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Week in the life of a male foster carer – A story for T

Background

T has been with us for about 6 months. He is 10 years old and is diagnosed with ASD though it seems quite mild. Some of his symptoms that are attributed to ASD could also be just down to the fact that T is a 10 year old boy. In general he is a very happy lad but one who has moments of anxiety and has some problems dealing with his emotions. Because of his condition he does get fixated on things so he has a strong passion for cars and certain movies and TV programmes and at the moment he has a sometimes unhealthy obsession with Loom Bands (tiny little elastic bands that the kids make into bracelets).

I am married with three children, one at home, one at University and one living just down the road, and I am the main carer as my wife has a full time job as an Assistant Principal at a Sixth Form College.

 

Friday 20th March – Thursday 26th March

T has been having some trouble doing his homework lately so Batch’s wife decided to write him a short story to help him understand the situation.

T and the Homework
Written by SJ

Once upon a time there was a boy called T.
He had brown hair.
He wore glasses.
He liked cars.
He had autism.
He was 10 years old.
He liked animals.
He didn’t like homework.
One Wednesday, he came home from school as usual at half past three. He had had an OK day at school.
When he got in from school he noticed that his Classic Cars magazine had arrived. He got one every month. It had been a Christmas present from his foster parents. He sat on the sofa and read his magazine for a bit. His foster dad, Mr B, reminded him that he had homework.
“I don’t mind you reading your magazine for a bit, but don’t forget it’s Wednesday, and you do your homework on Wednesdays.”
T did not like homework.

After he had looked at a new Alfa Romeo that had been designed by someone called Duncan McLaren, T said he would do his homework.
He had to create a balanced argument. The topic was: should schoolchildren be allowed to take mobile phones to school? That meant he had to come up with some reasons that said yes, that was a good idea and some reasons that said no, that was a bad idea.
T knew all the reasons. All he had to do was to put the reasons down on paper. It wasn’t a difficult piece of homework because T already had some ideas. It would probably take about 20-30 minutes. It was ten past four.

At school, he had just earned a fountain pen for showing that his handwriting was very neat. He wanted to use this fountain pen to write out his homework. Mr B got the homework task out and some lined paper because T writes much better when he has lines. I do too. When it is just plain paper, no matter how had I try, it always goes slopey.
As soon as T started writing, it became very clear that the fountain pen and the paper were not well-matched. The paper was quite thin and the ink from the fountain pen did not dry quickly, which meant that the ink got smudged very easily.
This was very frustrating. It made T cross.

T might have had some solutions in his head, but if he did, he didn’t share them. He shoved his chair back crossly and stormed over to Mr B and shouted at him.
“THIS PAPER IS TOO THIN. THIS IS STUPID. I CANNOT WRITE ON PAPER THIS THIN. THE INK DOESN’T DRY PROPERLY. I HATE HOMEWORK. WHY DOES THIS PAPER HAVE TO BE SO FLIPPING FLIMSY? WHY CAN’T IT JUST BE THICKER?”
Mr B looked at the paper and could see the problem. The fountain pen and the paper were not well-matched. Mr B said as much to T. “I think the problem is that the fountain pen is not a good choice. May I make a suggestion? Perhaps you could use a pencil.”
T did not like that idea at all. He wanted to use his fountain pen. That meant he needed thicker paper. He wanted paper like the stuff they used in his class at school. He didn’t like Mr B’s suggestion. He didn’t like it one bit.
“I DON’T WANT TO USE A STUPID PENCIL. THAT’S A STUPID IDEA. I WANT THICKER PAPER. I WANT TO USE MY FOUNTAIN PEN. I HATE HOMEWORK. THAT’S IT. I’M FED UP OF THIS.”
Mr B felt quite hurt by this outburst. He stopped to ask himself, quietly inside his own head, if he had done anything to T that might have made T angry. He was pretty sure he hadn’t. This meant that T was cross with his homework and his pen and paper (which weren’t well-matched) but he was shouting rudely at Mr B.
Poor Mr B. He really hadn’t done anything wrong.

Mr B offered to help by drawing some lines on some plain paper that was thicker. He got the plain paper, a ruler and a pencil and he drew some lines on it for T.
T sat back down and carried on with his homework. After about 90 seconds, he had made a mistake. This made him cross and he shouted again. “THIS IS STUPID. I HATE THIS HOMEWORK. I NEED AN INK ERASER. I NEED YOU TO DRAW MORE LINES ON ANOTHER PIECE OF PAPER. THIS IS GETTING ON MY NERVES. I DON’T EVEN WANT TO DO HOMEWORK. I REALLY AM FED UP OF IT”
Mr B did not have an ink eraser and even if he did, he didn’t think it was a very good solution because an ink eraser would also rub out the lines.
Mr B could not spend the evening continually drawing lines on to blank pieces of paper every time T made a mistake. He had lots of other things to do. He had to take M to work, go to the shop to buy sweetcorn and make tea. He spoke to T again, “May I make a suggestion? If you use pencil, like you did for last night’s homework, you could use the lined paper that’s already printed, and if you do make a mistake, you can rub it out and then carry on.”
T didn’t think that was a solution. He shouted loudly about how much he hated homework and then stormed off to his room. Luckily, he didn’t slam the door. He sat in his room speaking crossly and loudly to himself about homework.

After a while he came back downstairs and sat at the table. He carried on muttering about homework. “Homework is a stupid thing. You shouldn’t have to do homework at home. Home is where you should relax and be at home to do what you want to do. It shouldn’t be time to do more work. That’s what school’s for. I’m fed up of this. Who designed homework? Whoever it is shouldn’t be alive anymore. Then there wouldn’t be so much of this stupid kerfuffle.” And so on.
It was true to say that T was not in a good frame of mind. The more he complained to himself, the angrier he got. The angrier he got, the harder his homework became. Eventually he got so cross, he stormed off to his room again.

Mr B sat on the sofa and sighed. He couldn’t help T because T wouldn’t let him help. He couldn’t improve T’s mood because the only person who could improve T’s mood was T. He was sad that T was so upset. He knew that T could do the homework because it wasn’t hard and T was very good at arguing and that was what the homework was about. It was now quarter to five.
T sat up to the table for the third time. He began his homework again. He got cross again. He shouted again. He stormed off to his room again. Mr B had things on his mind and jobs to do; he had to take M to work and go to the shop and make dinner for 6.15. T was crying in his room. Mr B thought about going up to see if he was OK, or if he could help T, but he didn’t want to get shouted at again. He stayed downstairs and listened. It was an upsetting sound. After a while he went up to see if T was OK, to see if he could help any. Mrs B heard T shout again, this time really loudly, “GO AWAY! LEAVE ME ALONE!” Mrs B wondered if their neighbour could hear.
Mr B came downstairs. “It’s OK” said Mrs B. “Take M to work. I’ll be here with T”, so Mr B went.

While Mr B was out, T came back downstairs. He sat up at the table without a word and started working. He was sniffing where he had been crying and he looked very unhappy. That made Mrs B sad. But she didn’t say anything to him because she didn’t want to get shouted at. She thought to herself, ‘but if he asks for my help of course I will help him.”
Just then L came home. She had some University work to do so she sat at the table and she and T worked together. T worked well. Mr B came home. It was twenty past five. T had been working for one hour and ten minutes. He had written six words. But Mr B was very pleased to see him working so well. He went to the shop and then started making tea. It was sausages and mashed potato, vegetables and onion gravy.
At ten past six, L said it was time to pack up and lay the table for tea. T hadn’t finished his homework; he had written three and-a-half sentences in beautiful handwriting, in pencil on printed lined paper. He still had more to do to finish it. He would have to finish it tomorrow after school, at the beginning of the Easter holidays. That was a shame.