Wednesday, April 16, 2014

He survived!

As you may remember, Austin took his first outside class this year: Speech/Debate. The first semester was devoted to Speech and the second semester to Debate. The Speech semester went very well. Austin was nervous at first, but he made excellent progress with his speech making. He made eye contact with his audience, and his vocal quality was fantastic. He has this really deep voice - many of his classmates encouraged him to look into voice-overs as a career!

January rolled around and with it came Debate class. I never took Debate in high school or college (speech, either, which really should have been required for a teacher, I think). So I was unaware of the format. I have also learned that there are different styles/formats for Debate. The one his teacher teaches requires lots of fast talking - getting out your words/thoughts in a hurry. And the other team can interrupt you when you're talking with a "POI" (Points of Information). For someone like Austin who struggles with expressive language and processing speed, this was a nightmare.

The first time they gave a speech and he was interrupted with a POI, he was completely flustered. He lost his place in his thoughts and became very overwhelmed. His teacher is fantastic - experienced with special needs kids both in a classroom setting and from her years of teaching homeschoolers - and she did all the right things to help him succeed. But he continued to struggle even through the last debate, and he was not a happy camper.

Honestly, if I had known this was the format for Debate, I wouldn't have signed him up for the 2nd semester. I would have stopped at Speech and called it good. But I didn't want to pull him out of the class and have him think he shouldn't try something just because it's hard or because it involves an area that is one of his main disability areas. I told him to stick with it, do his best, and when the class is over he never has to do debate again.

At last, today was the last day of Debate class. And it started off with another problem. For some reason, Austin forgot to bring a key piece of his team's presentation. I asked him about it on the way home and he told me he had completed it, but forgot to print it off. He was very upset. The teacher came out to ask me if I needed to help him calm down. I peeked in the room was was told (by Austin) to leave. So I went back into the other room, stuck my earbuds in my ears, and listened to some music.

When the debate ended, I joined the rest of the class and the moms/siblings who had been watching and waited for the results. Austin's team had finally won, mostly because the other team had neglected to address a few of the points made by Austin's team! This was something that kept vexing our team through the semester so it was great to see that they were finally able to pull it out!

The teacher gave each of the kids an 'Award' and discussed how each of them had grown and changed through the year. Austin got the Determination Award. I started to cry. Then she asked if anyone had anything to say, and since I was already crying, I decided I might as well just go ahead. I thanked the class for being so kind to Austin through the year. (And yeah, it really embarrassed him - but he is so used to me doing this sort of thing LOL). I also commented on how kind and encouraging they have ALL been to one another, and how much they have grown this year.

I also hugged and thanked his teacher, without whom none of this would have been possible. She is simply fantastic and I have been so impressed. Her classes are higher than others in our area, but she is worth every penny! If you are in the Atlanta area, I highly recommend her classes. You can get more information at her website here: Martin Educational Services

I love this picture of them! :)
After class, his entire class (except one) meet for lunch! I didn't get a picture of the whole group because I figured if I tried that after I had already embarrassed Austin with my comments and tears at the end of class he might actually run away or something! LOL But I did get a picture of him before the rest of the kids arrived.

Debate Class Survivor! :)
I am really, really proud of Austin for all of his perseverance and hard work this year! He won't be taking outside classes next year, and he's not the least bit upset by that fact! LOL


Lisa said...

Austin, you did a wonderful job by all accounts! What a super experience to have in your "toolbox" for your future.

walking said...

Congratulations, Austin!!!! Not many of us have the courage to face the ultimate challenge.