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Why I Really Struggle With School as Someone on the Autism Spectrum

As someone on the autism spectrum, school has always been difficult for me. But it’s not due to the fact that I have trouble learning new things. I’m a really fast learner, and I even got an A in my first college class! So when I was talking with some of my friends about my anxiety over going back to school this fall, I can completely understand why they may have thought I was worrying over nothing.

“Don’t be afraid of trying things. You can do it!” they told me.

Yes, I may have the ability to try things. Yet, that’s not why I have been so anxious. And then (after getting some extra help from my dad) I figured out how to explain my issue.

Compare school to driving a car. Yes, I know how to drive, and the car is working. But I’m feeling anxious because I’m not sure if I’m getting closer to the destination or further away from it. I need to find the right road. In fact, sometimes, I don’t even know which direction the destination is in. And even if I pull over to ask for directions, I still feel lost and disoriented.

In other words, my writing may be great and my memory is incredible. The problem is that I need to understand things first. Sometimes, I just don’t know what the lesson was about or if I misunderstood what the teacher said completely. And even when I ask for the teacher to explain it, I still tend to get confused with the answer.

One of my traits of being on the autism spectrum is that I can have literal thinking. I can also have a hard time reading between the lines and applying what I’ve learned in one situation to a different situation. So when I read in a textbook “Nearly 80 percent of Colombia’s people live in this area,” and the teacher later asked, “Where do most of Colombia’s people live?”…I struggled to answer the question. The textbook hadn’t used the word “most.” Looking back, I know now that “80 percent” is another way of saying “most,” but at the time I wasn’t able to make that connection when I needed to.

I got lost.

How can people help? Please be patient with me. It may take more than one explanation before I’m confident I understand the lesson. I may need someone to point me in the right direction occasionally. And sometimes, I might already be going in the right direction but not even know it, so the confirmation helps.

I know I have the ability to do well. I just need to make sure I’m learning the right information.

Image via Thinkstock.

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