Michelle: Mark, I know you had a lot of trouble in school growing up. Can you explain the difficulties and what would have helped you?
Thanks, Michelle. Well, after some thought, I remember a few things that I had trouble with in school.
One was being disciplined enough to get started, carry through and to finish homework. Aspies have trouble with processes. Long drawn out methods are very difficult for us mostly because we don’t have the motivation to see long projects through. We need tutors or parents who will sit down with us at the start and show us how to take little steps. Then, periodically checking in on us as we continue so that we don’t waver. Plus the more abstract something is the more difficult it is to see it through to the finish.
Two, we Aspies ask for things directly and to the point. We ask for help in a point-blank manner. It has to be perfectly acceptable for us to ask for help in such a direct way without seeming like we are putting off our teachers or parents when we ask. Over my schooling, even in college, I saw nearly all my professors and teachers wince when I asked for help. That told me that they had trouble getting themselves to help me. So, after a while, I stopped asking for help. That wasn’t good for my grades or my views of school. Now, however, I realize that the direct approach I took was probably what made them sour on the idea. Also, after discussing this with NTs that I know, they have taught me how to ask without being so blunt. That has helped a lot.
Three, we don’t know how to forge relationships with our teachers or classmates mostly because we can’t read or ‘feel’ emotions. Relationships are the bedrock of just about everything in this world. That’s the major reason Aspies and HFAs are outsiders. Unfortunately, this leaves the burden of reaching out to Aspies and Auties to teachers, counselors, classmates and parents. This is the major reason I didn’t go to graduate school. One of my favorite professors thought I would be a brilliant physical anthropologist, but he didn’t know I had Asperger’s and neither did I then so, I missed out on my chance at a mentor and graduate school all because I didn’t see the emotional cues he was sending my way.
Four, many Aspies and Auties have perfectionistic streaks in them. I did. It made me miserable because I thought I could never do anything right all because it wasn’t perfect. Perfectionism in schoolwork seems like a good thing. Trust me, it wasn’t and isn’t, at least, not for us Aspies and Auties. As soon as we don’t get something right, we get mad and that just confuses our brains even more. Having the added pressure of the expectation of good grades or getting all As compounds the problem beyond description. Patience is the key for parents, teachers and students.
These four things I think have been the most important things I lacked when I was in school. I also think that they are directly related to having Asperger’s syndrome or other High Functioning Autism disorders. I hope this note has been helpful. If there are any questions, please contact me (Mark) here at Happy Robot Inc.