Friday, September 9, 2011

Does Self-Knowledge of Autism Really Help?

Good communication is an essential skill for anyone to have.  Employers are looking for good communication skills in the men and women that they invest time and money in.  Schools spend hours teaching students the essential communication skills starting as young as kindergarten.  Furthermore, schools are placing more emphasis on learning foreign languages as the distance between the United States and other countries becomes smaller and smaller.  Internet has evolved into a means of communication in ways that were never anticipated.

Over the years, I have been forced to come to terms that I play by different rules than most people.  Through my Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified), I have encountered unusual challenges when faced with learning to effectively communicate. 

Probably the most crippling of those barriers was psychological in nature.  I knew that I had autism, I knew that I was different.  For a long time, I thought that meant that I was not able to communicate as well as other people.  The very knowledge that I had autism was causing me to restrict myself.  I remember telling a classmate in a community college Spanish class that learning languages was my weakness.  She said something to the effect of: "oh, you really think so?"

That phrase has stayed in my mind for a long time.  I knew by then that I had a language delay.  I thought that was the reason I was having difficulty learning Spanish. The psychological nature of the problem was that I was blaming my autism for difficulties that it really did not impact.

Anyone in my situation would have had trouble learning Spanish.  My problem was not my autism, but the fact that I kept on skipping semester.  I would take Spanish in the fall, wait a year, take another class the following fall, and so on.  The point I am trying to make is that I anticipated the trap that I fell into.  I knew that I would blame my autism for problems that had nothing to do with it, and I did so.  It is much too easy to place all my troubles as the result of a single cause than to look for the real answers to the problem.

These days, whenever the subject of Spanish comes up, I always jokingly say that "I know enough Spanish to be dangerous."

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