Aspie Grad Student
Before I go into the main contents of this post, I just want to give a suggestion about a great post that I just read last night. If you haven’t already, you should head over to Shiva’s Biodiverse Resistance blog and read his latest post called Changelings. We’re talking Serious Awesomeness here. It’s a post about the concepts of changelings, fairies and trolls in relationship to disabled children.
On with the post!
If you look through any of my notes for class, you’ll see a variety of things, I’m sure. Obviously you’ll find notes, written in something resembling the handwriting of a tired doctor writing with his non-dominant hand. And yes, I have tried writing with the other hand. It looks the same no matter what; only thing is, the other hand is slower.
In addition to that, you’ll see any number of doodles. I draw this pattern a lot, but I also do faces; in particular, I’m currently stuck on drawing noses, since I recently figured out how to make them actually look like noses. No easy feat.
There is one other thing that you’ll also see written on many of the pages. Things like:
- Raise your hand before speaking.
- Don’t answer questions unless you’re more than 85% sure that you’re right.
- Only ask the questions that you really have to.
- Only answer when no one else in the room has an answer.
- Speak clearly and audibly.
- Don’t talk too fast.
- Keep your answers concise and to the point; in as few words as is possible.
I’m a music therapy graduate student who, as a result of not getting her undergrad in music therapy (got it in instrumental music ed), is also taking part in an equivalency program. Basically the issue is this: in the undergrad degree, not only do you get a degree, but you also get certified as a music therapist. So I’m a grad student with grad classes, but I also have upper level undergrad classes as well. And they’re not easy either.
You would think that for most grad students, the concepts listed above would be common sense, but as I have already pointed out again and again, I’m not the average of most anything. In fact, many of those concepts, other than the raising hand one, only started occurring to me around my junior year in undergrad (’round 2004). That, and the fact that I almost always tend to do my homework, mixed with some natural (but wacky) intelligence, tends to mean that I get myself into trouble during classes sometimes; only some classes are worse than others. Most of the notes that I have written here are, in fact, all for one teacher. I do okay in the rest of my classes, but just in this one class, I don’t know, I think I just really like the topic; so in addition to doing my homework, I tend to read and research more than what is required.
One particular class is called “Psychology of Music II.” It’s purely a research class. In the first half of the class, we did acoustical physics in addition to anatomy, and various psychological topics. Psychology was my hobby all through undergrad; so it’s fair to say that I know more than the average joe on the street; as well as having several special interests that I tend to pour all of my free time (little as it is) into furthering my knowledge on. I’m largely self-taught. That’s something else that I realized recently. Most people think of learning as something that happens in a classroom, or possibly a workplace. My concept of learning is an everyday process of figuring out what I want to know, and then attempting to achieve that state of understanding as best I can from the resources that are available to me.
I tend to be hyperverbal, like most aspies, and that just in and of itself gets me into trouble. I’ve been known to, in the past, fold paper in half and then put it in front of me, like one might do with a name tag, and write the words, “SHUT UP,” on the back of it, so I can see it really clearly whenever I look up from my notes. The people in my class have answers, but they’re frequently hesitant to answer, or else they’re so far off base that it makes me want to pound my head through the wall. Then again, my answers are occasionally a bit odd, but that’s usually because I’ve read too much into the question, or else, the parameters of the question weren’t well set, and I find myself roaming into other related areas that weren’t even considerations of the professor to begin with. Oops.
The tendency of my answers to do that, to go off on what seemingly appears as a tangent, is actually a helpful tool in writing essays, since they want you to relate material, and if you can do it and prove it, then it tends to be okay. However, in class . . . not so much.
There is also one other issue. In my struggle for survival in life, I’ve become a bit of a smart ass. I must admit, however, that I’m pretty funny, because I just can toss these comments out at random, and about 80% of the time, most people laugh pretty hard. I think that’s why I like Dr. McCoy from the original Star Trek. There’s a line in “The Undiscovered Country,” (the 6th movie), where they are being bombarded by missiles from a Shakespeare quoting Klingon (yeah I know, only early Star Trek could get away with that one), and McCoy and Spock are down in the depths doing surgery on a torpedo/missile thing (can’t remember its exact name), and they’re getting knocked around like crazy, and McCoy just says, “Well this is fun,” in a totally dry tone. I swear I crack up every time I hear him say it. I love smart asses. That’s why I love Hawkeye from M*A*S*H so much.
Anyways, the last 3 weeks or so have just been like one big, long bad day for me. I’ve been either talking too much, or just giving the wrong answers, or screwing up musically, or something at least once per day, and often more like once per class. But the last two days, Tuesday and Wednesday (today is Thursday, I think), have both been good. No one sniped at me about acting (or not acting) like an adult; no one yelled at me for any musical mistakes. Well, I did make one, but it wasn’t so bad; just kind of special. *laughs* I played something in my practicum (like a mini-internship with real clients) that should have been in 4/4 time, but I played it in 3/4 instead. Luckily it worked anyway and it didn’t throw the client off. Whew.
I also did get one look yesterday from a professor, but she didn’t say anything. Remember that I have to do a content analysis/literature review, right? Well, we were going over one in my psych of music class, and my professor says something like, “wow this person reviewed 52 articles! That’s a lot!” And I said to her, “Not really!” And she shoots me this look that something between: “What did I do to get stuck with you?” and “Oh my god!!!” *laughs* But she didn’t say anything, and that’s the important bit.
Plus last night, I was really really calm for like 3 hours, and that was really cool, because I’m usually kind of bouncy and wiggly. In fact, my father’s nickname for me as a child, was “rotisserie butt.” I’m even like this when I sleep.
So, I guess the point of all this was something like, hey look at me! No, wait. It was more like “see what I can do even though I’m kind of on the wacky side of life.” Wacky aspie, that’s me. Just for reference, if you haven’t read much on this blog, let me tell you that I graduated in the top 10% of my undergrad class, with a gpa of 3.83, magna cum laude. Last semester (my first in grad school), I got out with a 3.8, and I suspect that this semester will be better. I do my work; I get my homework done; I read, study, think . . . dream on occasion . . . I’m just like any other grad student in some ways. I just have to work harder at some things than others do; even some academic subjects, since I don’t tend to see obvious answers like most people and have to go about different ways to get to the same result as most.
There’s a quote that I found during one of my research periods that I think works quite well here.
*Belmonte & Yurgelan-Todd (2003) said that “even when people with autism produce normal behavioral output, they tend to do so by abnormal physiological means” (pp. 652). That’s me.
*Belmonte, M., & Yurgelun-Todd, D. (2003). Functional anatomy of impaired selective attention and compensatory processing in autism. Cognitive Brain Research, 17, 651-664.