Friday, December 2, 2011

Report Card time!

Report card time.  This may be one of the most challenging situations to balance between my extra-special girl and her neurotypical (NT) sister.

One thing I have always told both of my girls is that it is the effort that counts.  Sometimes it will pay off and sometimes it won't, but if you look back and can honestly say you did the very best that you could do, then the results don't matter.  You can live without regret.

S, the sister, brings home her report card.  Straight As and she's as proud as she should be.  She works hard and her grades reflect that effort.  Academic standards are outlined and her proficiency at them is documented.  In a society where we value the results, she's right in there with the best of them.

K never even sees her report card.  We typically have a teacher conference or team meeting, take the report card and file it away.  K works as hard as her sister and maybe even harder given what she is trying to overcome, but the results don't come close to reflecting her effort.  Through no fault of her own, she simply doesn't achieve the same grades as her sister.

There is no expectation that they be the same.  There never has been.  It's all about the effort.

However, how do you celebrate the achievements of one without making the other feel bad?  I can't say we have mastered this at all.  Our approach has been to lavish our praise on S privately, away from K.  Yes, right or wrong, we give S financial rewards for her achievements.  In all fairness, how could we possibly have this interaction with both girls present?  K and S would both feel bad over the same thing, with different reasons.  K would feel bad about herself for not bringing home the results.  S would feel bad because if we try to compensate for K's situation, the rules aren't the same and S would feel it is unfair.  She would be right, in a simplistic way.

It's never that simple, though, is it?  We want to celebrate K's successes!  Her situation warrants the different approach because she shouldn't feel bad about herself.  We celebrate the effort and hope that she remains proud of her efforts because that dumb piece of paper doesn't reflect either her achievements nor her actual intelligence.   It's just that they don't have a line on the Academic Standards for "she's not as far behind as she was 3 months ago."  There is no "A for effort."  Even incentives offered in the classroom are based on results, not effort.  If K was graded on her ability to be kind, compassionate, giving, or cooperative it would be a different story.  If K was graded on the actual academic level that she has mastered, it would be a different story.  Apparently, though, you can't grade a 4th grader on 3rd grade subjects.

One way or another, we find ourselves left with two girls and two different approaches.  So far, acknowledging them separately is working.  I'm sure it won't last forever.  K will get more savvy soon enough and wonder why she isn't seeing her report card or, if she does see it, why her grades are not as good as she had hoped.

If you have any better suggestions, I would love to hear them.  I'm out of ideas - I guess I'm not going to get a good grade in "creative thinking."  Darn it.  Good thing we celebrate the effort around here!

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