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Social Autism

Greater Than, Less Than

Greater than less thanBy Cathy Jameson

Ronan was asked if he knew the concepts greater than and less than last week.  I watched him as he gave an answer.  He pointed first to yes then to no on his letter board.  After waffling between the two, he was asked another question.  Is 9 greater than 2?  He seemed confident and answered with ease.  But he gave the wrong answer. 

Since greater than/less than were brand new concepts, I knew it could take time for him to grasp them.  Grasping that kind of information isn’t easy.  Retaining it can be even harder.  Sometimes, it takes lots of prompting and redirection to get Ronan to communicate during a task.  Other times, it takes the promise that a change to a more preferred activity will happen as soon as the lesson is over.  Strategies we’d used previously were attempted during his lesson, but Ronan became less consistent as more questions were presented. 

Watching Ronan attempt to participate, and then seeing him get a little frustrated because of the lesson, made me frustrated, too.  I’ve dealt with enough frustrations to last a lifetime.  So has Ronan.  I’d like every day to be a little bit easier for him than his previous day was, but lessons, therapy, and sometimes life in general, turn things into an uphill battle.  Those kinds of battles happen when we deal with less than adequate services, when we run across less than helpful providers, and when we come face-to-face with less than charitable humans who are supposed to help but don’t.  Thankfully, we have had more greater than experiences than awful ones lately. 

Life was greater when…

friends saw a huge need and pitched in to help us.

family reached out to us just because.

therapists spent precious extra time with us even though their sessions had ended.

I keep those positive events in mind while I wade through the negative ones.  Those negatives can be brutal, but I do my best to keep my chin up.  Generally, Ronan does, too. 

He doesn’t usually get upset when he makes a simple mistake, but something was getting Ronan down last week.  The higher the full moon rose in the sky, the more tantrums, refusals, and physical responses returned.  We saw less of his laid-back self and a more aggressive one emerge.  When that behavior comes back, we lose so much ground.  Fortunately, it doesn’t last too long. 

It was short lived, but frustrations did rise.  Mistakes were made, but incorrect math problems written in pencil can be erased.  So can ones written on a dry erase board. 

Great Than Cathy photo

When things turned around, as they always tend to do, I knew life would settle down again.  When that happens, we get ourselves back into a good routine.  We dry our eyes, and we try, try, try again.  Just like Ronan did toward the end of that math lessons last week.  He tried, tried again, and he turned a simple error into a simple success. 

He’s nowhere near close to mastery yet on that skill and a lot of other skills for that matter, but he’s still able to make an attempt.  He’s still able to work hard.  He’s still able to show us he’s capable and that he’s very smart.  Better than that, in those moments of simple success, Ronan still teaches me.  He teaches me to stop, smile, and be more than thankful today than I was yesterday.  I’ll always look for something to be thankful about. 

Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism. 




Also, I wonder if the term "greater than" could be confusing. Great is generally used in speech as an adjective, as in "good" or "better than". Maybe using the more accurate description of "more than" and "less than", rather than "greater than" and "less than".
Because philosophically more is not always great(er). We shouldn't attach good feelings to things just because there are more of them. Like, is 9 vaccines "greater than" 2 vaccines? I say no way.


Another reminder that something so simple for me is an obstacle to be climbed for Ronan & those like him. As I get older, I realize that how he overcomes these hurdles is not as important as the fact that he tries. He's my hero. And so are his mom & dad!

go Trump

Thanks Cathy.

Each and every week we all work and pray that we will find something that works, something that we missed, something that will make something else better or easier.

Sadly it is the parents who have to figure things out, as those responsible continue to be responsible for exactly nothing.

Their endless research finds exactly nothing, and they are then given more funding to continue ...

Jeannette Bishop

Thank you, Cathy, for some "greater" perspective each week!

I was pretty good at math, but I remember still having a tough time using, maybe with seeing and keeping the meaning straight, and definitely with correctly writing the < or > symbol I wanted.

It's taken my daughter years to get to the point she's more correct than not. I used to try holding a few of similar items it each hand and tell her which hand had more, which less, and try asking her. It seemed to make no sense for a very long time. Intermediately, it maybe helped to use locking block manipulates so she could compare and see which stack of blocks is longer (and theoretically preferred by the very hungry "chompy mouth"), but I was never sure that made things clearer. She eventually though got to where she asked for help with the first couple on a worksheet and then said "I've got it" (my cue to go somewhere else) as if she only needed a refresher, or else used the first couple as a guide. I don't know if she could pass a test on it, but I'm pretty content to see that she worked out a method for approaching these types of problems herself.

When I get philosophical about it, I wonder if so often for her less is more, fewer/simpler is greater, so maybe the fundamental concept is counter-intuitive, and then she also started off reading and writing letters upside down, sideways, or right side up interchangeably, so I'm thinking the symbols < and > look pretty much the same to her, complicating things. (Sorry, at first I thought I was going to BRIEFLY muse on our personal "greater than, less than" escapades here...)

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