Elementary School years

 

I don’t have any bad memories of my time in Elementary schools.

  • But I do have a lot of memory gaps!

 

I remember continuing to excel academically, in everything except English, despite being fluent in French by third grade!

I clearly remember a growing low-level sense of isolation and being aware that I was an ‘outsider’ but I don’t recall being too bothered by this.

  • I had my books and I was a competition swimmer which at that age was all I needed.

 

There was no follow up visit to the Clinical Psychologist that I mentioned in my previous post.

However, after a third grade Parent-teacher meeting, my mother mentioned a comment made by one of my teachers that;

  • ‘He doesn’t suffer fools gladly and I don’t think he ever will’

 

It was another Autism red-flag;

  • Me speaking my mind truthfully
  • without any appreciation of, let alone regard for, social etiquette

Of course I took that comment literally, not uncommon with Autistic people and thought it was a statement referring entirely to my intellect.

  • I spent nearly 4 decades thinking that my serial social failure was entirely the result of being intellectually gifted

 

Swimming was a big part of my life from third grade right through High School, despite being a late starter.

  • I remember wading in the shallow end of our local swimming pool and being terrified of the ‘deep end’
  • I understood the principles of buoyancy
  • I had observed hundreds of kids diving into the deep end and miraculously emerging at the surface, alive!
  • Children would explain to me that I would ‘just come back up automatically’
  • But I was afraid that I wouldn’t, perhaps because I knew I was so different to them?

 

It is not uncommon for children with Autism, high functioning or otherwise, to be somewhat uncoordinated.

  • Some are formally diagnosed with Dyspraxia.

But there are exceptions and some extreme exceptions, like Champion surfer Clay Marzo (@claymarzosurf)

 

After a slow start with swimming I caught up quickly, but in an unorthodox way.

When I learned to swim, children were taught freestyle which was considered the easiest stroke for young children to learn.

  • Not me!

I found freestyle uncomfortable and tiring.

So to everyone’s surprise I started swimming breast stroke.

  • Supposedly more difficult to learn and execute than freestyle!

I excelled in breast-stroke and was unbeaten for 7 years, regularly winning by a margin of 25%.

I remember going to the swimming pool on Saturday and Sunday mornings

  • swimming 1 or 2 miles, sometimes 3, but always alone

I found the feeling of floating and the rhythm of swimming very relaxing and quite hypnotic.

 

But despite being a Grade A student and a Champion swimmer, I had no friends.

  • On paper I should have been in the running to be one of the most popular boys in school
  • Instead I was utterly socially rejected due to clinically impaired social intuition that was camouflaged by my IQ

There was no Behavior Therapy available for in 1970s because Asperger’s Syndrome didn’t officially exist until 1994.

 

Fortunately for me, being Autistic in Elementary school had relatively little impact on the quality of my life, as far as I can remember.

  • I was one of the very lucky ones

In stark contrast to the misery, dread and despair I experienced in High School.

  • This will be the subject of a later post.

Without the comfort of my ongoing Academic success and athletic achievements in High school I shudder to think how much more hideous my teenage years might have been?

  • Most Autistic children are not quite so fortunate
  • Hence the importance of early intervention treatment, for their well being and quality of life

 

Today far more children receive their diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome before graduating High School

  • many in Elementary School

But whatever your age of diagnosis, know this.

It is never too late.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. spectrumscribe
    May 18, 2012 @ 14:23:01

    I think Intellectual giftedness can play a part in social isolation and there is considerable overlap between the characteristics of the Intellectually gifted and those with Aspergers/Higher functioning forms of Autism. I will be posting on this subject.

    However I believe that the main contributing factor to my continuing social isolation, as a middle aged adult, is my approach to social situations.

    My primary objective in social settings/events is to collect and exchange information, period!

    So I enjoy socializing with people like College professors or entrepreneurs discussing their latest idea/business ventures.

    But this is not the primary objective of most people in social settings.

    I have been told that it can be quite exhausting for most people to sit 1 on 1, listening to (figuratively) an enthusiastic diatribe about the inner workings of a jet engine, or whatever my intense interest happens to be at the time.

    It seems that this is as exhausting to most people as ‘socializing’, making small talk etc is to me.

    I have seen intellectually gifted people that are not Autistic ‘socializing’ happily, enthusiastically and effortlessly and who appear quite energized by the experience!

    This is in stark contrast to the social impairment that I experience and which is characteristic of those on the Autism Spectrum.

    Thanks for adding me to your Reader. I am new to blogging so is this the same as following my blog? I can’t see you on my list of followers yet.

    Reply

  2. spectrumscribe
    Jun 23, 2012 @ 12:40:16

    Reminds me of the break-up scene at the beginning of The Social Network, when an exasperated young lady explains to the Zuckerberg character that it’s like ‘dating a stair-master’

    Reply

  3. smuggybunny
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 15:04:48

    In grad school, I noticed that all the other nerds/geeks/dorks in my department socialized just fine with each other, even though most of them would have been considered socially awkward in the world at large. That is probably the effect of high intelligence and different interests. They did talk a lot about their research to exchange information with each other. Some of them only talked about their research all the time. Others did small talk well.

    Me, I was at a different level of social dysfunction and oblivion from everyone else. My problems were more basic, more in the communication realm, such as not being able to hear what anyone was saying to me at any social event, or not being to form the words to reply in my mind to say them with my mouth. I think that I could have small talked about any topic from nail polish (the wonderful smell of it) to the weather (and how I wished to control it), but there were a bunch of communication obstacles to overcome for an autistic person trying to socialize the typical in-person social-event way.

    Reply

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