One of the main things you learn when you talk to Temple Grandin is that she lives to create solutions. Whether it’s finding a humane way to walk cattle through a slaughter house or it’s finding a way to engage a child’s individual imagination, she is excited to brainstorm and find a viable path. As soon as Temple Grandin found out that I was an Autism Mom, she wanted to know all about my son. What were his interests? What was I doing to feed his interests? One of the things Temple seems very sure about is that we shouldn’t allow children on the spectrum to just wither away by themselves playing useless games that don’t teach them anything useful. And let’s face it there are lots of those games out there.
After my interview with Temple was done and after she had given me great marriage advice and had adjusted my personal goals as a woman, Temple returned to the subject of my son. I had told her that my son is good in math. We started there. She asked for a piece of paper. Initially I gave her a small index card. That didn’t satisfy her. She needed a bigger canvas. We found a sheet of paper and a pen and Temple began to write her personal prescription for my son.
For those of you who have math directed children, here is what she wrote.
Khan Academy – Math Classes
Coursera – Free classes at Universities
Udacity – Free programming
She described the importance of giving my son an opportunity to learn math that is not at his current grade level. I told her that he does exceptionally well on standardized math tests, but not as good in the classroom math. She encouraged me to “get over” that and instead focus on the math he will use later on, not the “baby math” they do in elementary school.
She saw a look of fear cross my face and asked me what my hesitation was. I admitted the stark truth that I am borderline hopeless at math and even his 4th grade “baby math” is kicking my keister! How on earth was I supposed to keep up if he started taking college level classes? She smiled, it turns out math isn’t her strong suit either, so there was no judgment. She did, however, suggest that I get him a math mentor, someone who could show him a thing or two. She also thought it would be good to humor his request to learn welding! And to feed his desire to build robots by finding a robotics class. It was great advice. All of it was great advice, but just a little overwhelming. Where was I going to find a math/inventor mentor who had time for my kid? Or a class that was going to welcome a quirky nine year old and teach him how to safely use a blow torch? Temple, ever the problem solver, suggested I call around and look online. I thanked her and promised I would. That’s when I said good bye to her and we went on our merry ways.
I did spend a fair amount of time online and started tracking down leads. Some of which were promising, others dead ends. Then last Saturday while at a garage sale I hit upon the mother lode. I love garage sales. You find interesting things and people at garage sales. At this particular garage sale my son found a really cool robot and while he was checking it out, I was checking out an array of other stuff on the driveway. There was a motor bike that had been made from scratch…all welded. There was a bike frame, hand welded and parts of engines and inventions everywhere. I had to ask who was responsible. I could feel Temple nudging me between the shoulder blades! The owner of the home introduced me to her son; a sixteen year old inventor, who welds, and plans on going to college for aeronautic engineering because….you guessed it, he wants to build robots. Ladies and gentleman we have a mentor! The fact that he is 16 and understands how teenagers talk and can give my kid pointers on fitting in, icing on the cake!
Have I been able to implement all of Temple’s advice yet? Not by a long shot! Baby steps, I remind myself.
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