My daughter has only two months left in her university program. It’s been a bit hectic but good. I have not had time to think about the permanent breakup with my previous relationship. My focus is driven solely on Michaela. Michaela recently did her year one final exam. She failed by 6%. She has taken this very hard but Chef says not to. He shows great faith in her and he knows Michaela knows what she’s doing. Michaela found the exam questions very confusing. Being an autistic, her mind operates in a “black or white” state. Reading between the lines or attempting to delve into any grey area is done with utter frustration. Michaela is very much a “literal thinker.” This is one of the biggest challenges any autistic individual has to deal and cope with. The best way I had helped her to prepare for such thinking is by getting her to watch soap operas when she was around fifteen. My mother and I would make careful comments always referring to the actors actions. “Ohhh, I wonder what Jane is up to!?….” and so on. She was quick to get in on the action/game and attempt to problem solve. It was really helpful for her. The good thing is that she did not let the soap opera overtake her life. Her equestrian lessons thank goodness were more important than the soap opera (having a deterrent was good for her in that it did not create any new obsessions). Michaela’s previous negative experiences with her past schools and teachers would surface now and again in university. She forgets she is twenty one now, not sixteen. Teachers in her primary and secondary education were neither positive nor empathetic toward her or her classmates. Being mainly regular academic teachers, most were not trained in special needs and had little clue on how the autistic mind really works. I keep telling Michaela she’s an adult and she has a voice and so much more independence (and responsibility) now. She often forgets as she works so freaking hard attempting to suppress so many sensory issues in her environment and internally and do her job all at once in class. This is a huge undertaking! Right now, she’s dealing with classmates who predominantly have sarcastic humor (this has always been challenging for her as she has had to break down this kind of humor into two avenues: tone of voice and the words the person has chosen). As words are not obviously a visual thing, she will listen to tone of voice first. Often you will see her with a “deer in the headlights” kind of look while she is looking at you. Basically, she doesn’t understand what you had said and she is reading your face to get the jest of what you just said. She is attempting to problem solve. Now imagine a person like this coping with confusing social/communication issues and then, is experiencing PMS or is having menstrual cramps. Only an autistic person can understand the hell that they are experiencing. Take what an average person is experiencing with PMS/cramps and times it by 25 then add the social/communication difficulties. You then have a total answer of extreme, possible explosive behavior. It either manifests right there on the spot, at home or at a safe place for them to do it. I’m not saying that all autistics will explode, some will just immediately and quietly leave for their safe place or a quiet spot. As long as they have been pretaught that it is o.k. and that there is nothing wrong in doing so, so they can go quietly calm their nervous system down. They must have an out or you will suffer their verbal, obscene wrath or suffer from a chair darting towards your head (or other). Michaela has found her quiet spot on a bench outside the kitchen. She has only utilized this area a few times. This is because she find this work so enjoyable. Its only when she has issues with her classmates.
Back to Michaela’s exam. Her black & white but incredibly emotional Vulcan mind, had difficulties with the exam questions: they were too vague and ambiguous. Caela found many of them very misleading. Angry, her sensory system went into over drive and she failed to check with the Chef to double check what the questions were asking. This and the fact that a few questions not yet taught from year two (curriculum) were on this exam. She has the opportunity to redo this exam in June. What a waste of time, grrr. The most important thing a parent or teacher can teach is that these people have a voice and they must advocate for themselves when they are having difficulties understanding things. They must advocate in a “professional, mature and mannerly way.” This is a lot of work as constant reminding and repetition is at focus. Praising them as well when they are attempting even if they fail and succeed is vital. “I’m really impressed how you dealt with that difficulty/problem/concern John. Well done.” Don’t patronize or over-emphasize the fact. They are autistic not stupid and they will tell you that in a second and only end up withdrawing from you. Even with their social/communication difficulties they will only end up thinking that you’re the one who’s the idiot! HFA’s and Asperger individuals are often brilliant and quick witted and they know that they are most likely more intelligent than you. I know I had an Asperger individual tell me so in high school. Surprised, I quickly commented: “then feel sorry for me, I am only trying to tap into that Vulcan mind of yours to help you socially meld in!” He was a new student at the time and after this conversation it broke the ice. He trusted me first when he had difficulties with social/communication situations. I was sorry to see him leave, as he transferred to a school for bright/brilliant individuals.
Michaela had her first in-class test today in year two of her course. She thinks she passed it with flying colours. I can’t wait to hear of her mark. I know it will be a B, she’s been consistent with it all throughout the course. Finger’s crossed!