    This skill can be learned... to an extent. It might end up being something he is either proficient in or proficient in at a lower level, but it will likely never be something he prefers or excels in. Metaphor is part of language — every language — excepting computer code. He needs a certain level of understanding in order to be able to have a greater mastery of language and to better comprehend Truth and Beauty. However, don’t underestimate the Sciences for delivering that same comprehension. How many great scientific minds have found as much awe in mathematics and the cosmos as great authors do in words?


    5) Thinking of the next 2 years cores I have done with dd I am becoming apprehensive. I know he likes books and literature but he has become so narrow in his choices of series and authors and I bet if I go pick one of this favorites I will find little description and lots of dialogue.

    ...So much of what dd has done the last 2 years in Literature and Classical Studies and even her SAT prep is all about figurative language I don't how or if we can prepare.

    ...It is such a tricky thing, he knows what dd has done and compares himself mightily, any adjusting of pace is met with, "But that is not how it is done." He knows what grade he is "supposed" to be and struggles to tolerate any deviation from what his personal expectations are even if they become obviously unrealistic.

    ...We really don't know where his upper limit is yet... Will he live independently? Will he go to school beyond homeschool? Or hold employment — let alone when? The older he gets the murkier the answers are to those questions and I know a lot of his anxiety comes from, "I should understand this/be able to do this."
    He really does not like 'maybe' in his life.

    STOP. (I’m holding up a stop sign here, like a traffic cop.) He’s not your daughter. She’s a different kid. And he’s a *young* teen. I’m sure my parents looked at my behavior when I was 13 or 14 and thought the same thing. He’s not going to take the same track she did; excel at the same things; hold the same ideals; have the same career or prefer the same foods. He’s a distinct being with strengths, weaknesses and talents of his own. If he has favorite authors, that means he’s reading. That’s a good thing. If they are books with little description and lots of dialogue, that’s okay. He is reading for pleasure and he *is reading* as a way to envision story, action, characterization, plot, struggle, resolution with some description. Those are all high-level adapted skills. That’s huge! I don’t think struggling with “The Wind in the Willows” means he’ll never live independently (I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that his favorite genre is Sci-Fi, but that’s just an educated guess.) Many more have done greater with far less. So treat with today instead of worrying about a “tomorrow” that may never come. (I say this from experience!)

    6) I feel like often the more expectations and challenges we have of verbal ability the less of his cognitive understanding/functioning he is able to use. We know that anxiety severely limits his cognitive function...like a frozen computer...and this kind of language really seems to flip that anxiety switch.

    ...He has come so far from the non verbal preschooler he was but verbal does not always mean easy.


    Ohhhhhh yes! My son didn’t speak until he was five years old. And his cognition is still coming online. If you want to frustrate him and make him shut down, throw a bunch of reading comprehension at him — or give him a lecture on why his behavior has consequences and how to correct that. Frozen computer, indeed!

    Listen — mom: he is speaking, he is reading, he is working hard. ***WOW*** If you’re anything like I am, you see the miracle of how far he has come. It’s humbling and praise-inducing to look back on where we started and to compare it to where we now are. My Guy has done far, far more than anyone ever thought (excepting us as his parents), and he has astounded those who’ve witnessed it. But I, like you, am guilty of pushing, pushing, pushing — perhaps too hard sometimes — so that he can “get up to grade level” or “catch up with his sister” (who is two years younger and also language impaired but smokes him in reading).

    How we address this at my house is this:
    Reading is either first in the school day or within the first hour. We take turns reading a selection if my son is tired. If he is really tired, I just read to him. I reduce the number of pages he has to read from the assigned reading. I go over the questions with him and we think them out together. I write answers on the white board and he copies them into his guide.

    Your son is obviously older and working independently, but you may want to gear down a bit so you can help him with this issue. If he is anxious about not finishing “on time” or in the “correct” time frame, remind him that he and his sister are different and that he excels in areas where she does not. Also stress to him that this book is challenging to every student, not just him. This is not a flaw in his intellect. You might also step back and just read the book together for pleasure and do informal study with him as a segue to the next book in the queue.

    What I will likely do, when the time comes, is put my son and daughter on separate reading tracks. My daughter will likely be able to follow MP outright and my son will have a narrower range of MP books to study or a few MP books and some others from outside the curriculum of my choosing. If there are five novels in a curriculum year, my daughter will likely be able to read and analyze them all, but I might only assign my son the three that best suit him (not forgetting to stretch his abilities with each novel). As long as he is reading at *his* ability level, I think I will be more than satisfied. You wouldn’t put a Latina Christiana student in Third Form. And you wouldn’t put someone studying for an English degree in a Thermodynamics class. Our brains are generally not wired for that. (I graduated with honors in English but struggled through College Algebra and Deductive Logic as math requirements!) Incidentally, BookShark is a great resource for finding good books that are not quite as taxing. You may look here: https://www.bookshark.com/level-8/hi...evel-8-package to see how much more challenging an MP education is by comparison!

    You have genuine concerns in this area and I do not undermine that at all. Take a breath, remember the sweet boy you have and see your way forward with grace as your guide. He’s going to be fine. He’s just going to take his own path.
    Boy Wonder: 10, MP2/SC4 (Special Needs)
    Joy Bubble: 8, MP2 (Special Needs)
    Snuggly Cowboy: 6, MPK
    Sweet Lightness: 2, Reverse-Engineering Specialist

    “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
    ~Pope St John Paul II

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Helping an older student with figurative language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anita View Post
    Also stress to him that this book is challenging to every student, not just him. This is not a flaw in his intellect. You might also step back and just read the book together for pleasure and do informal study with him as a segue to the next book in the queue.

    What I will likely do, when the time comes, is put my son and daughter on separate reading tracks. My daughter will likely be able to follow MP outright and my son will have a narrower range of MP books to study or a few MP books and some others from outside the curriculum of my choosing. If there are five novels in a curriculum year, my daughter will likely be able to read and analyze them all, but I might only assign my son the three that best suit him (not forgetting to stretch his abilities [/I]
    Yes! For some students it may come naturally to be immersed in such a fanciful literary world as the one created in Wind in the Willows, but for many, this feels like a new frontier on every page.

    A few more thoughts:

    Your Role --
    Rather than pressure yourself to read with him at this age, it might be a better use of your time to preview the books based on what you know, select a smaller amount, and outline his coursework for the year with the explanation that this is his "mathematical emphasis coursework" or "science emphasis coursework" or "technical coursework," or whatever direction you see his talents emerging. To help him avoid feeling negligent, you might substitute books like the C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy or the full Chronicles of Narnia set. This is simple allegory at its finest, and it may be more accessible for his mind. His coursework does need to diverge a little, but he need not stop studying good literature.

    The Talk --
    At some point you will need to have the (or another) discussion with him about the differences in his mind, and yet you can assure him that even with some substitutions or omissions, he is receiving a full classical education. You might even remind him that HLS and MP occasionally change literature selections in their Core programs! So, too, you make adjustments sometimes. It is important to serve and protect -- as well as educate -- his mind.

    Together --
    Then choose only ONE of the challenging MP books still in his coursework each year, perhaps a lighter Shakespeare play or any favorite you would like to read anyway, and study with him. As Anita said, go slowly, paraphrase and have him paraphrase. Use the notes or study guide. Do it all orally. Just one per year. Save it for summer, if necessary.

    The Poetic --
    As you teach or as you go about your day, insert comments now and then about the beauty of the "poetic" in our lives: a rose, a great sculpture, a symphony. He needs people in his life who point him to connecting with nature, art, music. The time to grow or create any of these is not "efficient," yet such things are gifts to us as human beings.

    If he is like my son who said the same thing about Shakespeare (then why didn't he just say that??), you can also compare it to food. We could serve a starkly efficient dish of unseasoned pinto beans every day, every meal -- same bland fare. It would be easy to eat, easy to prepare, predictable, efficient to serve, but would it really nourish us? (Be sure to choose something he would not like. Some of our kids really would eat the same thing every day!)

    Allegory & Allusions --
    If he wants a little help and is willing to study, you can find student reference books for looking up common metaphors and allusions. You might choose such a book intended for upper elementary, rather than for high school or college.

    Future --
    All of this angst is helping you help him, as you look forward. You are realizing that may not become an English professor. But he will do something!

    As Anita said, he has come SO far, you both can be extremely proud (and humbled), and look forward with confidence to his future.

    Anxiety --
    Last thoughts: It is time to protect him from unneeded intensity, misplaced pressure, or rampant anxiety. He may struggle with anxiety/depression throughout his life, so he will need to gain a therapeutic appreciation of the arts, refreshing time in nature, and good, nurturing connections with the human beings in his life. Given his challenges, his academic courseload must always be secondary to his -- and your -- well-being. (A good doctor once cautioned me about being anxious in front of my children. Much of anxiety is learned, she said.)


    I hope something here is helpful. Anita's thoughts were already thorough and well-stated!

    I really just wanted to encourage you and your son. You are doing so well! When you think of the "track" onto which he could have been placed as a child, and yet he is an earnest student with a classical education, anything more you do now is to be celebrated!
    Last edited by cherylswope; 01-15-2018 at 10:14 AM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Helping an older student with figurative language?

    Oh Anita and Cheryl just God Bless you.

    Can you tell my post was written after a trying week

    It has been many late nights of comforting one anxious teen or the other lately and your words were a balm.

    I do try to keep my own worries from them but it seemed to spill all out onto the forum sigh! But I do work very hard to be positive with them.

    I do like the idea of cutting back a bit with the amount of literature in a year. It has been such a jump for him this year in work and while he is working valiantly I do not want to break his spirit over this. He always tackles what ever is put in front of him with out thought.

    You made me think Anita...he is my kid that dives into work first thing in the morning but he dives into his favorite subjects first...math, and more math (we have lots and lots of accountants in dh's family and there are a very few statisticians in mine to the bemusement of all the artists, teachers and musicians ha) and inevitably I find him on a German language site because it interests him and I have to prompt him back to lessons... he does just about everything and anything before literature and he is tired by then. I realized though I am very aware how different they are I always put math first of the schedule because it was so hard for her. Old habits. So not this week because a mid week shift would seriously throw him but starting next week with some warning we will try switching up reading first. I know there will be some resistance but I can see where it is a good idea to try.

    You made me laugh though with your stories of your family. And the book guess cracked me up. DH is a hard scifi fan, ds keeps trying but has a hard time with suspension of disbelief...science doesn't Actually work that way mom haha. He reads lots of stats books.

    I also chatted with my younger dd who has the severe adhd and we tried today having her follow her literature books on audible when I usually read aloud while she reads in order to allow her to focus and it was a huge success she was able to complete her work independently in half the time so it freed me up a bit to offer ds some extra support. Dd was tickled to help and work more on her own and ds was happy to have me free to be attentive.

    And older dd jumped in and we had another one of our neurodiversty chats about how we all support each other but don't all need the exact same things. A talk that needs to repeated often!

    It is interesting about the poetic...and I agree. He does have good appreciation...we always called him 'Ferdiand" when he has young for being the one to stop and smell all the flowers...quite literally. But he is definitely one for quiet reflection not dissection of a subject. ANd as of late he has been to focused on the next thing to remember to see what is under his nose. We will work on that.

    He so very much loved Horatius last year and I know he is excited to start the Illiad next week.
    I am thinking we will let the rest of the literature go for the rest of the year and really just concentrate on the Classical studies...after all they are literature too...
    But I think will all the transition of both maturity and grade level jump and all that the idea of choosing one or two books that I have prechosen will be a better use of both our time.

    You have both given me a ton to muse on but more importantly some fine encouragement thank you.

    Ok off to bed for a fresh start tomorrow!
    Fall 2017 :
    DD 16- mix of upper grade options for yr 11 with remediation/support
    DS 13- core 8 with remediation/support
    DD 10 -core 5 with remediation/support
    DS 8 mix of SC /Core 2

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