Aspergers, schooling and frustration

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!

12 Responses to “Aspergers, schooling and frustration”

  1. FreakyT Says:

    You make an excellent point about how the mainstream media likes buying into sensational stories–after all, as businesses, they exist to make money. However, I’m still not sold on your views on climate change. First off, these policymakers supposedly behind the global warming hoax–what do they stand to gain? Votes? Money? Research grants? Why bother with such a complex undertaking without a sound motive?

    I’m also curious about the data you mentioned indicating that global warming isn’t occurring–can you produce a reliable source on that?

  2. FreakyT Says:

    Haha, oops, commented on the wrong post. Well, can you pretend I posted that on the one after this?

  3. A Particular Mind Says:


    Thank you for your posts on Aspergers. I have no idea why, but every time I come across a post of yours on the topic I find myself riveted.

    What are you views on testing and intelligence in general?
    I have this suspicion that testing, across the board, is a somewhat useless endeavor in terms of equating ones intelligence. Yes, I feel that certain tests serve a purpose to measure memorization and the degree to which one can temporarily regurgitate and apply various concepts … but in terms of intelligence I highly doubt their ability to do justice to the matter.

    I realize my opinion in this is highly biased. I have my own experiences and my limited observation of those around me – and not much more to go on. At least for me, receiving high test marks does not seem to validate my own sense of intellect. While I have never taken an IQ test (and refuse to do so) I don’t believe that I am necessarily smarter than someone who receives lower marks. I attribute my success more to effort, luck, and testing methods rather than to ‘smartness’.

    A Professor of mine once told me that he considered me ‘extremely intelligent’. I thanked him and asked why he thought so. He seemed somewhat taken aback by my question and asked me what grades I receive. I told him A’s. He looked at me like his point was proven. I looked at him like he had yet to answer my question.

  4. xanthippa Says:

    @ FreakyT:

    Not knowing how to re-direct your comment to the other post, I have ‘cut and pasted’ it into the first part of my reply to you – as a comment on the ‘Astronomical Arrogance in Journalism’ post. However, if you are following this thread through ‘MyComments’, this reply will not show up there…

    @ A Particular Mind
    Thank you! The more of your words I read, the more I am surprised at how some of our ideas line up…

    My ideas on itelligence are that it is highly subjective: and that each and every one of us – whether we admit it to our selves or not – needs to KNOW that OUR intelligence it the BEST. By this I mean that IF we STOP thinking this, we will develop an unhealthy dependancy on the person or religion or ‘whatever’ that we elevate above our own ability to reason. In essence, if we abdicate our reason and decision making in favour of ‘something’, we will become profoundly flawed in our psyche.

    That does not mean that we cannot acknowledge that other people are smarter than us in SOME ways: but we usually also see them as somehow ‘flawed’ in other ways. For example, the ‘super-smart rocket scientist’ is ‘socialy inept’, etc… This, I think, is a defense mechanism.

    Having said that, I think that each and every IQ test out there is designed by people who consider THEIR mind to be the BEST. And, the tests reflect this, 100%. That is why it is possible to take several different tests and get very different scores. The same goes for the ‘Aspergers’ tests’ that are out there.

    I, too, have very carefully avoided IQ tests, and have never ever taken one. My excuse? I am an immigrant. Many questions are culture-based – and I could never possibly get an accurate score on them. Even IF I ‘filled in’ the holes I have in North American culture, no test would measure ‘extra’ points I ‘deserved’ for my native culture….. I don’t know if I buy into this argument myself, but it ALWAYS got me out of taking an IQ test. And no, I don’t think it can be accurately measured.

    Also, I think that we can increase our IQ – and that our brains never loose the ability to that allows this. Years ago, it was thought that the brain stops growing at 25-ish – but it was shown that that is because at that point, most test subjects left school and stopped ‘forcing’ their brain to grow…

    Marks at school reflect a particular TYPE of intelligence AND the ability to present it in the very narrow format of a test/essay. It does NOT measure ‘knowledge’ ‘wisdom’ or the ability to apply them in the real world. Typicaly, we test for ‘analysis’ – essential – but we forget to tests for ‘synthesis’ of the analyzed result into a larger frame….

    Hope this answers your question…..

  5. Aspergers and accurate words « Xanthippa’s Chamberpot Says:

    […] Aspergers, schooling and frustration […]

  6. Ace Says:

    Very interesting. Your phrasing “the difference between actual ability and capability” is very succinct and I think differentiates between the two better than the way most people try to explain it.
    Apparently when I did IQ tests in primary school, I scored in the 95th percentile in some areas and the 25th in others, not because I was any less intelligent in those areas but because my capability of expressing it in those tasks was less.
    For me, it is very, very frustrating to be highly intelligent, but not very capable. If I were living by myself (which fortunately I am not) I would no doubt find myself doing things like forgetting to pay bills or buy groceries, and any time I had a problem – ordinary things like broken appliances, or power outages – I would not know what to do about it. And it is just so horrible to know that I am intelligent enough that I should be able to do things, but I’m simply not capable. In high school I was known for being quite brilliant at some things, but stuff like my organisation was so bad that it meant I always had fairly average grades; not bad ones, but nowhere near what I should have gotten based just on my ability to write essays and things. My disorganisation, my inability to work out what to do next if I had a problem, all these things brought my grades down. And it’s like that with everything I do.

    The worst part is, of course, when people act patronizingly or as though you’re stupid, when intelligence isn’t the issue at all. It’s all the other factors that people never consider.

  7. The difference between ability and capability in Aspergers Syndrome « The More People I Meet, The More I Like My Cat Says:

    […] came across a very interesting blog article today by Xanthippa on the differences between ability and capability present in someone with […]

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    Xanthippa says: all the way!

  11. 84973 Says:

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    My only goal is to help others, to make life easier for Aspies and our friends and families and educators…

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