Caley and I got to talking about those maps this morning, and she revealed to me that at points she'd been thinking about breaking her arm so she wouldn't have to draw them. She was a MIDDLE SCHOOLER thinking about BREAKING HER OWN ARM.
And my family and I had no idea.
Sure, we knew that as someone with dysgraphia (common in people on the spectrum) writing hurt her - but we never realized it hurt her THAT much. And, yes, I personally knew how anxiety inducing those maps could be for those of a perfectionistic bend - I remember how painstakingly I drew the fjords of Norway and despaired over getting Crimea just right.
But I didn't know. I didn't realize just how bad it was for her.
I'll let Caley tell you the story in her own words:
"They were free hand-drawn maps. We'd do things like the 13 colonies, Europe and Australia. Europe was the worst. You had to draw the coastline and then map within five miles the different cities. And you had to color it in and make it pretty and it did matter how it looked. That's one of the few C's I got in middle school.
It hurt a lot because of my dysgraphia and then it extremely stressed me. I remember hurting myself throwing my pencil up in the air in frustration. The first map I didn't think of it. The second and third maps I definitely thought about breaking my own arm. Because it HURT to write that map. And it was SO stressful. I don't think my meds were really good back then so, along with going through puberty, everything just combined together.
I don't know how to describe it, it just hurts to write. I can do a little bit, but because of the way I have to bend my fingers so that I can have any kind of fine motor control over the pencil it becomes REALLY painful.
I don't think I ever told [other people] it hurt. Although it should have been fairly obvious by how I acted. I often shook my hand out, although that looked like stimming, and I hated writing. Typing was a lot better.
I think they did the maps to attract those into art into learning, but it kind of was punishing to everyone who didn't."
I don't know if there's one single lesson to this story.
Maybe how painful dysgraphia can be?
Or how bad anxiety can get?
The importance of teaching self-advocacy?
Or the way that these moments of anxiety can just go under the radar, because we don't realize JUST HOW BAD it is for the person?
The need for accommodations?
The way an assignment can be so frustrating that a child is thinking about hurting themselves to get out of it?
In the end, I think this story tells all of those and more.