In the seventh grade, a note on my report card said:
“ . . . has not developed the needed skills to work as a part of a team yet. He has ideas but he either tires to out volume the others or he tries to get clever with his ideas (i.e., makes many bathroom humor references) . . . outside the class setting, I find him to have some good insights and true understandings of human relations. With time, I hope to see the same good qualities . . . (with students).
Some decades later, and I still can’t connect to my peers. In fact, I’m making virtually the same mistakes! How is this possible?
So, I can have “good insights and true understandings of human relations” when I’m one-to-one with a teacher outside the class. That is where insights and relations make perfect sense, the insights of and relations to the teacher! But, in the class, with a group of my peers, it’s all lost. I simply don’t meet the requirements to be allowed in, except when the teacher forces them.
All of my “out volume” and “clever ideas” were the wildly desperate attempts of my autistic brain to figure out the code that lets me in. The other option is silence, tucked away in a corner somewhere. I’ve taken that approach as well, and the “adult” in charge doesn’t appreciate that either.
I spent a week one summer talking to the counselor in the cabin instead of playing with the kids, and I recall watching them play but never figuring out how to join them. But, the counselor was nice, even though he kept wanting me to play with the other kids. There was one exception, a trivia competition, which, of course, I won, in hindsight most assuredly with more exuberance than was appropriate. However, at least the other campers knew I existed.
But, wait! I have partner in “class,” a real-life S.O. What is wrong now? My S.O. is the designated class helper, the assistant to the teacher, the one who can effortlessly float between teacher and students. That’s OK to a point, but when she’s talking to the teacher and I get left with the students, I’m going to struggle. And, when she’s talking to the teacher, it means I’m not getting to, so I’m missing out there. It doesn’t work out quite like it would seem to on paper.
One time, in the second grade, the school counselor “found” some friends for me. I recall thinking how stupid that was, even at eight years old, as I didn’t think they could be real friends if someone told them they had to be. I’m not interested in fake friends; I’d rather have an imaginary one.
Right now, at a particularly difficult time in my life, some “well-intentioned” people (both “teacher” and “student”) have been making suggestions about friends, seeing that I have the need for them. In addition, I’m also less of a problem for them if they find some for me, and surreptitiously pass me on to someone else. That’s always fun, passed on between teacher and alternating students, less out of pity for me than to minimize their annoyance. Of course, suggesting pity is a better option shows how much this hurts.
As you might guess, all of these suggested friends are quite a bit older than I am. But, the entire point is that I’ve always known how to connect to people 20 or more years older than me – that’s easy. As my life is more than half over, I’d like even more to fit in with people my age, the ones who probably won’t all die off before I do.
My life is more than halfway over.I don’t want to talk to the teacher anymore. I just want to fit in and talk to the other students. But, they still don’t want to speak with me, and I still don’t know exactly why, but it has to do with improper volume levels and clever ideas. At this point, people have given up on helping me fit in with my peers and just tell me to speak with the teachers. Even the teachers are saying that, but it’s getting less helpful all the time. “With time, I hope to see . . . “ No, dear teacher, your hope was as silly then as it probably is now, but I bet I’d get an “A” for effort.