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Autism - Starting School
Recently, somebody accused me of not having any empathy. I have also been accused of "thinking to much." Others accuse me of being a smart aleck. For a long time these accusations confused me. Later, I just saw them as a way by the stronger and more powerful to intimidate me. Recently, I am starting to suspect that most people are controlled by their emotions.
When I was a child, I remember being interested in the world around me. I was curious about how things worked. I wanted to be able to build the strange things I saw on television. I wanted to understand the logic of their construction. I had no interest in people, they often harmed me, and I put many of them in the same category as the chained up dog down the street. I didn't hate people or even dislike them. I just perceived interaction as dangerous. I would no more want to communicate with someone than I would want to touch a red hot object.
I started school a year late, because it was believed that I was mentally retarded, due to the fact that I couldn't talk. I also had strange behaviors, including obnoxious ones like waving my hands and making strange noises. My parents did manage to break me of that. The school that I was enrolled in was not capable of really dealing with kids like me, so the teacher would just have me play in the back of the class. Although, I still didn't talk, I had acquired a very limited vocabulary and could understand and follow very basic commands. I also would respond to my name by turning to face the person and standing still.
I generally did not pay attention to what the class was doing. The exception was the counting exercises. At some point I had realized what numbers were and what counting was. I often practiced counting at home and could count to thirteen. I was stumped by the problem of what to do when you ran out of numbers. It occurred to me me, that no matter how many unique numbers a person created, there could always be more items in a set than available numbers to count it. So I created systems of counting by using the same number repeatedly. An alien mathematician watching me, would have believed that humans used a base thirteen number system! However, something about my system bothered me. It felt wrong and unbalanced.
A few days later in school, once again the teacher taught counting. I paid attention and for the first time noticed the associated symbols. I also noticed something that really blew me away. It was the zero. The zero solved the ugliness in my counting system. I also noticed that the people were using a base ten system (I instinctively understood number bases). I also realized that somebody must have thought about numbers the same way I did and communicated those ideas. I realized that significant information was being communicated amongst people. It wasn't just stuff like basic needs or orders. I also felt endangered by this revelation and decided that I must learn to understand them better.
In class, I began paying more attention to the symbol oriented lessons. One day, the teacher was teaching basic addition by adding groups together. I immediately caught on to the concept. I wanted to try it out. The teacher passed out some papers with a few addition problems on it and I went up and held my hand out for a paper. She gave me one, I got a pencil, quickly did the problems, and put it in the box. They were fun and once I completed the them, I remember trying to return to the back of the room. The other kids were still struggling with their papers. The teacher called out my name, picked up the paper, and tried to hand it back to me. She was talking to me, but I couldn't understand her words. She then started gesticulating at my pencil and at the paper. Suddenly, she stopped, looked at the paper, and I could tell something was wrong. She grabbed my arm and took me out the classroom to another part of the school. She was yelling at somebody and showing them my paper. Something was very wrong, but I didn't know what.
Autism - Early School
There was a drastic change at school, I was expected to be part of
the class. Big people would talk to me in ways that were alien to me. I
was still trying to decipher speech. My parents started to attend church
and hanging out with religious groups. They taught that I was possessed by the demon of
autism and that it must be cast out. I was subjected to strange rituals and pleadings to their god. As I began learning to speak though, I was
considered cured. Although relieved to be left alone by all these cultists, my problems would continue throughout my life.
Around the age of seven, I realized that I was
much better at math than the other kids. Some of them started reading
before I did, but when I learned to read at age nine, I quickly
surpassed the other students in all school subjects. I spent most of my
free time reading dictionaries and encyclopedias. Reading opened up a
whole world to me.
My parents moved constantly, resulting in
me starting new schools all the time. I was often in trouble for rules
that were never explained to me. At age nine, we had a spelling test at a
new school. I didn't understand that we were to memorize the spelling
of the words that had been on the chalk board. The teacher erased them
and then asked us to spell them. I could only do about half of them from
memory, so next week when she wrote some words on the chalk board, I
wrote them on my desk (I had no paper) to use during the next test. I
wasn't even trying to hide them. When the teacher realized what I was
doing, I was accused of cheating. I was scolded, forced to scrub all the
desks after school and had to take a note home for my parents to sign. I
was terrified I would be whipped, but my mother just signed it and said
nothing. The thing is that once I understood what was expected of me, I
just spelled the words in my head a couple of times and I would
remember them perfectly. By the next year, I could visualize any word I
had ever seen, and never needed to study for a spelling test.
I was picked on and bullied a lot in school. They would often hit me and kick me and extort from me. I complained to the authorities, but they did nothing. When I was ten, I bought some books on karate and self-defense that I saw in an ad in a comic book. I practiced the moves on a cardboard dummy. The next time a bully threatened me, I managed to work up the courage to hit him in the throat as hard as I could. He fell to the ground gasping and his two friends backed off. I was small, but at the age of 10, most kids didn't really understand fighting and I could usually win. Constantly moving to new schools, meant new bullies.They seemed to pick on me even though I just wanted to read. I started getting in a lot of fights and being blamed for them.
I started getting a reputation as a troublemaker. I overheard a conversation where my principal said he could tell when a kid was lying because he would avoid eye contact. Since I almost always avoided eye contact, then I realized that was the reason that many adults would accuse me of being a liar. I started to practice staring at the clock. I would time myself on not blinking or moving my eyes. I learned to stare at adults when talking to them or they to me.
Autism - School Years
My life started getting a little bit better. The staring trick worked with a lot of adults. I also seemed to be getting in less fights with other kids, they started leaving me alone. My main problem seemed to be with my principal. One day, at age 13, a teacher sent me to the principals office.
He started ridiculing me by asking what was wrong with me. The question didn't make sense. I hadn't been in a fight recently and I was unaware of any complaints about me. I didn't know what to say, so I said nothing. I just continued to stare at him waiting for the clue to what I had done wrong. He continued to ask non-sensible questions of me. I kept quiet and was careful not to ever look away. He just seemed to get more irate. At one point he yelled that I needed to knock the chip off my shoulder. I checked my shoulder and saw nothing. He then wanted to know why I was wearing underwear to school. He seemed to be waiting for an answer, so I finally said I wasn't. He then yelled something about my shirt, and I realized that he thought my white t-shirt was underwear.
I normally didn't wear white t-shirts, but I only owned two colored pocket t-shirts and a white t-shirt. I normally switched between my colored t-shirts, but one had caught on a nail and ripped in half. This left one colored t-shirt and one white t-shirt. My colored t-shirt was dirty, so I wore the white t-shirt. Nobody had told me that a white t-shirt was underwear and a colored t-shirt was not underwear (or was it the pocket? I still don't know).
He called my mom and told her to come pick me up. She refused (no car) and told him to have me hitch hike home. He had me go back to class. From that point on, he seemed to hate me. It wasn't until around high school that I started to realize that I had taken many figures of speech literally. And it wasn't until I was about forty, that I realized that many people will use double meanings (or inflections) to make veiled threats.
Eventually though, I finished high school and even received a degree in electronics. I worked for a few years as a technician and then a computer programmer. I made good money.
I never had a girlfriend in high school or college, even though I desperately wanted one. I have never fitted in with the crowd. I discovered mail order brides and married a girl that didn't speak english. I thought this would cure my loneliness. It didn't and we eventually separated. I became depressed and suicidal for many years. I was often homeless and unemployed.
One day while watching some people have fun together, it dawned on me. Even if they invited me to join them, I wouldn't have a clue about how to act. Trying to join them made as much sense as me trying to join an elaborate dance. I realized that I had to connect with people in my own way.There was nothing wrong with me. I was just different. I quit feeling lonely that day.
I still read a lot and I slowly became aware of the differences between autistic people and neurotypical people. I have learned though, that our strengths are considered weaknesses by neurotypicals. It is said that they are normal and we are abnormal. Who is to decide what is normal or abnormal? The majority? That is a form of racism. I am better at chess, math, and computer programming than any neurotypical person that I have met. I am also much better with money than most people. I could see the housing crash a mile away. I bought a bunch of silver several years ago. It's value has tripled since then. The neurotypical choice to invest their money in bonds instead of commodities is completely irrational to me.
Now, the neurotypicals want to cure us. They don't like the fact that we can think more clearly about computers, math, and economics. Do they want us to suffer from their weaknesses too? Should we start to believe in good and bad luck and start gambling with our money? Should we lose our mathematical and economic reasoning? Should we make dumb investments based on herd behavior? Should we lose the ability to endure adversity and become susceptible to addiction?
If they came out with a pill that would turn me from an autistic person to a neurotypical person, I would never take it. I do not want to be ruled by my emotions. We do not need to cure autism. What we need to do is cure neurotypicals. Maybe, the world would be a better place.
If we were to remove all the neurotypical people in government and replace them with autistic people, the budget crisis could be solved overnight. We would kill medicare and medicaid, legalize drugs and release all drug prisoners, and bring most of our troops home. Also, we need to let housing prices drop, and don't forget to let those to big to fail companies to actually fail. I would replace corporatism with capitalism. I am told that these ideas lack compassion. To me though, it is more logical to suffer now, than to suffer twice as much next year, or three times as much in two more years. Is it the fear of suffering that causes neurotypicals to become so irrational? Are they hoping for a miracle to avoid the suffering that will be caused by overspending? This is obviously a symptom of their mental illness.
I read that there is a place (Judge Rotenberg Center) that tries to cure autism with electric shocks. I think they have it backwards. We should use electric shocks to cure the neurotypicals that run the place. Put the neurotypical in a chair and give him a Rubik's cube puzzle to solve. If he fails to solve it after three minutes, then we give that person a shock. After that, every minute we give him another shock until he solves it. Doesn't make sense, you say? Well, neither does trying to cure autism with electric shocks.
For those of you who have trouble discerning the emotions of autistic people, this blog is a parody of Cure Autism Now and meant as humor.