Realizing Grades Aren't Everything as a Student With Autism
I struggled in school every single day. When I misunderstood something, I was told to ask for help. Yet when I did ask for help, I was told I was fine and I should stop worrying so much. Had I received my autism spectrum diagnosis when I was first assessed in sixth grade, I may not have struggled for the following four years until my official diagnosis in tenth grade. However, my diagnosis was originally dismissed, and instead I was seen as this anxious perfectionist who needed to learn how to relax more. But I couldn’t relax. I was still struggling. I was still misunderstanding things. I wasn’t misunderstanding just the material, but I also totally missed the bigger concept of learning how to learn.
When I was growing up, I didn’t strive to get all As simply because I felt I could achieve them; I did it because I thought I was supposed to get them. This came at a price: many, many meltdowns. And although my parents tried to explain to me it was okay to get lower grades as long as I was trying my best, I still thought that “trying my best” meant getting an A. Because that’s how people received awards and recognition. I hadn’t received any awards for my grades yet, so I thought I must not be doing my best. I still remember the awards ceremony and seeing my classmates getting awards. I would listen for my name, but I would never hear it. When I finally did receive an award such as honor roll, I wondered how I would ever keep up with the grades.
I realize now that awards aren’t always everything, and I understand that “trying my best” doesn’t always mean getting an A. At the same time, I am still trying to find that balance between “trying my best” and “perfectionism.” But kids are impressionable, and I don’t think it helps that schools give better and better awards to those with higher and higher grades. It’s great to acknowledge students, but make sure you are acknowledging them for the effort they put into trying to do their work, not just their ability to do it.
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