Social Studies Class

My compulsions for doing personal research increased considerably during early adolescence. Each visit to the library presented the opportunity to research a new and different subject, from Lincoln to ancient civilizations to gardening. I obsessed constantly on the differences I observed in other people, as well, perhaps with the hope of understanding myself. Contrasting them with me only seemed to raise more questions; their behavior seemed so irrational at times, and their interests so odd.

With each school year, my academic work became more difficult for me. Subjects were not merely being presented in more depth and detail, but abstract concepts were becoming more prominent in the course work. I quickly grasped concepts that were concrete--whatever I could see, feel, or touch. However, I had much more difficulty processing and understanding those which were abstract.

My eighth-grade social studies class proved particularly difficult for me. Government did not seem real to me, having never found a way to touch or measure it like one would a street or a road.

I was painfully aware of the gap between the other students' apparent ability to grasp abstractions and generalizations and my own. The teacher also seemed to expect me to grasp perceptions other than my own. It all confused me.

Autistic children commonly are unable to see things from the perspectives of other people, a trait known as egocentrism. For instance, one day in class the teacher showed us a picture in our textbook. It was of a tourist in a small Mexican town taking a picture of some local people taking a siesta.

The teacher stood up, and said, "Class, I want you to write a one-page paper explaining the nature of the misunderstandings among the folks shown in this photo."

I looked around, baffled. The other kids began writing furiously; meanwhile, I rolled the pencil in my mouth trying to figure out something to say. Pictures didn't have emotions, so how could they have misunderstandings? Yet, the other students seemed to know something I didn't. I finally turned in my sheet, with the words "I don't know," written on it. Then I shrugged my shoulders and stared at my desk while class continued, stunned by my inferiorities.

Other Memories

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  • 6th Grade
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  • Social Studies
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