Xanthippa on Aspergers

Tools to help Aspies conquer the World!

A most awesome comment on ‘Aspergers and Writing’

I am an Aspie.

I am married to an Aspie.

We have two sons – both of whom have been identified as Aspies.

Not surprisingly, I have some opinions about Asperger’s Syndrome and all the facets of life which affect Aspies.

Every now and then, I have written about the ‘Aspie experience’ and some of the tools I developed to help myself and my sons.  Judging from the bog stats, I really ought to focus more on this – aside from a few  posts (Aisha Ibrahim Dhuhulow and some of the sharia write-ups I’d posted).

Today, I got a most gratifying comment on a post I had written a while back about Aspergers and Writing.  I know, it is a serious self indulgence to wallow in praise, but, if refreshing the post with a new link to this fresh post helps more Aspies, I’m willing to take the flack!

Here is the comment:

I just found your blog.  Wow, wish I had seen this a long time ago.  It should be required reading for all special ed teachers.  My son was not diagnosed until the end of 10th grade (after failing English when previously a straight A student), and we have endured an often contentious relationship with the school’s special ed coordinator and the school psychologist during that time and since.  At the end of his 11th grade year we had the IEP meeting, during which the first one asked him, “can’t you just write something to get it done?”, and the latter called him a snob.  And this is a year down the road!!!  It’s clear that too many of the people that are supposed to be caring for our children in the public school environment are woefully undereducated, and  some also lack the empathy that the unfamiliar accuse the Aspies of not having.  We finally found a teacher in the school who undertstands Aspies (and who admitted privately that she cringed at those statements during the
meeting), and she is wonderful.  My question is why didn’t they allow us access to her last year, when my son had to be assisted by a special education “clerk,” who had no conception of his difficulties or abilites,  who badgered him with “do you want to fail?” comments, and who evidently never bothered to pick up a book and learn about it during that time.  I guarantee you, from my now huge Aspie book library, I know more about the condition than either of the people in that school that were allowed to make decisions about my son’s education, or the person that was directly working with him.  If they had read your post, which would take about 5 minutes, they would have understood.  I think you have explained exactly the problem from the Aspie side–I think this is what my son has been trying to explain to them for 2 years.  So, anyone else with problems with the school:  number one, don’t take it as long as I did, and don’t assume the people in charge will advocate for your child;
number two, print some information from this blog and give it to every teacher, the special ed department, and the principal.  You want to know a funny thing?  My son was one of about 15 kids in the county that was nominated for a National Merit Award due to his test scores on the PSAT (no writing portion, of course).  To apply for the award, the student must write an essay!!!!  He decided to write it about not being able to write essays due to the Asperger’s, and about his difficulties at school due to this.  Somehow I doubt he’ll win, but good for him.  Thanks for explaining something so difficult so well, and I appreciate the time it takes you, trust me!!!!

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01/10/2010 - Posted by | Asperger Syndrome, Aspergers and Schooling, Aspie Communication, Writing | , ,

4 Comments »

  1. Hi My Name is Connie. My son was diagnosed with Aspergers when he was ten. I have known he was different since he was a toddler. I have 3 other children, am a developmental Psychology Major, and have been a preschool/child care professional for many years. Please help me. I am a very busy overwhelmed single mother. My son will not write anything he doesn’t know. He can not write about what he thinks. He can write about what he knows conditionally. No one that works with him truly understands this or Aspergers, not his Special Ed Principle, Special Ed Teachers, School Principal, special education teachers ads/assistance…I am frustrated. Connie

    Xanthippa says:

    It sounds like your son needs to have the goals of schooling re-defined for him.

    I have been exactly there, where you are, with my older son.

    There IS a way, and it is not insurmountable – but it requires defining schooling in terms that teachers do not like and therefore do not do, even at the cost of harming their pupils.

    What your son needs to understand is the way the system is structured.

    Yes, the main point of schooling is for students to learn. That much is accurate.

    The problem comes in in ‘measuring’ how much a student has learned.

    The teacher needs to have proof – in writing – that she/he has indeed taught this material to a student and that the student ‘learned it’. At least to the point of being able to write it down when asked about it.

    That is the point of tests.

    It is a way the teachers can prove to their bosses that yes, I have taught this to this student. It is – in a very real sense – the proof the teachers can show their bosses to justify giving a particular student a particular mark!

    Now, for a student, ‘marks’ are how he/she proves to the teacher that something ‘had been learned’. So, the point for a student to write things down on a test is to collect as many ‘part marks’ as possible….. Because teachers DO know that Aspies know more answers than they write down on tests – but they are not permitted to reward them for their knowledge unless it can be shown on a paper – as in, the student writing it.

    So, when writing a test, the point is not to “write down THE correct answer”. No, the teacher KNOWS you know it!

    The point of the test is to PROVE IT to the education ministry (or board of education, whatever your ruling body is)!

    So, put down the answer as closely as possible as what is expected.

    It’s like playing a video game – you may not collect all items on a level, and you may have to try a few times to collect them all, but if you collect enough of the items (not all – just enough) you CAN beat the boss!!!

    Same way, collect as many marks as possible on a test. Even if you do not get full marks, if you collect enough of them – you will beat the teacher’s boss by providing the teacher the proof that you deserve a good mark!

    You will have to tweak the message to your son’s circumstances, but this type of reasoning does work.

    I could not get my son to show his steps in math – the answer was obvious to him, so he wrote it. I explained, the teacher has specific ‘bits’ that they are permitted to ‘give marks for’. If the question is worth 5 points, 1 point may be for the answer – so if he writes the answer, he will earn 1/5 points. The teacher is not permitted to give out marks for the ‘bits’ that are not written down! So, stupid or not, he has to put down on paper the 4 in-between-steps so the teacher can justify giving him the marks….

    Try it – and let me know!!!

    I do want to know how it turns out!

    Comment by Connie E. Skelton | 06/04/2011 | Reply

  2. Thank you so much for explaining this to me. I too have read many Aspie books, but because of my own learning disabilities never put this together. My son is a senior and going off to college next year. He has a full scholarship at one of the best schools in the US (my praise of him), but still really struggles with writing. I have been nervous for him in college, but I will show him this and hopefully it will help. Just reading it, sounded so much like him and how he thinks, that I’m sure it will help.

    Thank you – and congtatulations and good luck to him!

    Comment by Marcia | 15/05/2012 | Reply

  3. Hi,

    I forgot about this. I’m Kerry Kelley’s son, and I can’t help noticing how little things have changed since this was written! I’ve been out of high school for a year and a few months now, and I haven’t started college yet (apart from a few community college classes). The writing still just doesn’t happen. I’m inclined to try writing “endlessly and uncontrollably” although I don’t expect much at this point. I’m about to apply to college, but once I get there I have no idea how I’ll satisfy the general education requirements. Any advice? (Are there particular colleges that deal with Aspies better than others? Is there anything in ADA that I’m not aware of that might help me? The community college doesn’t offer any accommodations that are of any use to me. How can I ever get a degree?)

    On a more positive note, after my mother wrote this post, the teacher who understood Aspies was able to make things better for me; I got straight As in my senior year, albeit through much struggle. I did not improve at writing (I still don’t ever produce anything), so I was more or less given a break as it was understood that I knew all that I was supposed to know. (Still, I had to suffer through standard-level English classes, hence I wasn’t taught much… I had the capacity to learn MUCH more.)

    Now I’m trying to start an Autistic Spectrum support group at the community college (presumably composed mostly of Aspies), although I’m struggling to decide which faculty member I should ask to lead the group. If I can actually make it happen, it should be great!

    To explain my problem to those without understanding of Asperger’s, I cite my rather hilarious SAT Writing scores: I got a perfect score on the Writing multiple choice, but only a 3 on the essay (on a scale from 2 to 12). I bet that sort of thing happens to Aspies all the time!

    Sorry if I sound cynical… sometimes things look hopeless, but I know they’re really not. Now I’ll be sure to remember your post on Asperger’s and writing, so that I can show it to teachers in the future.

    Incidentally (this post is so scattered!), in case it enriches the discussion in any way, I’ll explain my particular case a little more. It’s a lot like what CD said (in a comment on the Asperger’s and writing post), although I have considerably more luck with creative writing (poetry, short stories, etc.) than with writing for school. This is because I need writing to have a real, clearly defined purpose, i.e., a meaningful capacity in which it functions. For example, I’m writing this post to ask for advice and to provide information about my experience with Asperger’s. Since I know exactly what my purpose is, this is no problem (although I still take longer to write than most people). Creative writing is another example; in creative writing, my aim is comedy. I can write by a single rule (Is this funny?) rather than dealing with all sorts of ambiguity. I’m still a perfectionist in creative writing, so it takes a long time as well, but I can do it. On the other hand, writing for school often lacks any observable purpose. My brain doesn’t understand “do it because you have to,” and it’s not because I don’t want to do it, but rather because I cannot possibly determine HOW to do it when my only reason for doing it is that I have to do it! Whew! If you got through that sentence, good for you. (I’m sure it will be evident that this is not my most careful writing! (Hmm… but as the care I take in writing approaches its maximum value, the quantity of writing approaches zero. Oh, well.)) Anyway, there has to be a purpose, and that purpose has to make sense.

    It doesn’t quite end there, for once I have a purpose I can work with, other problems arise. I always have to view a subject in its fullest complexity, carefully observing its every aspect. In fact, this approach was the basis of my college Composition and Literature textbook, “Writing Analytically”. (I ended up withdrawing from the class, to no one’s surprise.) I loved that book, but somewhere there is a divide between its method and mine. Somehow, a person using that book’s method manages to make decisions (come to conclusions) that I don’t. I can almost never decide what I think about a topic. To sum up this second issue, I’ll quote the line I always used to hear: “You’re not writing your Master’s thesis.” Then why bother?! (Of course I know why, but the reason isn’t good enough.)

    I hope all of this is helpful; perhaps others like me can use my case to explain their problems to their teachers.

    Thank you for spreading the good word!

    Xanthippa says:

    WOW!!!

    Awesome!

    It is most excellent to hear that my advice did make even a little bit of difference.

    As to advice: I am not sure I can be of that much help.

    I do not live in the USA, and am really not at all familiar with the College systems and how it breaks down to requirements for getting specific degrees.

    Personally, I have a bachelor’s degeree in Physics: under the educational system I went through, it meant that the very last essay I ever wrote was for my last high school English class. (OK – perhaps there were some essays in my electives – but these were social science electives, and thus ‘fluff courses’. They were fun and easy, and I felt no pressure writing essays or exams for them…I did well on them, without really trying – or, perhaps precisely because I wasn’t trying and thus did not get stuck in the ‘perfection trap’!)

    My older son is in University (here, Universities are more academic than colleges, unlike in the US). He is studying mathematics and he also has not had the need to write any essays since high school…

    So, I guess it all depends on the area you choose to study: if you are an Aspie, you might do better in ‘harder’ subjects that require more fact-based answers and few (if any) essay questions. IF that is a possibility for you, that is…

    Actually….I was going to refer you to my post on essay writing, but could not find the link to it (on this site). It made me realize that I had not actually migrated all the ‘Aspergers’ posts from my ‘general site (Xanthippa’s Chamberpot – mostly politics, with only a bit on Aspergers thrown in) to here.

    Please, give me a day or two and I will migrate the material over: full instructions on how to write a college-level essay (I admit, I had help…). Sorry about that!

    As for starting a support group – good idea!

    If you would like your academic advisor (once you selsct one) to contact me, let me know and I’ll give you my private cntact info. If that would be helpful, that is…

    Good luck!

    Comment by William Kelley | 23/09/2012 | Reply

  4. Hi, I’ve just found this blog/thread while searching for some greater understanding of my 6 year old daughter and my experience with her schooling. she is being assessed for ASD, my brother is an Aspie, and we have ADD and ASD in the family. currently they are saying she is not really severe enough to get a diagnosis, and is also very young, I agree in some ways, but they are teaching cursive handwriting, and generally her handwriting and spelling is very poor, it is still very phonetic based, which doesn’t worry me, but the school are getting stricter. i have just had a parents meeting with her teacher. i explained that i felt the pressure on cursive handwriting particularly for her was distracting and an additional thing for her to contend with, i explained that the written homework was taking her a really long time to do, and that when I asked her to answer the questions verbally she was fine in expressing herself with a good grasp of understanding and she is highly articulate, but as soon as she realised she was going to have to use lots of words, she needed me to write them out for her to copy and would then negotiate to use less words in order to still fulfill teh requirements but without having to spend so long writing. The teachers response was that she was lazy. another example teh teacher gave me was that during a 30 minute class when she should have been writing a page of writing, she only managed 2 lines, when chivvied at the end that she had to stay in during playtime to complete teh page she miraculously managed to write 3/4 of a page in 5 mins, and then when reprimanded by teh teacher for not trying hard enough previously my daughter (who came home upset that day and told me that ‘miss’ didn’t beleieve her when she was telling the truth, that she had tried during class and that it was the absolute direction of being given a specific reason to complete the task and also my belief that without the distraction of 29 other children in teh room it was probably easier for her to complete the writing.)

    sorry I’ve been thinking a lot while reading all this how much some of it feels familiar to me as a child, my own experiences of writing and not seeing teh necessity to prove to anyone else that i was bright or able, they all knew that verbally i was intelligent, so what was the point of producing essays to prove it? but i was constantly accused of being lazy, and it’s a word i struggle with for anyone. It’s a derogatory term that i find highly unhelpful. my daughter has a huge desire to learn and participate, but wants to do what she wants to do – don’t we all? aspie or NT? also realising I am getting bogged down in teh detail while writing in order to try and make sense of what i am thinking about my daughter. without any ‘expert’ telling me definitively that my daughter does have aspergers I feel that i can’t push teh school too much, and as a single parent with another child to look after and having spent years reading a variety of books looking at SPD and ADD and the out of synch child type books, I just want some help and not to have to keep battling…..

    apologies for all the typo’s I’m actually very good at spelling but type much too fast and therefore my typing looks as poor as my terrible handwriting….

    Gill

    Xanthippa says:

    Dear Gill!

    I do not think you or your daughter are (or ever were) ‘lazy’!!!

    I really, really KNOW what you are both going through!!!

    Whether or not your daughter gets an official diagnosis of ‘Aspergers’ (this depends as much on where you live as what therapist/psychologist/MD you get to evaluate her – there is no ‘agreed-upon-line’) she is ‘on the spectrum’.

    That means she is displaying SOME of the characteristics of an Aspie…whether or not she ‘crosses the line’ is as much dependent on the person who makes the diagnosis as on your child.

    Also, girls often do not display some of the characteristics of Aspergers which males dispaly and which many MD’s and psychologists use as defining characteristics for Aspergers. As a result, the syndrome is VERY underdiagnosed in females AND less understood in how to treat it in females!!!!

    As a female with Aspergers, I know…

    Do not give up on her and force her school to give her additional support, such as permitting you to script her homework for her and getting her notes from a classmate, getting her a scripter for tests, and so on.

    It may be difficult going for several years, but, what makes it difficult is also the very thing that can make her succeed!!!

    Good Luck!

    Comment by mumofcrazynamedkids | 04/12/2012 | Reply


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