Wednesday, February 26, 2014

But I can't do the thing!

Yes, another reprint from Yes, That Too.

Trigger Warning: Heck if I know but it's the product of me being triggered so... school stuff, generally?

My study abroad program has language utilization reports they want us to do. I can tell from the descriptions they've given that they think these are supposed to be easy. Like, 5 minutes of a multi-day orientation was given to this and I said then that I didn't think the questions were accessible to me. It got brushed off, because I don't know. Maybe because they can't understand how such a thing would be brain-breaking. But it is.

No, asking me what a language interaction I had trouble with in the last two weeks and what resources I think I need to solve it isn't going to get you anywhere. It's just not. There is an assumption that I'll remember an interaction like that. I actually probably would, if I got reminded of the interaction, but... the question they asked is one that brain-blanks me, not one that brings up information. So I'm not going to have an interaction. If we're lucky, I'll come up with a vague general thing that I remember a teacher told me I had a problem with. In this case, what I could come up with was a teacher telling me that the language I was using is too informal. Which, um. Yeah.

That's something people have been complaining about in my English essays since at least the seventh grade. I got marked down on my MCAS essay that year for overly simplistic language. I remember that. No, I don't know what linguistic resources will let me fix it. Frankly, I've got a wee bit of a moral issue with the idea that it needs fixed, since the point of language is to say stuff and people writing the way they want me to be able to tend to break my brain too. I'm actually OK with technical terms as long as they are technical terms as opposed to wide-broad-not-actually-meaning-anything buzzwords. I'm OK with complex ideas. I'm OK with complex sentences for complex ideas, generally, but when people start making stuff more complicated in the name of formal it tends to make my brain hurt.

And of course, I think a good teacher is someone who can make complicated stuff understandable, not make complicated stuff sound more complicated. So yeah. Just a wee bit of a moral issue with that. Also the fact that I prefer to be able to understand my own writing, and yes, when I give in and write in the extra-complicated-formal-academic voice that people like to praise I can find myself not understanding my own writing later. Not worth it. Really not.

So that's the issue that I can remember, and it's not one that I'm entirely comfortable with the idea of solving.

Plus the other questions don't get along any better with my brain than that one does.

And I just sent them an email saying this stuff doesn't work well with my brain. That's scary because this is a heavy-duty smart-people impressive-people-doing-impressive-things program and I'm going in and saying that yeah, the thing that you wrote to be a simple easy data collection thing is actually one of the hardest things you're asking me to do because it is breaking my brain. That's scary to admit. It's risking becoming Not A Really Real Person in their eyes and that is scary. It is a lot of scary. And yeah. Help. Except don't, because I can't deal with people right now. No, really. If we are friends on Facebook: DO NOT MESSAGE ME ABOUT THIS. IF I WANT TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT IT, I WILL START THE CONVERSATION. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Communication, Difficult

Reprinted from Yes, That Too

Unless more thAutcast questions get asked where I want to answer them long-form, this is it for those. Last such question is here.
Learning how to communicate effectively is difficult for most autistic people. Please tell how you learned one important lesson about communication. Explain what you learned, how you learned it, and what difference that has made in your life. 
I learned to talk early, with basic but grammatically correct sentences at six months. I'm hyperlexic, just a bit. By just a bit, I mean that I was shocked to find out that most people edit their papers heavily before they turn them in? I've not edited any of my posts here except for vocab fixes on the Chinese language ones, adding relevant links to a few, and adding more examples to my Functioning Labels post at one point.

The thing is, those are all typed.
I do have communication issues, they just aren't the ones you might assume.
Sarcasm is a problem. I can use it. I am, in fact, very good at using sarcasm, satire, irony, and all the rest. I am not so good at detecting, well, any of them. I need sarcasm tags in face to face conversations.
Body language is a problem. I can't read most people's, and they can't read mine.

Euphemisms and white lies are problems. I don't know how or when to use them, nor do I really understand why we use them. I don't always pick up on them when other people use them.
The hardest thing, the thing that took the longest to figure out, though, wasn't sarcasm or body language or tone or euphemisms or white lies. There are ways to accommodate all of them, mostly by way of giving people warning that I don't get them. I also give people warning that I am kind of face-blind. By kind of, I mean I didn't realize how face-blind I really am until I took one of the quizzes. I got to keep skin tone and eye color, but just losing hair and height was enough that I only recognized about ONE celebrity where I know who they are and thought I knew what they looked like in EIGHT.

The hardest one to figure out was the times that I would find myself with many things I wanted to say tumbling around in my head, unable to get any of them out. None.
I had things I wanted to say, and I couldn't say them.
It took until a few months ago to figure out what was going on.
Apparently I lose speech under stress.
I can still type fine, though.

Realizing that I lose speech sometimes and finding a way around it was my biggest challenge in communication, and it's not one that people would expect me to have. I match up so well with the idea people have in their heads of the "high functioning blogger" in terms of how much I get done, and then they find out things like "I melt down on a regular basis" and "I lose speech at least temporarily on a regular basis" and "I have pretty significant sensory processing issues" and "I actually stim basically all the time and not worrying about it is how I can get all the stuff done that I do." It's actually pretty funny to watch someone realize just how like their kids I really am, or just how like them I really am, or just how much I really am Autistic and I really am Disabled. The fact that I have found ways to accommodate myself and manage don't make me any less either of those things, nor does the fact that I am also gifted.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Teaching Us To Be Silent

Reprint from Yes, That Too.

Trigger Warning: Abuse

They teach us how to ask nicely, but not when it's time to demand.
They teach us how to engage, but not how, when, or why to disengage.
They teach us how they wished social interaction worked, but not how it really does.
They teach us how to accept, but not to decline.
They teach us how not to offend, but not when we need to offend.
They teach us how to act the same, but not that we shouldn't need to.
They teach us how to fit in, but not how to stand apart.
They teach us to be kind, but not how to respond when others aren't.
They teach us how to accept, but not when to reject.
They teach us the rules, but not when to break them.

That's how they teach us to be silent. That's how they teach us to accept whatever abuse they may give. That's how we learn we are broken and wrong, because we are expected to engage all the time, more than even they are, and we simply can not do it.
That's what's wrong with our therapy; that's what's wrong with social skills training.
They are not teaching us the way people really act, but how to be invisible. 

That's not to say that all social skills classes have to be bad. It's a great idea when done right. It's just that almost no one does it right. Teach us when to swear. Teach us what white lies are for and when to use them. Teach us about euphemisms. Teach us how to politely decline invitations [and how to do so rudely when polite is getting ignored.] Teach us how to say no. Teach us when to demand, and how to ask questions that aren't really questions. If you're going to do it to us, teach us how to do it back, and teach us to know when you are doing it. 

But they don't really want to do that. They want us to be easy to handle, easy to manage. If we can not be normal, they want us to be invisible. They teach us to be silent, turning a wonderful idea for helping us navigate the world into a tool to help them manage us. 
These lessons? Make it harder for your child to gain the skills you say you want them to have.