Xanthippa on Aspergers

Tools to help Aspies conquer the World!

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

Cross-posted from Xanthippa’s Chamberpot (where the comment which this post is in response to was received).

‘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….


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?

26/06/2010 - Posted by | Asperger Syndrome, Aspergers and Schooling, Aspie Communication, Writing | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Whats the best way to deal with anger and frustration?

    Xanthippa says:

    Ah, that is difficult…

    Because it really depends….

    It depends on the source of the anger and frustration, the level and all the kinds of ‘coping mechanisms’ or ‘coping skills’ that one has learned up to ‘this’ point in their life…

    My ‘best’ advice – learned from both MY personal experience, from how things went/evolved/matured in my sons, discussing it with my Aspie husband and several Aspie friends is:


    Understanding several KEY bits:

    1. Aspies ‘mature’ at vastly different rate than ‘normals’ – some bits of us mature WAY faster, while other aspects of us mature WAY slower – if at all. That is how you ‘get’ toddlers capable of complex technical/mathematical/’abstract thought on one level’ type accomplishments ‘normals’ don’t get till they are in their 30’s, if at all, while remaining ‘literal’ and ‘non-abstract’ in some ways and/or not maturing socially to the level of ‘normals’ till we are in our 30’s, if at all…..

    2. The ‘tool-set’ for Aspies to ‘learn’ and ‘succeed’ is different from the ‘tool-set’ ‘normals’ need – and it IS the ‘normals’ tool-set which is taught at schools. This is not just ‘unhelpful’ to Aspies – it is actively counterproductive to our success: not only do we process information differently, we understand ‘assignments’ and ‘questions’ on a very different level than ‘normals’ do….this not only means many teachers do not recognize our skills/abilities/knowledge, it often means that they mis-represent them as either a personal challenge of the teacher’s authority or an un-willingness (not inability – but willful choice ‘not to’) to ‘perform’, to ‘laziness/rebellion’ – or any combination of the three! This makes many teachers actively hostile to Aspies, many other ‘good’ teachers feel ‘personally rejected’ and thus hurt… You do the math!

    3. We just process information differently – and most ‘normals’ don’t ‘get it’.
    Add to this the North American (and, yes, this is not ‘normal’ in Eutope) obsession to only have written tests and exams (as opposed to 50% being written. 50% being verbal/oral), it seems like the whole system is stacked against Aspies!

    There ARE several advantages we, Aspies have over ‘normals’.

    One is that we CAN (at times) superfocus: this is invaluble!

    Another is that we may not ‘reflect’ what we had learned – for a long time – but, it seems to me almost as if a ‘reservoir’ were ‘filling up’: until it is ‘full’, you can’t draw on ANY of the ‘knowledge’ or ‘learning’ you’ve put in. But, once it IS over some unpredictable ‘level’ – EVERYTHING you’ve put in becomes fully usable and accessible.

    This often means that we try to ‘compensate’ by working WAY harder than our peers – with nothing to show for it… Until one day, we reach that unpredictable ‘level’ and you find out you have ‘over-compensated’: being able to not only match your peers, but surpass them by so much, you are all of a sudden not one, but several ‘classes’ above them!

    So, my advice for dealing with all anger and frustration is…

    It is a curse – but it is a gift!

    Yes, we are different.

    Yes, we are misunderstood.

    Yes, many put us down because we threaten them and they don’t know how to perceive us…

    ‘Regular schools’ are not just unlikely to reflect our skills and abilities, they are likely to only ‘note’ and ‘mark us on’ the things we suck at…

    Our parents can be so disappointed in our early (or visible) failures, they might NEVER see past them – I know my mother is, to this day, ashamed that I am her daughter because I am not the good house-keeper/appearances-seeming-perfect-mother/wife/daughter she expected me to be, because I am more interested in helping refugees or victims of Sharia than I am in which of her friends has a more ‘perfect garden’, because I teach my kids quantum mechanics – rather than proper table manners…. She is so ashamed of me, she freaks out when some of her friends (whose ‘some’ interests are like ‘some’ of mine – or who have grand-kids the same age as my kids and who want to get them together when the grand-kids visit) contact me….because I am ‘bound to make her look bad’…. I know nothing I do will ever live up to her standards, because her standards are so different from mine….what I consider important is so very different….

    OK – I understand the frustration and the anger and the depressions….really, I do.

    The thing to remember and to understand is that we are simply different. Being an Aspie is both a curse – and a gift!

    It’s just sometimes hard to notice the ‘gift’ bit when one if experiencing the ‘curse’ bit….but, the ‘gift’ bit IS there!!!

    We can either give up and fail at life – or, we can be stubborn enough and defiant of what others think about us, resilient enough to forge our own path and not let other’s ideas dictate what ‘success’ means to us!

    I recommend the latter…

    If you’d like more specific advice, let me know and I will contact you privately.

    Just remember: being an Aspie is a dominant (and. likely ‘additive) trait. Many Aspies consider these facts to mean that we are the next evolutionary step! And – it is ALWAYS very difficult and frustrating to be part of the evolutionary ‘leading edge’!


    Once we reach a certain level of maturity, we WILL find we have over-compensated in so many ways, we have an advantage over ‘everyone else’ when we least expect it.

    So – I get back to ‘understanding’….

    Knowing that we ARE the underdogs, that the deck IS stacked against us from the ‘get-go’ – that can really get us down….. Many teen/early 20’s Aspies get SO down, we become suicidal.

    But, this is just ‘giving in’ to the ‘normals’!

    My (never-humble) advice is to defy!

    Fight expectations!

    Do NOT give in and become a ‘mediocre normal’ – you are NOT a ‘normal’!

    You ARE an ASPIE!

    Rejoice in that fact!

    Revel in it!

    Never rub the normals’ faces in it – that is not right, because it is not their fault they are not Aspies….encourage them to live up to their ‘normal-ness’ – but NEVER permit yourself to be penned-in by it!

    Comment by brandon lafell | 11/07/2010 | Reply

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