Now that I am done with college for the semester, I thought that an article on being autistic in college would be appropriate. School, in general, has always been a bit of a challenge. Most of the time it isn’t because the course material is challenging, but because the design of school and classes is difficult. I want to talk about some of the things that I find challenging about school.
First, the idea of studying multiple things at one time is a bit of a challenge. If autistic people are left to their own devices, they will often throw themselves into one topic and study it to death. There are multiple good reasons for this. I think the biggest reason is that it’s more efficient. The amount of time spent moving between classes is time lost. It’s time not spent being engaged with the material. Having taught classes for businesses, I know that most people have a hard time staying engaged with learning the same content for long periods of time, but I don’t. I prefer spending hours engaged with a topic. As a result, I tend to learn it much faster than the people around me.
There is also a ramp up time for studying. If one is moving between subjects while studying, they must clear their mind of the previous subject, gather all the resources they need to study, and then get their brain in a place where they can start to retain information. The ramp up time to study a different subject is time lost.
Group work is another aspect of school that I despise. This probably doesn’t come as a shock to anyone since I’m autistic. I would note, that hatred of group work isn’t an exclusively autistic thing. Usually a high percentage of people in a class don’t seem to like group work, in my experience. In my case, group work slows me down. I don’t think about many topics the same way as the people I have to work with. This past semester I had to take a very long and convoluted route, with my group, to get them to understand a topic we worked on from my perspective. This was a semester long project on a controversial topic. My group was concerned with taking the “morally” correct stance on our topic, without considering certain realities that their proposal ignored. While we agreed, fundamentally, we disagreed on the details. Getting them to be willing to understand and deal with things they were going to ignore took more work than the actual project, which I could have done in a week if I had done it alone.
I had a different group project this semester that my group had two weeks to do. People in my group seemed to be waiting until the last minute to do the work. I ended up doing about 95% of the work myself and did it in two hours. I really didn’t need the group. The group used my work with some minor additions of their own, and we got an ‘A’ on the project.
Another issue is the classroom environment. I have had several classes with very bright florescent lights. In some cases, I can see the lights flickering. In these instances, I spend a lot of time trying to cover my eyes but still see what is going on. It’s distracting and makes it seem like I’m not paying attention. There are also some rooms that have heating units in them that are extremely noisy, which creates another distraction. In my first college, there were rooms that I could hear the water running through the plumbing.
It’s also very common for participation to be part of the grade for a class. This is one of the more anxiety inducing requirements. The issue for me is that I generally do have a lot to say. I could talk for hours about the topic we are discussing in class. I obviously can’t do that. I have to worry about derailing the class, which would be easy for me to do. So, I must try to get an idea out in a very brief time frame, which can be difficult if I’m taking a controversial stance on a topic. This happens more often than you might think. Often, I have thought about my stance at great length. In most cases, I have thought about more than the other students in the class. Most of them seem to have taken the stance they were socially indoctrinated into. Trying to get out a controversial viewpoint while having to omit 90% of the thinking behind it can be hell. It results in an argument that can’t be defended because of time restraints. So, why stir up controversy if I can’t defend it? What good does it do? So, there is no real reason to participate beyond just answering mundane questions.
I go to UMass Amherst. The campus is huge. There are a lot of people there and they have no sense of the space they occupy in the world and how it effects the people around them. Students will unnecessarily block foot traffic just to have a conversation. They could move a foot in another direction and let traffic flow, but they are oblivious to the fact that they are blocking traffic. They also do something that boggles my mind. If a building has two doors at the entrance, students will try to exit and enter through the same door. Imagine, a line of students trying to come out a door, students trying to enter through the same door, and one door remaining unused. This seems to happen because someone opens the door and holds it open for the next person. So, because the door is being held open, they are attracted to the open door like a moth to a flame. Then once a lines forms, they just naturally get in line. This can create unnecessary traffic jams in the hallway of the building that I enter. I’ll mention that I enter through the unused door.
This is just some of gripes I have about school. I’m sure everyone has their issues. Summer is here, so I intend on posting more frequently again.