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Autism: Not Gifted

“They are often gifted in areas such as: music, math, science, computers…” One thing that really… hurts me, when I am reading about Autism, and especially Aspergers, is how it is often written as a given that people on the spectrum are often gifted in some way. “All you have to do is give them the opportunity to develop their gift,” they say.

Only I am not gifted. I don’t have perfect pitch. I can’t pick up a new instrument (or even one I have been practicing at for a while for that matter) and just play. I don’t have a flawless, or even a great memory. I can do well on tests, and I do remember dates – but that is much more due to my obsessive nature rather than any gifting in the area of memory.

I was not great at learning – and in fact was one of the last to learn anything being taught all through grade school (and high school as well.) That might have had more to do with the fact that I was one of the youngest in my grade, and was too shy to ask for help, or work with other children – but I was not intellectually gifted.

I did very well in both of my college courses (Early Childhood Education, and Residential Construction) but again, that had more to do with my OCD and anxiety (I was terrified of failing, and so compulsively studied, and researched, and thought of nothing else while I was in school) than having any strengths to speak of.

My sensory issues always stood in the way of learning Science as I would have liked, and I absolutely do not have a photographic memory. The only time I can remember things is when I am interested, and fixate on those subjects for days or years at a time. Even then, when I move on to something else, I often forget what I once knew as well as any specialist.

Perhaps what I am good at is filling in paperwork. For all of my adult life, this has been the consistent feedback, “you are meticulous in your paperwork,” “I have never had anyone who was so thorough,” this from writing I.E.P.s for my son’s homeschooling, for the projects I was asked to do as part of my adoption home study, for writing up information on my the areas where my children struggled, for the paperwork I handed to my doctor and psychiatrist when I went in for assessments… but once more, this is because I am compulsive. I must write neatly, detailed, thoroughly. I can’t do any less. It is not a gift, as gifts are thought, but an obsession.

While I may have been top of my class for construction level math, I couldn’t use my knowledge on the job site, and that level of math isn’t exactly what would be called a savant.

Though I enjoy doing them, I am still at a basic (child) level for arts and crafts. I like to write, but again, am not gifted in this area. I really struggle with grammar, and get overwhelmed with information when trying to learn new skills.

As for computers, I was afraid of them until my son came along, and taught me (at the age of 3, with no prior knowledge) how to use them without breaking them. Even still, they seem to suck the energy out of me, and I cannot spend all day on one as he does. In fact, in high school, when I was forced to use computers, I had a horrible… it wasn’t a habit, it isn’t like I knew how it happened, it just happened… of wiping out every computer I came into contact with.

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I am not great with languages. I love animals, but as I have mentioned, my sensory issues precluded me from studying biology – and my emotional issues preclude me from working with animals as a living.

I am not great at cleaning. Definitely not a decorator. While I love plants, I struggle to keep them alive – and the design part of gardening is beyond me.

So when I read that Autistic people are often gifted in some area, it just tells me once more that I am a failure. I am not gifted. Does that make me less?

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2016 in Experiences of an Autistic

 

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Autism: On Parenting

All of my life I have wanted to be a mother. That may seem a strange thing for someone with autism, who has such challenges socially and with communication. Many people, on hearing of my autism or seeing how anxious I am most of the time, would not give me the chance to become a parent if they had a say in it.

I enjoy my time alone. It is easier to be alone, but that doesn’t always mean that I want to be. I think maybe that partially explains the desire I have had for children. It is difficult for me to get close to people. It is hard for me to let them see who I really am, and through experience I have found that just because I like to have someone near, doesn’t mean they will stay.

It was my thought that if I had children, I would be able to be myself around them. They would get used to who I am, and because they started so young, I wouldn’t have to pretend to be someone I was not. Maybe then I would have someone around who wanted to stay close to me. Children are good for accepting people for who they are – at least when they are young.

In a way, I found this to be the truth. My son knows me better than anyone else in the world. Even at the age of 19 I do not feel the need to pretend with him. Although he is different from me in many ways, and perhaps gets annoyed by my constant anxiety, and definitely from my desire for cleanliness, he accepts these as a part of me, and doesn’t try to change me.

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There are things about my personality, and even my autistic traits that make me really good in certain areas of parenting:

  • taking care of their physical needs – keeping them clean and fed
  • sticking to a routine that worked for them, as well as for me
  • planning activities for them (crafts, stories, baking, songs, outings)
  • getting them to their appointments
  • understanding and explaining their challenges
  • teaching them to read, helping them with their schoolwork.

While I was very good at doing some things for parenting, there were others that were a real challenge for me:

  • I am not good with anything unpredictable, and children usually are
  • I found loud and demanding behaviours overwhelming
  • I cannot function well, or think well without sleep
  • I am not good at dealing with conflict or rebellion
  • I don’t know how to help children through meltdowns, or with social issues (I am not good at getting myself through these things)
  • Aside from scheduled crafts and stories, I am not good at entertaining children, and do not like parties (although I do feel these are important to the children, and so I did try)
  • I struggle to see the perspective of other people – so taking advice from others was nearly impossible
  • People always seem to be watching and judging other parents, and I have strong performance anxiety. I cannot think well, and become controlling and rigid under such pressure. When I tried to express this to people, they watched closer, which made things so much harder.

I don’t know, really, why I have wanted children so bad. Perhaps that was my view on what it meant to be normal. During all of those years where my autism was undiagnosed, what I wanted more than anything was to be accepted as normal. That desire became an obsession when I found I wasn’t able to have more than my son, and grew even stronger with my failed adoption experience.

Maybe I wanted children so I could be close to someone – though I guess that isn’t really fair to the child. Maybe that is why people never wanted me to have a family. Maybe that is why I need to accept that I can’t have any more children, and let that desire go. Somehow.

 

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