Of course, I’ll have to do a report on the year once again. I’ve doubted for a long time, and still doubt, whether to call it a “progress report”, like last year’s was or just a review, like the one from 2004. The distinction lies mostly in whether I considered the year successful or not. The problem is, it depends on how you define “success” whether 2006 was a successful year.
Practically, I think, 2006 was not successful. Upon starting the year, I was convinced I’d go to university by September and live on my own as I left training home to go to Nijmegen. Not only am I not there yet, but I’m also not sure I’ll be there by 2007, either. Of course, whether I go to Nijmegen to study linguistics I think (at least, it’s the only alternative I’ve still left over) or to some college to study journalism, is only a matter of which I like most and has nothing to do with educational levels, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty in my mind as to whether I can keep up at college at all, and about my living situation, I’m pretty much still a tabula rasa. So if progress is judged by where I thought I’d be by this time, I’ve regressed, not progressed at all.
This is measuring progress relatively, of course. Absolutely I did make progress, in that I’m in college part-time now, can travel to school on my own and do my shopping and housekeeping mostly independently. It’s not enough, the NFB would say. Measuring progress in absolute terms is about the worst mistake IEP team members of disabled students can make – it should be relative, cause the ultimate goal is normalcy. A while ago, I read a newspaper article about autistic children in an ABA programme in California, whose “therapy” was discontinued if they didn’t make enough progress, while the parents said they did make progress and the “therapy” should therefore be continued. Of course, I oppose most ABA programmes, but I agree with the parents who say that normalcy (or, as they call it, “indistiguishability from their peers”) should not be the (only possible) goal of a programme. So I may’ve progressed in 2006 even if I didn’t reach the ultimate goal.
That’s for the practical skills: I learnt to do my cleaning and shopping and can combine this with part-time college and can travel to school on my own, but I ain’t yet in college full-time, still can’t cook independently and still can’t do my administration on my own. There is that other side, of course, that emotional or behavioural part of my situation. I used different terms for that in 2005, but mostly just called them “some of my difficulties” and wondered about their significance. I said that would likely be an important issue in 2006, and it did, and indeed, mostly just like it’s ever been since 1998. I hope that in 2007 it can be an important issue in some other ways than it’s always been ever since 1998, but I’m pretty skeptical as it requires communication that I lack. I’ve been looking all over the place for specific information about my situation which I could put into an automatic translation programme (after all, when I have to write something that I don’t understand, grammar is always bad anyway), print out and take with me on Wednesday, but all I could find was catch-all terminology.
Have I progressed on the emotional/behavioural level, too? Well, in one sense, not at all. My behaviour hasn’t even improved absolutely – it’s deteriorated. That’s the one clear thing about a relevant topic I managed to tell the folk from mental health on December 12: that, while I’d always had behavioural problems, I did feel I’d gotten worse quite a bit over 2006. I can tell this from the paradigms others hold, too: even as late as last August, Arda was telling me that really there was nothing wrong with me and she could tell if I were crazy cause crazy people act crazy even when they think they’re normal, and now you know where we are now – or where we’re planning to be if for God’s sake I can communicate.
Emotionally, as in how I feel about myself, the situation is a little more complex. I started out very confident but also very much dissociated from the parts of me that weren’t all that confident. I remember those early weeks at training home: I seemed to know exactly where I was and where I wanted to be, but I know (and probably knew at the time) that it was all based on expectations. As soon as I started noticing I wasn’t meeting them, I got frustrated and eventually freaked out.
Expectations didn’t decrease after March 21. Of course, the pressure from having to be at university by September, had gone, but I now think that, had I followed the same path I was on in March, 2006, I woudln’t have been able to go to college by September even if I was holding on.
Wait. I have to differentiate here between expectations of practical skills, like cleaning or mobility, and expectations in other areas, like scheduling, being able to find a recipe, social skills, etc. In the former, I was holding on quite nicely and the pattern of learning didn’t change after March 21. No-one was expecting me to cook independently before then – I first cooked with Ellen on March 15 -, so we couldn’t tell whether I would be able to. And as for cleaning, what is there still to learn but to keep my structure? I can clean independently and I could by March 21, mostly. With mobility, one might think my skills have decreased, but factually, they haven’t: all that’s changed is that we don’t tend to schedule practising a route when I don’t need to use that route, while we used to do that with other routes, so it’s taking longer but not more practice.
The other skills did not decrease, either. In July, Arda was angry cause I supposedly “suddenly” couldn’t find a recipe anymore. I informed her, factually, that previously no-one had expected me to find a recipe completely independently but I would sit there with a staff member and they’d ask what I wanted to cook and I’d say something like “rice” and they’d help me find a recipe with rice, or I’d tell them that I’d already cooked rice last week and we would be having macaroni the next day, so what else could I cook, and they’d suggest something like bami. Then Arda got to speak of progress. Yes, that’s what it was: I wasn’t making progress, but my skills weren’t decreasing, either. By the way, we got this problem solved pretty much by October as I had enough recipes to choose from, and now I just pick one from the list in my computer. The same goes for scheduling: when I started doing my own scheduling, first in July adn later in October, there didn’t occur major changes. I could just copy/paste my old schedule and do some experimenting if I wanted to (in October, inspired by my new theories about “realism”), but I didn’t need to change big parts of my schedule. So what’s the problem when I go up to Renee asking her to help me schedule when major changes are about to occur? Is that “suddenly” not being able to schedule anymore? No. I can schedule nicely for the week starting January 8, because that’s a perfectly normal week again. You may expect the progress that I can eventually account for major changes in my schedule, but I don’t know how to.
My behaviour did deteriorate in 2006 – I cannot say this was just not progressing, cause it was really absolutely worse than it’d been before. I said this to the mental health folk on December 12 and said I didn’t know why that was, and Renee theorized that expectations in social/practical behaviour – not my biggest strength, obviously – had increased. I think this is true in a way, but I find it hard to differentiate this from just not progressing, while it is really something else. It’s hard to distinguish these two, cause what would’ve happened if the same behaviour were expected of me let’s say two years ago? I probably would’ve been exactly where I am now, but that doesn’t mean it’s just about increased expectations, cause I do freak out much more than I did before. So I think it depends on how you measure progress: if progress is responding in a more acceptable way to a certain situation, I’ve not progressed, but not deteriorated either; but if progress is measured by how often and how severely I freak out, I’ve deteriorated quite a bit.
Now is 2006 like 2004, cause I’ve seemingly only gotten worse relative to the expectations set for me? In one way, no, in that I feel less dissociated from myself. This is some statement I have to be careful with, cause it connotes deliberately acting out, which I don’t do. I don’t quite exactly mean behaviour, indeed. What I mean is that I can be more honest about the actual problems I experience. Like, I’ve been cooking with Ellen for nine months before admitting why I couldn’t do it completely independently. That may seem like losing a skill, but it’s rather coming closer to where I really am. I wanted “realism”, in early 2006, but the first thing required for that, is to be honest about my actual situation. I try to be that, now, though I still cannot completely accept the idea that being honest about your problems allows for more openness to solutions than pretending the problems aren’t there.
In another sense, 2006 did end like 2004, in its being so open-ended: on January 1, 2005 I had no idea what the second half of the year would be like. It’s pretty much the same now, in that I have ideas of what I want adn what I can and what I should, but at this moment I cannot seem to form a picture out of them. That is in a way more troubling than the situation of 2005 – all I had to do, at the time, was decide to delay college to go to rehab -, but in a way, it’s more comforting, in that I do at least know that I want to be in college, but that I don’t want it to go like it went this year or in high school and therefore, I feel I’m apparently incapable cause I cannot think of “colour pictures” that work. Will I find one in 2007? I’m not sure, but I hope so, cause I don’t want to give up altogether.