Reflecting on “The Doubly Exceptional Child Grows Up”

After reading the Musings of an Aspie post that led to my self-diagnosis, I read several more of her entries.  This is one I read with a special hunger, because I too was labeled “gifted” as a kid and we didn’t know I had Aspergers.  Unlike Cynthia Kim, I didn’t have a great gifted program at my school.  I was in 1st grade when I received the diagnosis and the next year  I was thrown in with some older kids (scary!) for the weekly activities. (If I recall correctly I was the first one in my grade to go, but one other girl may have started at the same time.)  I only have two clear memories of the program.  The first is building towers with straws in the library; I was frustrated when we were done and I saw the superior techniques the other kids had used. The second was using an SLR camera. We were given note cards saying what we were to photograph, and mine said “blacktop” – I was super embarrassed when I had to ask the teacher what it was and she told me I was standing on it.  Today I asked Mom a few questions to check my own memories of the timeline. She said she talked to my 2nd grade gen-ed teacher and they agreed that to me it felt more like a punishment, so they let me quit the program.

Fortunately I wasn't permanently deterred from learning to use an SLR.

Fortunately I wasn’t permanently deterred from learning how to use an SLR.

In fifth grade a went to a different school (I was bored; they promised I could work at my own pace; they lied).  I enjoyed the gifted program there, mostly because I had a crush on one of the boys.  When I returned to public school the next year I continued in the program.  From what I recall the teacher was pretty cool and really nice to me, but my peers. . . well. . . they were all girls, and at this point the bullying and social awfulness had started (and in junior high the gifted class ended up being one of my worst settings socially).  But that’s a topic for another day.  In 9th the teacher who normally had the gifted kids for a period was ill, and the sub didn’t do much with us, so it was basically a fun study hall. That was my last experience with the gifted program.  Junior and senior high were academically better for me because there were accelerated and AP courses to take.

Back to the post titled “The Doubly Exceptional Child Grows Up.”  I hope you’ll read it in its entirety, but here are a few of my favorite key quotes:

Adults wrote off our quirks as a byproduct of our intelligence. They sent us out to the playground and expected us to figure out how to navigate the social minefields that lurked within kickball games and jump rope circles. We were smart. We would get it eventually.

This is a bit like taking a kid who’s a good baseball player, throwing him in the pool, then being surprised if he sinks like a rock. What do you mean he can’t swim? If he’s athletic enough to hit a baseball, surely he’s athletic enough to swim.

When you arrive in adulthood lacking the social skills that most people have mastered by sixth grade, life becomes exponentially more confusing and hard to navigate. For much of my adulthood, I’ve had the odd belief that someday I would “grow up” and suddenly feel like an adult. That I was just a little behind the curve when it came to social skills and one day everything would magically fall into place.

A final note for today about giftedness. When I was in college, I took as an elective an education course titled Psychology of the Exceptional Child (special education).  Our wonderful professor put the bell curve up on the board, and reminded us that two standard deviations below the mean on an IQ test meant a child received an MR diagnosis (now Intellectual Disability) whereas children two standard deviations above the mean were labeled Gifted. Children in the first group generally spend most of their school day in a special classroom, and children in the second group spend maybe an hour a week in a special classroom. Yet the second group is just as different from their typical peers as the first group is. That kinda blew my mind, and it helped me feel a little more understanding towards myself. It also helped explain why I felt so very different, though I hadn’t yet discovered the biggest missing puzzle piece.

Hmm.   I wonder about the percentage of people at the right end of the bell curve who are also Aspies.  Let’s research. . . first interesting Google result- here’s a great article about Gifted children with Asperger’s Syndrome  – it includes a chart showing some differences between Gifted and AS kids as well as some strategies for helping the AS kids.  I’m heading down a rabbit trail and have “real life” stuff to work on today, but I’d love to look into this more.  If you have any thoughts or research to share, leave a comment!

Reflecting on “Aspergers Traits (Women, Females, Girls)”

"Reflection"

“Reflection”

This is one of the posts I read right after my self-diagnosis.  It is a post that still brings tears to my eyes when I read it again, because it accurately and eloquently describes so much of my life experiences and struggles.  It is one of the best pieces I’ve found in my process of reflecting on and re-framing my past.  I hope that you will take the time to read it – if you’re an Aspie, you may feel self-awareness and solidarity; if you are not, you may feel a new sense of understanding and empathy.  (Because despite all of the talk about autistics and empathy, I find most NTs lack empathy towards autistics!)

I could comment on every point she makes, but this is one that stands out to me as extremely validating; it describes one of the biggest social struggles I faced as a kid:

We aren’t narcissistic and controlling–we know we are not, but we come across that way. We bring the subject back to ourselves because that is how we make sense of our world, that is how we believe we connect. We use our grasp of the world as our foundation, our way of making sense of another. We share our feelings and understandings in order to reach out. We don’t mean to sound ego-centered or over zealous. It’s all we know. We can’t change how we see the world. But we do change what we say. We hold a lot inside.

Without further ado, here is the link:

Click here to read “Aspergers Traits (Women, Females, Girls)” on Everyday Aspergers

I’m as close to the Spectrum as you can be without being diagnosable. . . or am I?

Hi.  My name is Schenley.  Here’s a little bit of information about me that is relevant to today’s topic of discussion.

I’m 29 years old.  I’ve been studying autism ever since my little cousins were diagnosed when I was in high school.  I got a BA in psychology. I discovered the Highly Sensitive Person website in college, and it really helped me re-frame my life experiences and develop better coping skills.  I’ve worked as a TSS with autistic kids for over 3 years.  I diagnosed my dad with Aspergers a few years ago, and I’ve long joked about our “autistic tendencies.”

On July 25, 2013, I was chatting with an Aspie guy, and with the topic of Aspergers on my mind I found a link I had shared with my mom months earlier. (I thought she’d be interested in reading about an AS/NT marriage where the woman was the Aspie.) I clicked the link and somehow ended up reading her post titled “When Being a Good Girl is Bad for You.”

Here are what my thoughts sounded like as I read it:

Huh.  I was a conscientious “good girl” too.

But. . . why wouldn’t your Nancy Drew mysteries be lined up in numerical order?  That just makes sense.  It’s how it should be.  All of my Animorph books were in order.  I organized my collections, too.  I remember having a case to sort all of my little colored erasers, and compulsively organizing Crayola boxes of 96 crayons into meticulous rainbow order.

photo by bookgrl

Everyone called me “shy,” too.

The section called “Aspies at Play” – this is where things got intense.

“God mode”  – Wow.  I know being bossy was my biggest social deficit as a kid, and I struggled for years to overcome it.  It was tough.

The difference between boys’ games and girls’ games – I always preferred things like playing video games with the guys (something I was good at) to role-playing with the girls.  Playing with children as an adult (as a nanny, babysitter, or TSS) I am still that way.  I thought it was just because I was a “tomboy” instead of a “girly girl,” but it’s more than that.

“isolation, bullying and depression” – words I know too well.

By the end of this blog post my perspective had changed.  I was not just “as close as you can get to the Spectrum without being diagnosable.”

Seeing this chart sealed the deal.  

I quickly showed it to people closest to me.  My mom is certain that if there had been more awareness, I would have been diagnosed as a kid.
Thus began my quest for more knowledge and self-understanding, reading blogs and books about women with Aspergers.  Reading the blogs, I’ve been going back-and-forth on the idea of starting my own blog.  Do I want to let people I know deeper inside my heart and head, or would I want to write anonymously?  Would I even be able to write honest, detailed posts without giving away my identity if someone who knows me read it?  Do I have anything worth saying?  Could it be therapeutic to write, anyway?  Do I really have the time to take on yet another project?

I’ve decided to give it a shot.  To start I’d like to revisit some of those posts from other women that really hit home and made me feel less alone, that helped me understand myself.  To reflect on those first, interspersing more independent writings as I go.  Baby steps.  Unlike my quilt patterns or photography, I have no agenda, no desire for recognition or monetary gain here.  It’s an experiment, and a less structured one than I’d normally like.  Baby steps 😉

And I’ve decided to not try to hide my identity as the author of this blog.  Most of my life as an undiagnosed Aspie has involved feeling invisible.  Feeling like I had to hide my true thoughts and feelings.  What good has that done me?  It’s time to be real.  I’ve always been an honest person- I’m an Aspie, after all – but too often I’ve held my tongue or stayed hidden.

So like she says in this video I watched recently – I’m coming out of the closet.