Friday, November 23, 2007

Inside Corey's Brain

My 15 year old son, Corey, is diagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities. I have spent the last two years ( the time he has been with my family) trying to figure him out. My daughters' disabilities are pretty straightforward – Ashley is deaf and blind and Jessica is cognitively impaired. I can understand those disabilities. But Corey has always been a puzzle. However, I think after observing him this past Thursday, I may have a few more clues to what makes him tick.

Corey was given the job of raking and bagging leaves. He wanted a way to earn some money to buy Christmas gifts, and I had a ton of leaves that needed attention. So Thanksgiving morning, he set out with his rake and box of leaf bags. He started the job in a very lackadaisical fashion, and continued to slow down as he worked. He would rake a small pile, move to the opposite end of the yard, rake another small pile, move to another section of the yard, drag the rake around in the dirt, stop look around for a while, play with the rake for a few minutes, move to another section of the yard, kick the leaves around, move back to the first small pile, and start to put some of the leaves in a bag.

His work continued along that same illogical, unsystematic way for the next three hours. Finally at the end of the three hours, he came into the house, announced that he was finished, and asked for his money. Of course, a review of the yard revealed that he had only gotten about half the leaves up, and he had left the bags that he did fill sitting all over the yard. I was instantly reminded of his school work and home work. He forgets what his assignments are, he sometimes does his homework, but sometimes only does part of it. Usually he forgets to take in what he has done, and I often receive reports from teachers about his inattentiveness in class. He doesn’t seem the least bit surprised when his grades are low, but at the same time, it doesn’t seem to bother him at all – sort of like doing the leaf raking job halfway but still expecting to get paid.

What I learned from observing him is that what I thought was only a problem with school is actually a problem with everything. Corey’s mind works in ways that are hard to figure out. And, it’s probably just as frustrating at times for him as it is for me. What I haven’t figured out is how to provide support for him in such a way that he can cope with the differences in his mind.

It would be easy for me to assume that he is lazy, doesn’t care, or is being defiant. Maybe sometimes he is being those things, but I also think that he is just doing what his brain tells him to do, and those things are not the logical, clear thoughts that most neurotypical teenagers have (if any teenager can be called neurotypical!). He is indeed a puzzle, but hopefully I can continue to work towards putting the puzzle pieces together. And maybe have a really well-tended yard at the same time!


Attila The Mom said...

Oh geez, even at almost 21, my oldest is still exactly the same way (if you take bi-polar disorder out of the mix).

What we've found to be helpful is to break it down into manageable bites in the very beginning.

Using his black-hole of a bedroom as an example: If you tell him to get that garbage pit cleaned up, he is completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, and nothing gets done.

So we set a schedule. First job, pick up all the clothes from the floor and throw them down the laundry chute.

Then he takes a break to fart around for 30 minutes.

Second, pick up all the garbage. Any dishes, glasses or silverware go in the sink.

Then he gets to fart around for another 30 minutes.

Third, all CDs, games and DVDs go in a specific drawer. Don't look at them, don't play with them, don't organize them. Just toss them in the drawer.

Then 30 more minutes of farting around...

Pick up and wrap any and all cords that aren't connected to anything and put them in their specific drawer.

...and so on.

It might take a day or two to get the job completely done, but at least it gets done!

We've found it's helpful to do that with schoolwork as well.

Ashley's Mom said...

Those are wonderful ideas - thanks! I am going to try it out with Corey's black hole bedroom cleaning tomorrow!