Aspergers and writing: ‘build’, not just ‘revise’

‘Everyone’ who is familiar with Aspies knows that most of us struggle with writing.

Not all of us – Aspergers affects each person a little differently and to a different degree.  And, it affects males and females a little differently, too.  Perhaps that is why my post  ‘Aspergers and writing’ continues to get so many hits.

Today, I got a comment on it which raises something important.  That is why I’m posting this comment – and my quick reply to it – as its own post here:

Your comments about perfectionism and the difficulty Aspies have in putting words to paper make me wonder if this is why it’s so difficult for Aspies to revise what they’ve written: that once they get something down on paper they have committed their ideas to writing and there is no other way to put it. As a writing teacher, I often run into a wall when I ask my Aspie students to revise and I wonder if you think this explanation is accurate.

My response was:

I think that you are on the right track. I would like to nuance it slightly, if I may.

There are several things going on.

It is not that the Aspie may not be able to think of different words to put things into: it may be true at some times, byt certainly not at others. For example, many Aspies are very verbal – and they can say things out loud in many, many different ways. As a matter of fact, you may have a hard time shutting them up – they’ll describe the same things in so many ways.

The problem comes whith ‘investing’ into writing the words down. They have been ‘selected’ and ‘sweated over’ – why do you want to change them?

This constant ‘revision’ most writing teachers insist is part of ‘proper writing’ reduces me to white-hot fury! It it’s worth writing down, it’s worth doing it RIGHT THE FIRST TIME!

Once an Aspie HAS written something down and you are asking them to ‘revise’ it – you are asking them to take something that is ‘right’ and change it….obviously, if you take something that is ‘right’ and change it, you make it ‘wrong’! Then, when they hand in the version you forced them to change from ‘right’ to ‘wrong’, you give them a bad mark…

No wonder we don’t want to ‘revise’!

OK – that was the ‘emotional’ response.

Now, for more ‘reasoning’….

There is a problem – an actual physical problem in the neural connections – in the brain which makes it difficult for MOST (not all – we are all individuals), especially male, Aspies to write. Physically write.

Forcing us to ‘write’ and endlessly re-write the same sentences over and over is mental torture to us. It rubs our noses in our failure. So, we avoid it like the plague. If it’s a computer file, we’ll be less freaked out by it. But asking us to hand-copy out the same bits over because other bits had changed is unreasonable.

I actually can tell – byt the style of writning – if something I ‘produced’ was first spoken and then trans-scribed/typed into the computer, or if I wrote it on a piece of paper in longhand and then typed it into the computer, or if I directly typed it into the computer. Honestly, my sentence structure and syntax are significantly different in each one of these styles of ‘writing’. Perhaps you could experiment with your students on this theme….

But!

This is the way I helped my kids ‘get over’ the whole ‘revision aversion’ (I could not very well undermine the teacher, right?).

I explain that the teacher is trying to teach them how to build a piece of writing ‘from the ground up’. It is a particular methodology to teach, and marks are awarded at each stage: sort of like when you learn to swim, they first teach you to put your face in the water and only later want to see you perform the full butterfly stroke…

So – first ‘version’ is NOT supposed to be ‘a written story’ or ‘a written essay’.

Instead, organize your thoughts and put 1-2 words for each paragraph: enough to ‘record’ the ‘main idea’ or ‘main thrust’ of what this will say. This will be handed in as ‘brainstorming’ – teacher needs to get it to keep a record of it, so they can prove what they gave you the marks for if someone audits their work.

On the next ‘version’, you go to each one of the paragraphs and put in 1-2 words for each sentence you will write in the finished piece. Check that each paragraph still has the same ‘focus’ as the ‘brainstorming’. This will be first draft – again, marks, teacher keeps for records…

In between each step, take the teacher’s feedback and incorporate it in – again, this needs to show up. It’s the teacher’s job to give you feedback, so it’s important for the records they keep to reflect it. If you don’t, they’ll think they are not teaching you right, be sad, not like your work….pick your sentiment.

On the next ‘version’, you write BARE sentences for the 1-2 word things. Make sure all ideas are there, but not really all the descriptions, and not nicely or fancily. You’re hitting the highlights. That is the next draft.

Finally, you take your draft and connect up things, dress up the sentences, and so on.

It’s a method of constructing something. Teachers must document they taught it to you.

This way, you’ll show how you built the written piece. It’s not so much ‘revision’ or ‘revising’ it – that is a very poor label for this. But, that is the label we are stuck with.

Does this help explain the thought process?

Vigna vs Levant: first installment on the last day

What a day today has been!

I admit, I am a little overwhelmed by all that has been happening.

And, I will try very, very hard to put down what happened, as best as I can with my very very limited legal background (which consists solely of watching ‘Jurisprudence’ on TV whenever I can).  But, most of it will not come tonight.

As those of you who read my blog on and off, I have some long term health issues.  These last two days have seen me more up and about than I have been in months, and I admit that I am exhausted.  Yeah, I know, I am a wimp….

Still, I really don’t want to try to give an exhaustive report while I am not in a serene state of mind.

I will only offer the briefest of observations… (well, brief for my standards!)

Mr. Levant appeared more patient today.  Now, I don’t know how Mr. Levant felt – he didn’t tell me.  But, it seemed to me that he had moved past the exasperation (not completely, and with a few re-lapses, of course, but he seemed less ‘overall’ exasperated ‘much’ of the time – perhaps because he was not having to explain over and over and over how his ‘sainted father’ felt bullied by Mr. Vigna’s representative(s) trespassing on his (the father’s, not Mr. Ezra Levant’s) property for reasons Mr. Vigna claims are legitimate) and, if you can believe it, I think Mr. Levant actually pitied Mr. Vigna.

Mr. Levant’ lawyer sounded every bit as good as I had hoped for, from having watched his demeanor yesterday.  I have to admit, I really like him – he has a way of understating things that permits the listener to draw his own conclusion without ‘beating him/her over the head with it’ (if you know what I mean), but which is ‘louder than shouting’…

Mr. Vigna continued in a manner similar to the one I observed yesterday.  Much of the time (when standing up) he would rest his hands on the desk and lean forward in a bullishly aggressive manner (at least, it looked so from my point of view).  At one point the judge requested him (and it almost seemed to me that the judge was a little exasperated at having to do so) to not lean so far forward because he was so close to the microphone, it was interfering with the microphone’s proper function.

(Aside:  I think Mr. Vigna was using one of the new super-awesome Sharpie pens – guaranteed not to bleed through to the next page. There are two types of this new pen – the ‘click’ type and the ‘cap’ type.  To the best of my observations, Mr. Vigna was using the ‘cap’ type, blue, if I am not mistaken.  I rather like these ones, and used the same kind (Sharpie, cap-type, blue ink) to record my notes from today between the first break and the lunch break (approximately 12:20 and 13:00 hours… I always switch pens and ink colours between breaks….  These ‘cap’ type Sharpie pens come in black, blue, red, green and purple – but, as far as I know, you can only get the purple and green ones if you buy a multi-pack.  The GTEC-C4 pen multi-packs include the same colours – but also add orange, which the Sharpie ‘cap’-type multipack does not have.)

At other times, when Mr. Vigna was not leaning against the desk, he seemed (in my layman’s eyes) to have had difficulty containing his ‘energy’ – or, in other vernacular, one could say he seemed to have had ‘too much sharp chi’, if you will.

He kept shifting his weight from one foot to the other.  Even in between ‘weight shifts’, he kind of bobbed up and down on the balls of his feet.  In addition, he kept making small little nervous movements with his hands.  And, yes, he did pull his pants up a few times – but aside from a few little glances he threw Richard Warman who sat in on part of the morning proceedings (and one glare at me that started by looking over his left shoulder, than turning about 345 degrees and finishing the glare over his right shoulder), he did not seem to pay much attention to the audience.

While I’m on the topic of ‘audience’…

When I wrote my initial observations on the ‘Warman vs Free Dominion’ appeal hearing (yeah, I know – I never DID finish my write up….I’m still thinking over some bits of it, especially the broader implications of the Irwing case), I noted that there was a pretty young blond woman with awesome shoes in the audience who looked like she had had a tooth ache,  She arrived just after things would get under way and leave just before the breaks, preventing me from saying ‘hi’ and complimenting her on her shoes (I like shoes almost as much as I like pens).

Well, that same young woman was in the audience yesterday.  You’ll be relieved – she no longer looked like she had a tooth ache.  That made me feel glad for her.  I would not have noticed her, because she sat behind me, except that her manner of arrival and departure jogged my highly imperfect memory.

And while I’m on the topic of the audience…

At just about 10 am, Mr. Richard Warman walked in and sat down in the front row in front of me.  During this time, Mr. Vigna was cross-examining Mr. Levant, and they just happened to be talking about the part of the suit where Mr. Vigna believes his reputation was damaged by Mr. Levant’s claim that he (Mr. Vigna) ‘had access to’ a neo-nazi  website.

Now, here, I have got to be careful in how I word things…. This was one of those things ‘under dispute’ and at the heart of the lawsuit – and I freely admit, I am not trained in the legal profession.  So, please, do take this as a lay person’s highly imperfect impressions and observations and nothing more.

The issue which was discussed was what Mr. Levant had written regarding the ‘Jadewar’ membership in a neo-nazi site, and its role in ‘stuff’.  And, I do not want to get into the ‘nitty gritty details’ of the case while I am tired and before I have had a chance to think it through.

Still, it is a fact that Mr. Levant specifically said under cross examination that he believed Mr. Vigna was much better a person than to join a neo-nazi group/party/site/whatever.  He (Mr. Levant) did not believe Mr. Vigna WAS a neo-nazi at all,  All he (Mr. Levant) wrote and asserted (and, I presume, still believes to be true, based on the sources he cited) was that Mr. Vigna ‘had access to’ it – as in, was aware of and could, if he so wanted, have looked up the password or found some other means (like asking Mr. Dean Stacey) to access it (because the information and password were contained ‘in the files’ which he, Mr. Vigna, presumably had access to – at least, that is my highly imperfect understanding of the testimony).

On several occasions, Mr. Levant said he did not think Mr. Vigna himself was a neo-nazi, like ‘Richard Warman’ or ‘like that man there’ – while he indicated Mr. Warman….

More to come tomorrow!