And Stimming With Rainbows of Every Design

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"No, the book is wrong. This whole conclusion is fallacious."

Some of you have probably seen this post already, but I'm posting this over here as well. It at least gives me something to put here for now. I should be able to update more frequently once I get out of school and have some time to rest and relax, plus don't have to spend all day in an overloading environment.

Anyway, the title quote comes from young River Tam in the Firefly episode "Safe." It refers, in the context of this post, to the wildly inaccurate conclusions about me based on writing and assumptions about people like me, or people that seem vaguely like me on the surface, but aren't really (i.e. non-autistic intelligent people.)

It seems like there's some conclusion that most if not all of my family members have made, that I'm just moving on to junior college and leaving high school because I'm bored. That's a gross oversimplification, and a highly inaccurate one at that. The real reasons are varied, and have been nearly impossible for me to articulate thus far, but it seems possible that I might at least be able to get them out in text, especially if the audience is comprised of those who already know a bit about autism and the ways our skill sets contrast with those of NTs.

Basically, it seems like the public school system is designed for one type of people, who fit statistical norms, as well as the preconceived notions of what skill sets people have. Most students do manage to fit these assumptions, and possess the right skill patterns to succeed. There are others who do, but don't succeed by the standard notion of success because of external situations (e.g. poverty, illness in their family, abuse, bullying for reasons unrelated to disability, to name the ones I can currently think of.) Then there are those who just present with an entirely different type of skill scatter, that is completely at odds with the typical 6-7 hours, 5 days a week, in a conventional classroom type of environment. (I've probably left a few other groups out, as I doubt it's clearly divided into three populations.)

My guess is that a large percentage of the people in the third group are autistic (most others are probably non-NT, but not autistic either), and that the vast majority of autistics, if not all autistics are in the third group. Conventional schooling requires being able to sustain a certain auditory and visual processing style that I can't hold for more than three hours at a time on a good day. It also puts enormous strain on us socially, plus encourages us to pretend to be something we're not, and focuses too much on authority for a group of people who tend to lack the social hierarchies of NTs.

I'm intelligent, and bored with the pacing in some of my classes that I'm strongest with (Spanish, Math, some aspects of English go slowly), but the challenge of holding the level of processing that I need to learn in class actually makes me fall slightly behind the other students comprehension-wise, and far behind my optimal learning and memorization speed. I know from experience that when I'm in an autie-friendly environment (like my private elementary school was for the most part), I greatly surpass most of my NT peers academically. I was bored in elementary school because I could actually *learn.* Now it seems like all others' interpretations of my current dissatisfaction and depression are based on that previous experience.

I've received very high grades in the past four years (since I've been in schools where we receive grades), and looked, on the surface, like a decent student. Internally, I've been coming closer and closer to crashing for almost four years now, and think I may have finally done so just a few weeks ago. I've been trying and failing to come back to a satisfactory level since then. I don't force-fit easily. It doesn't work, and has never worked to try to simultaneously squash and stretch different aspects of who I am in an attempt to make me succeed in an environment designed for standard issue neurotypicals.

Now the deceptive appearance of the surface is falling away, and I'm realizing that there's no way I'll ever be able to manage two more years in this environment. My father has been getting upset with me because I've been too overloaded to do my homework. I'm too exhausted to make sense of a lot of the at-home reading assignments for my English class, so I have a "B" in English due to not doing well on the tests, and have recently had several arguments culminating in meltdowns with my father, who, a few weeks ago, didn't think I was doing well enough or trying hard enough. I think we've reconciled, and that he understands better now, but it was highly stressful at the time, and still is to a degree.

I'm not a nice, convenient, easy-to-serve NT, and won't succeed in education designed for the masses. I know that college won't be designed for autistics, but it will, at the very least, give me a chance to take fewer classes, and have more space between classes to recharge enough for information and words to make some degree of sense, plus let me focus in on classes that fit within the areas of my perseverations.

Very little of this has to do with being bored. I know the big assumption is that the majority of my dissatisfaction comes from being highly intelligent and in a public school, because that's what the books and pamphlets about "gifted" kids say (and my parents do regard me as gifted in certain ways, despite me never having taken a standard IQ test). I just wish there were more literature about the problems with autistics and the public school system, not based on the idea that we're defective, but rather on the idea that there are major flaws in the system designed to educate us (and that goes even for special education, which from what I've seen, seems to be more focused on compliance and behavior programs than real learning.)

I'm currently in a cognitive state that I shouldn't be functioning at. I'm doing well enough to write this, but it's taking more effort than it does when I spend my days in an environment that is compatible with how I function. I've for the most part felt very depressed in the past few weeks, feeling like a burden for not fitting this system, even knowing that the educational system was designed with people very different from me in mind. I keep trying to convince myself that it's just laziness, that I wouldn't feel these emotions if I tried harder, that I could succeed if I were just a little bit better at working. But I know it's not, and I know I need to get out as soon as possible.

I *am* looking forward to seeing how I can function once I get out, and hoping to have the energy I had five years ago, when things were far better. I'm also hoping that in a few months I won't have near constant fatigue combined with exhaustion- and overload-related neurological pain. I don't care if JC is still easy like so many people around my parents say, I'll get to take some classes online, and definitely won't have to spend 7 hours every day in class.

2 Comments:

  • A lot of physically disabled people, regardless of neurology, don't do well for the same kind of reasons.

    It didn't even occur to me that you'd have been leaving from boredom; that seems like a silly thing to assume if you're stating outright that it's lack of appropriate accommodations. Might point out that if there were 2-3 steps into each classroom and you were in a wheelchair, you might be able to pop yourself up all those steps but your energy/pain would really go berzerk!

    It'd be nice if there was some way for people to create a "simulator" in Second Life like the one UC Davis created for schizophrenia... One that both shows how beautiful things can be for us, and also shows how horrid a non-accommodating atmosphere can be.

    Depending on the JC, your family might be way off the mark when it comes to saying it's easy. (You can also enroll at multiple schools, I think, if you wish to take some classes online that your local one doesn't include. You might try www.santarosa.edu for that; it's one of the best JCs in our state.)

    There's been a pair of programs the last decade or more where the UC and CSU systems approve core JC classes as matching theirs, and let students eventually transfer to an appropriate UC/CSU as a junior. Approved classes at the JC level aren't as hard as at the hardest 4-years, but from what other transfer students told me, they are usually as hard or harder than the average campuses.

    In my experience, attending JC (at above-mentioned SRJC) was actually just about perfect for my needs. They were quiet lectures with some assigned reading or problem sets (no busy work!), usually at a comfortable difficulty level, and instructors not taking attendance meant I didn't have to force myself to show up if I wasn't feeling up to it. I spent free time basically perseverating, taking personal-interest classes (horseback riding, HTML, etc.) and maturing.

    I found it easiest to develop friendships in night classes, because that's when most serious students attend alone. (Lower pollen counts & fewer sick teens were nice for my asthma, too...)

    By Blogger Moggy, At 12:51 PM  

  • If I can learn scripting (and scripting classes in SL are harder to find now that I've already taken the really basic introductory class), I (along with anyone else interested) would like to work on some sort of simulator thingy.

    Of course, it seems like it might take a lot of ground space, and Second Life's texture thingy isn't good for transmitting the detail or the vividness in what we see, and that problem with SL makes showing how beautiful things can be for us difficult. With lots of prims for each object, it might work, but that creates lag.

    There's something at ALF that looks like it might be close to what you're describing, at some point in time, but it isn't done, and is tiny enough that the camera view lets one see through the walls of the exhibit while they're in it.

    I'd like to make something with more varied environments, including an outside area, and then a couple of buildings. I'd like to have some sort of building similar to what we encounter in every day life, which would be autistic sensory and processing unfriendly, and have a way to teleport to an adjacent building from there, which would be identical, except for being designed so as to be autistic-compatible. I'd also like, in that case, to put out a notecard describing what exactly the differences are between the two buildings that makes the second autistic-compatible, and what the differences would be in real life. Of course, this all requires a lot more skill in scripting than I have right now, plus a large building area and land (ALF doesn't have room for anything like this, AFAIK.) I'd also need to learn how to load sound files.

    There is a schizophrenia simulator in SL (I'm not sure if it's the same as the one from UC Davis), though it wasn't (from my perspective, and the perspective of the ALF members who also went along to see it) very impressive.

    BTW, are you in Second Life yet? If you are, I either haven't seen you around or haven't recognized you.

    With regards to JC, I'll be at Sierra (though possibly taking some classes at schools in the Los Rios Community College District, as they're nearby), which is very strong, at least in terms of transfer rates. They actually have a really neat selection of classes there -- one of the courses I'm planning to take this Fall is "Life in the Universe," (though, due to my schedule this Summer, I won't be able to register for classes until about 1.5 weeks before the semester starts, so I don't know what will be available), and there's another class I'd like to take later that focuses on how young children develop prejudice.

    My mother got her Associate's Degree in Computer Science at the same JC I'll be going to, before she transferred for her Bachelor's, and found some of the classes very easy, but she also was taking several classes that she had taken before at other colleges. She said that some of the professors do take attendance there, so I should at least show up for the first few classes to see if they will.

    Yeah, I looked through the transfer stuff before I made this decision, plus I'm strangely fond of reading course catalogs, and have run across information about transferring in the process of doing that. I'm hoping to transfer to a UC (though not necessarily a UC that guarantees it will accept every transfer student from the JC I'm going to) after ~3 years (because I need 60 UC transferable units, and am starting out part-time, plus have seen a lot of interesting-to-me classes that are only CSU-transferable) as a Sociology major, though if I end up taking long enough that the University of Arizona develops its Disability Studies undergrad major, I'll want to see if I can transfer over there.

    Transport will be the difficult thing for me, if I want to take night classes. I *should* get my learner's permit this Summer, (I've been holding off for as long as possible, but my parents are putting pressure on me to learn to drive), but I'll probably have to rely on public transportation a lot of the time, and it will be a while before I'm legally allowed to drive independently, if I can even get my sensory system to let me drive. My dad can drive me, but since his brother just died, his 65+ year old parents are stuck dealing with the cattle ranch in Texas on their own, and he thinks he might have to spend quite a bit of time over there helping them. If I'm restricted to times the bus is running, then I'll be taking day classes (though I might be able to do a once-a-week night class).

    BTW, thanks for the description of classes and assignments. That sounds just about perfect for me!

    By Blogger Danechi, At 3:10 PM  

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