Many people with Aspergers have been treated as ‘stupid’, or – and this is the ‘teachers’ favourite’ – “Your child is co clever, if only he/she would apply himself/herself, he/she could do so much better!” As if the world were not frustrating enough without such patronizing haughtiness!
There are very many ‘things’ going on – and many will display themselves as various ‘learning disabilities’: dyslexia and/or its auditory equivalent, sequencing difficulties, social rejection + + + … and an ever growing frustration. And yes, this frustration can be crippling – it can ‘freeze’ the mind which is capable of complex reasoning, yet treated as an idiot because one can’t seem to express it!
In North America, school tests are all written – a ‘double jeopardy’ for Aspies. First, understanding the scope of the question is a challenge in itself. Is the answer supposed to be one word, one sentence – or a paragraph? During written test or exams, one is not supposed to speak – and so cannot ask and find out how big the answer is supposed to be. Then, it is incredibly difficult for Aspies to write their thoughts down in a consistent, comprehensive manner. The mechanics of writing itself are hard enough, formulating answers and then remembering them long enough to write them down is something that will take most Aspies years to master. This difficulty in written expression is kind of the ‘hallmark’ of Aspergers!
I know of a child who was slipping into a deep depression and getting bad marks in school. After a series of tests, it was shown that he was able to express himself so badly (on tests), he scored in the lowest 25% in general cognitive tests for his age-group. (That means that 75% children his age were able to write a better answer.) Yet, in oral testing (and with guidance – letting him ask questions so he assured himself he understood the question and how detailed the answer was supposed to be – and with no time limit), he was found to score higher than 95% of his peers! He was able to solve math problems from grade 8 exams, yet he was almost failing grade 2!
Can you imagine the amount of frustration this lead to? That disparity between one’s actual ability, and one’s capability to demonstrate that ability to others can lead to very, very destructive self-image. Frustration, shame, self-loathing….not really something that will help make things better. And because it is more pronounced when they are young and have not learned to compensate, early on into their schooling, many Aspies figure out that even trying is pointless.
The key question, of course, is: so how to fix it?
The simple sounding answer is: by exercising the brain. The latest research on neuroplasticity suggests this can be done, with great results. In the next few posts, I will try to describe the exercises that I have seen work – though not all people respond to the same way to all the exercises. I guess that even despite being Aspies, we are all individuals!
And speaking of being individuals: I just came across a neat article. Perhaps forms of self-expression like these futuristic tattoos just might help people with Aspergers read the emotions of others! Perhaps a little silly, but worth the read!