Missing Assignments and Literal Interpretations

I found out last night at least part of the reason my son has been  having trouble keeping up with his assignments at school!

First, some background. His 504 plan calls for his teachers to  let me know when he fails to turn something in. Of course, I don't  expect junior high teachers to do that, so every Thursday, I send all  his teachers an email and ask what he's missing.

I got a note back from his Humanities teacher yesterday, who said he  had several missing assignments. She said he wasn't the only one, and  she'd gone over with the students in class who was missing what.

So, when I got home last night, I asked him if he'd done his  Humanities homework yet. He said he didn't have any.

I said Mrs. Black had emailed me and told me he had some missing assignments, and she'd told him what they were.

"Oh, yeah, she did. But she didn't say they were homework!"

So I told him they were homework. I told him that, when a teacher  says, "you have a missing assignment," they are not just informing  him of the fact, they are telling him it's an assignment, it's homework, and he needs to do it and turn it in the next day, or as  soon as is humanly possible.


Telling him he had a late assignment was exactly like telling a teenager that the trash can was full, and expecting him to know he was supposed to do something about it. He accepted the information ("you have an assignment missing") as interesting data, not as  something he needed to act on. Because of his literal-mindedness, he  failed to draw an obvious inference.

Which, I am sure, is why he's had assignments, even small, easy assignments, days or weeks late, even when he *knows* they're late. Once it was past the due date, he didn't realize he was still
 supposed to do it. Even when the teacher told him it was missing, he didn't get it!

"So, when she told you what you were missing, did you write it down?"  I asked him.

Blank look. "No. She didn't say to write it down. I didn't know I  needed to."

Well, duh. Stupid question on my part. Why would it occur to him that  he needed to write it down, when he didn't realize he needed to do it?

So I told my son he has a second new rule for the evening: ANY time a teacher tells you that you have an assignment, that you are missing an assignment, or anything else about an assignment, you are to write it in your planner!

Once again, failure to meet academic expectations is a failure to *understand* the expectations, because the expectations were not stated, but had to be inferred. His failure to draw appropriate
inferences is a real problem. And a 504 plan that says teachers must give explicit instructions isn't enough -- when the teacher says, "Joe, you are missing the yellow worksheet on XYZ that was
due on Tuesday," she thinks she has been explicit!

Anyway, I've told both the humanities teacher and the intervention specialist about the breakdown in communication. Hopefully we can reinforce the new rules for him, so he'll know next time that when the teacher says "You are missing the assignment" he'll be able to fill in the blanks.

And if you're laughing about this, don't feel bad -- I am, too! It's frustrating, but it really is funny.