Background to this blog

When I was applying to the Master’s degree I am currently studying for, I asked an old friend to have a look at my Personal Statement. For those not familiar with the UK higher education – it is a part of the application that describes how you are motivated and fit to take the course. I was quite methodical about writing the text: link to the course details, exemplify academic skills, show interest in the research the particular University department does. My friend had a read, and asked: OK, but why do you really want to learn more about education? I replied: because education has failed me. I disregarded his suggestion to rewrite the statement as a story about it. I was right. I got accepted. And now I am taking this Term 2 course.

Saying education has failed me sounds preposterous considering I finished one of the top high schools in the country, graduated from one of the world’s best universities, and hold three postgraduate certificates and diplomas.

But when I was 8, life circumstances lead to a change of primary school. I spent a month crying uncontrollably. I got good grades and was ok-ish socially, so it was written off by teachers as stress of the change. But going to school was daily internal torture of various sorts, so much so, that half way through high school, I basically stopped going to most of the classes. I hired a private tutor for a literature course, because that interested me. And I went to nearby university to study Sanskrit, because that was what interested me.

This scenario repeated, until I was out of full-time education. It took 15 years more to finally be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I was handed a book by Simon Baron-Cohen that describes a ‘poster patient’ with High Functioning Autism (formerly known as Asperger’s syndrome, which basically signifies anyone with Autism and an IQ over 70). Among other familiar characteristics, ‘Andrew’, the 19 year old with Asperger’s, quit school, because it was annoying and uninteresting. Then it hit.

Autism affects 1 in 54 children. As of now, boys are said to be four times more likely than girls to be on the spectrum. This might be an entirely erroneous divergence, however. Only recently have researchers started to realise that it manifests very differently in women. Still, women and girls often go undiagnosed, or are routinely refused the diagnosis, because the criteria do not fit them. They cannot. Autistic males are diagnosed by being compared to neurotypical males. Autistic females are diagnosed by…being compared to autistic males. It’s not hard to see where this goes wrong. There’s a long list of differences between how the disorder manifests in different genders, which I am not going to go into here.

The purpose of the first Data gathering for this blog is to focus on how ASD affects the way I intake, process, and output information.

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