12 November 2007

High scores = high-functioning?

The high grades leading to the conception of the individual as "high-functioning" --

Although there are other reasons I would be called high-functioning (that I had no speech "delay"), I can guarantee that had I not had such high test scores and sometimes grades, that I would have been perceived much differently.

People in the schools would have probably paid more attention to the following:

-I rarely completed any assignment in elementary school
-I rarely spoke during elementary school until about grade 5 or 6
-Whenever I approached a teacher, I fumbled for words, could not form words to ask a question (still do)
-At age 10, it took me between 1 hour and 2 hours to figure out how to ask for a pencil.
-I would bang my head when frustrated. (still do, though not nearly as much - once every few weeks or so, rather than dozens of times a day)
-When students arrange in groups, I always sat where I was. (still do)
-I rarely respond to my name on the first or second or thrid time called. (still do)
-When people touch me, I growl or scream, and get away from them (sometimes still do. I almsot always fidget, make some kind of noise, but I have toned down my reaction)
-Perfumes, lotions, body sprays, certain bar soaps, shampoos, air fresheners, strong deodorants, etc. made me cough and eye water and dizzy (still do, but can now tolerate some of the milder ones to be around, but not wear)

Until the third grade, I was an extremely passive student at school when the bullies would mock me and physically beat me and I would do nothing, would rarely mention it, and when I would, I mentioned as if I were describing the items I had for lunch. It was part of my daily routine, and my limited experience and reinforcement from supervising adults taught me that this was normal. I figured that this was just part of life, to be in fear.

My dad responded entirely differently. He fought with the schools for me, though I encouraged him not to, since I didn't think it was "a big deal" as I used a stick to methodically clear the tread of my sneakers of the mud and sticks and worms that protruded in silent imprisonment. He told me it was okay to defend myself, and by third grade, I did. But there were always so many more of them, that my efforts were useless.

So I had some major aggression issues, which had been minor aggression issues prior to school, when they were fueled solely by the bullying from my sister Crystal. Since I was never strong enough to truly do anything about this, I didn't express my aggression on the schoolyard, but rather with a bitter self-hatred, a staunch regimen of self-blaming, self-punishing default of perception of my actions.

Maybe if I hadn't had the high IQ tests, the perfect scores on spelling tests, and the tendency to use a plethora of words that I had no idea what they meant, then maybe I could've gotten some more help with things that now I struggle with, such as laundry, dishes, brushing hair, fixing food, speaking spontaneously in understandable fashion, job interview skills (there's no way in hell we're going to afford even 20% of a college tuition).

There are many things I'm going to need to catch up on, things that I could've learned at a more natural pace if I'd started learning them earlier on. That's one small reason why functioning-labels damage; they bring to mind a preconceived view of what are the skills and deficits of this person. Obtaining services from my school is going hard because of this. I overheard the Director of Special Services talking with another about how I can speak/write well with adults, but have trouble in social conversations with friends.

Actually, I have a number of friends, and I am quite satisfied with how I converse with them. On the other hand, when asking questions, or clarifying needs, this takes tremendous effort for me to convey. When evaluated for speech services, they say that I am needing help with pragmatics and nonliteral language. I do not deny that with these I have troubles, but certainly, more pressing an issue for me is to be able to communicate smoothly, without stuttering, taking 2-minute pauses looking for a word, and these types of things, which will help me to interview well for a job.

Considering that even autistics who get a Ph.D. and are well- to over-qualified for a job find the interview is what trips them up most often, it seems that these concerns should get attended.

Speech is yet to resume this year for me! It is so late; I should contact the school immediately.

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