The Dangers of Common Core

Why does common core not make sense to those of us who are on the spectrum? Even those on the “high functioning” end of the spectrum, or those of us considered “gifted”, struggle with common core.My son, for example, is on the spectrum. The school we put him in promised “personalized lesson planning for gifted students, or for students who are in need of extra assistance”. However, seeing as how my son is virtual most of the time, I have been able to see what he is actually learning. This is the part that infuriates me. Ready for this? Schools are more concerned about whether or not my child can complete a worksheet in a timely manner than they are about my sons actual strengths.

My son has full on meltdowns when he has to sit at the table to complete several worksheets a day. Here’s the kicker (that I, myself find frustrating as someone with Autism): These worksheets are SO REDUNDANT. They are printed offline from some copy and paste website, teaching him the same concepts over and over again. Same site words, same process, etc.

The problem with this in autistic kids that are intellectually advanced (or those who have Stage 1 ASD – formerly known as Aspergers), is that, while usually they/we appreciate routine, we also want to be challenged. We want to learn new things. Teaching us how to fill out forms might help us to conform to necessary “steps” to fitting in socially and working in the real world. But what are the chances these kids actually find a position where they sit there, filling out the same form over, and over and over again? My son is in Kindergarten and reading at a 3rd grade level, but because he is “lazy” with his worksheets, he’s academically gaslighted?

I can tell you from my personal experience as someone who is in school to be a teacher, myself, that I have failed SEVERAL courses because I do not understand the common core math I am supposed to be teaching (I can also tell you that the school I was attending charged me $5,000 for failing two courses while I was in the mental hospital with what we know now was Autism Overload and gave me ONE WEEK after I was released to catch up on three weeks of work, but that’s a song for another time). If I, as an autistic adult with a higher intelligence than many of my NT peers, do not understand the concepts of common core math, I can assure you, I am not the only one on the spectrum who is having or will have these challenges.

So, back to the point. My sons teacher sets timers for him to finish his work. While he seems to be successful with this method at school, he melts when he gets home. When I try this tactic at home is results in the biggest “panic attacks” I’ve ever seen. He is mortified that the clock might beat him. This is DETRIMENTAL for a perfectionist. This is also not fair to their parents.My purpose for this post is this- we NEED to start educating school psychologists and “specialists” that ASD is not linear. Learning is not linear. Gifted students can be Autistic. But DO NOT automatically take my son and put him in a special needs class with students who you “claim” are like him, but really, every one of those students are unique in the way they learn. If they show advancement or giftedness in a specific area, teach them the core basics of other areas and FOSTER THAT GIFT. I cannot stress this enough. We need to be accommodating for children on all walks of the spectrum.

The society we live in today is not one of uniqueness. It is not one of inclusion, though we like to think it is. You’re only included if you agree with mainstream ideas. Nurture and encourage those areas that these children excel in. STOP PUTTING CHILDREN IN AN EDUCATIONAL BOX. They will become bored and you will see them start to tank. This isn’t fair.I understand teachers have a difficult job and I do appreciate them. But PLEASE – do not tell me that just because my child is perfect while he is in your classroom, that it’s just because he’s “more comfortable” with me that he has a hard time at home. It is called masking, and it is NOT good for mental health. Please stop timing him. Please challenge him. Stop printing off worksheets that only frustrate him and actually give him engaging work.

Sincerely –From the heart of someone who experiences this firsthand. I am autistic. That does NOT mean that I am incapable of understanding. If anything, that means I understand more.

Who am I?

Who am I?

For my entire life, I have struggled with my identity. I was bullied through school by girls who claimed to be “saving me” from certain social suicide. They claimed they were just trying to help me, but now, after receiving a diagnosis, I realized just how much Autism has shaped my life, and why I am such a MASSIVE masker (mimicking social traits of others in order to fit in).

As you guys know from the previous posts – my teachers had always struggled to challenge me. I was placed into the GATE (gifted and talented education) program at 6 years old. I noticed that these three girls who claimed to be my friends, were constantly mad at me and would leave me by myself at recess and lunch, so I stayed with the teachers.

When I realized I could sing in second grade, these friends grew even more irate. I had no idea why until they would leave me out of talent show performances and the like. In third grade, I realized I had a crush on a boy. For privacy purposes, we will call him “Andy”. On Valentine’s day, I gave “Andy” a small, heart-shaped box of chocolates, which he proceeded to devour while his friends laughed and then threw the box at me. That same year, one of these “friends”, we will call her Lesley, sat on my long skirt during class and laughed when I stood up. She proceeded to shout, “Look! Nice granny panties, Kaitlin!” Okay – really though? Are third graders supposed to wear anything else?? Fast forward to fifth grade, where I continued to be a star student with these same group of friends. You know how teachers give elementary school students “jobs”? Well, “Lesley” was the line leader. Which meant she had the power of a petty tyrant. I kept to myself. I was reserved, I didn’t like to be in trouble. I hated to do anything wrong. But somehow, my name ended up on the board in her handwriting. I tried to ask her why. When she didn’t answer, I continued to ask (which I know now is because of stimming) and she turned around and punched me in my eye. When my mom called her mother, she was unphased and told my mom that I “should have stopped asking”. (Give this lady a gold star!)

I was able to breathe a little better when I went to a more private middle school the following year. I was given the chance to flourish without being hovered over by these mean girls. I continued to be placed in advanced classes and making friends with all of the teachers.

But seventh grade rolled around and there they were. Those same girls showed back up and life was derailing all over. I started performing on the dance team, I was cast as “Cinderella” and I sang the national anthem, among various other performances throughout the rest of middle school. For some reason these girls did NOT like when I received any recognition for my work.

One day, after Algebra, the other Sanderson sister (whom we will call “Katherine”) walked up to me asking what my problem was. I didn’t say anything and tried to keep walking. She grabbed my hair and slammed my face into the concrete, over and over. I had a bruised cheekbone and kneecap, along with bumps, bruises and a massive headache. I would later find out this all happened because I “gave her a dirty look” (which I literally probably did involuntarily, because again, I don’t like conflict). All I could do when I got home was full blown melt. I had no idea this was a meltdown until recently, but I know this is where I realized school would be pure hell for me. My ex step-father committed suicide that same year.

All throughout high school, I gave up. No one cared. I just wanted out, so I did the bare minimum to get by. Freshman year, the principal (who was the Vice Principal of the middle school I attended) told my mother he would be surprised if I graduate given my “record” (???). I found out the man who raised me was NOT actually my father, and he left my life shortly after. I continued to be harassed, called names and belittled. I would go on to be jumped another time my senior year of high school.

However, my junior year of high school, I went into a full blown depersonalization episode. My mother had no idea what to do. No one could help me. I was admitted to an institution where they told me I was a “troubled teen who was throwing tantrums” and said I MAY have slight agoraphobia. They put me on Buspar, which made me violent. They put me on Remeron, which gave me nightmares. The list goes on and I still didn’t respond well to anything. I began to run away from home because I was so lost. I was throwing myself at anyone who could make me feel human. I lost all self-respect. This is what girls my age do, right? This is what we do to feel accepted? I ended up being sent to my grandmothers in Texas. I seemed to do rather well there, for the most part. But I was already so very tired by this point.

I came back to California and graduated on track. But I would go on to be in three consecutive, abusive relationships, one right after another. I miscarried after being beat in the relationship that was just before the man I now call my husband. The last six years have been a rollercoaster for us, but we did it. We finally received a diagnosis. Now, on to the healing.

Y’all – I have cut and died my hair, pierced so many body parts, tried out different styles, changed the tone of my voice, my accent – the whole nine yards. And I STILL have no solid identity. Because of all of this, I have no consistency in my life.

If I can give one piece of advice – be your own best friend. Be your own advocate. I have ALWAYS felt that I was autistic. In my soul, I felt it. And I was right. I wish I had known earlier, because now I have to figure out who I really am. Now, I am a mix of people I have been shadowing for YEARS and I have absolutely no identity. Yes, I am a mother. Yes, I am a wife. But who am I to myself? We will have to unmask and see.

Married to Normie

Allow me to preface this with: My husbands name is NOT Normie.

He’s hilarious. He is the life of any party. He is sociable. He’s patient. He’s driven. He is organized. He’s everything I struggle to be. I am his polar opposite without the mask. I am awkward. I dread parties. I am socially inept. I am impatient. I lack “basic human abilities”. I have to set reminders to stay on top of things.

So how are we married? Well, up until this point, my husband was under the impression I just suffered from debilitating anxiety and depression. We had no idea (well, HE had no idea) that all of these “issues” were from childhood misdiagnosed ASD. We have three kids together, have moved 5 times and built this life together. A relationship with a neurotypical is very fragile.

Let me be frank- I have been married before. It ended in domestic violence (quite frankly, before it ever started) because we couldn’t understand each other. I won’t make excuses for putting hands on anyone, from either side, ever. There is ALWAYS the option to walk away, regardless of your level of intelligence (in most cases).

But this is about MY husband and what it’s like to be married to an NT for years without an official diagnosis. We have seen so many doctors about what was “wrong” with me (before we knew I was autistic, and before I had a formal diagnosis). I was projected to have some form of MS, which ended up being a perinatal stroke. But then I was told I had a Chiari malformation (another fun one!) which mimics symptoms of MS. THEN I was told I needed brain surgery for that. NOPE. But wait, it’s actually Lyme disease. So, let’s treat it! Where does it end? I spent all of 2019 contemplating suicide. I almost lost my husband (who by this point had been so incredibly patient, so I totally understand). He was a trooper. He gave me my space. He stuck through it.

Are there times when he wanted to call it quits? Where he really thought I needed psychological help? When he regretted marrying me? Before, yes. Absolutely. I was almost placed in a long-term care facility because I made the psychiatrist feel inferior. I was diagnosed with agoraphobia, bi-polar, PPD, depersonalization, derealization, etc. And the physical symptoms! Oh Lord. Did you know that the weather effects the pressure inside of a persons head? Well, Autistic people are even more sensitive to barometric pressure changes (and no, it’s not fibromyalgia – also a misdiagnosis in a lot of people).. This can cause debilitating migraines. Stress gives me migraines so intensely that I lose vision and puke my brains out. My skin is so incredibly sensitive that I break out in hives over the smallest irritation. I have hyper mobility (EDS) and POTS (a heart condition that causes extremely low blood pressure) AND arrhythmia. I could go on and on, but we will save the symptoms for another post.

This one, is tips on how to be married to an NT (or for NT’s, how to be married to an ND).

  • Patience is KEY. In all situations when an ND is married to an NT, there will always be some sort of masking (unless you are married to a saint).
  • UNDERSTANDING. People – if your s/o is diagnosed with Autism (or any “disability”) – DO YOUR RESEARCH (insert obnoxious hand clapping – STIMMMMMM). Knowledge is power (and what fuels a lot of us deemed “high functioning”). This will be a huge breakthrough for you. Understand what makes the other person melt. Understand their interests. Realize that, while this DOES affect you and your relationship, THIS IS THEIR WHOLE BEING. Autism makes them who they are. All of those quirky things you love about them.
  • Always have time for yourself – both of you! Everyone needs to decompress, but especially fragile relationships where legitimate societal, structural and emotional differences are so prominent.
  • Encourage your partner (the ND) to unmask in a healthy way. You are, or should be, the person they are the most comfortable with.
  • Respect your partners needs and privacy. This is their story to share. You are important, and it definitely effects you, but again, they are living this life. NT’s are socially accepted. ND’s are not, and need to feel comfortable with where they unmask, how the unmask and their privacy to do so with confidence.
  • Most importantly – THIS ONE IS CRUCIAL – do your research. And I’m not talking about “how to cope with a partner who has autism”. I do not encourage using Autism Speaks as a method of education, as they are not for the acceptance of Autism, but rather, for helping OTHERS how to cope with people like us.

To my husband – thank you for sticking with me and loving me through years of unknown, years of misdiagnosis, and years of self-proclaimed “hypochondria”. Thank you for letting me recharge on days where you have worked all day, only to come home to a messy house, loud kids and an over-stimulated and exhausted wife in the middle of a meltdown. You are a Rockstar.

You do you, Boo.

I am furious. I am livid. Flabbergasted, even. As I was calling around to find a psychologist to help me in the “unmasking” process and being more comfortable in my own skin, I was met with this: “We don’t assess for Autism, but we DO TREAT IT.”

I wanted so badly to hang up the phone, but I challenged myself to it. I asked, “and, exactly how does one TREAT Autism? You do realize it’s not a disease, right?”

Her response? “I’m not really sure, ma’am. I’m just the receptionist. But if you’d like for your child to be seen here, we can help with the anxiety and depression.”

My child? The anxiety and depression? First of all, hi. It’s me. I’m the one calling on behalf of myself, because *GASP* – SPOILER ALERT- a LOT of autistic adults are not those who you are snapping photos of to show off on your site how “helpful and supportive you are” (when actually, the photos of Jenny smiling bigger than any mouth should actually open feels more condescending than helpful, which is EXACTLY why I struggled with telling people, because they immediately begin to talk to you like you’re missing something, but that’s a post for another time).

Honestly, the NT people who look at others like they’re some kind of rare breed and talk to them like they take pity on their “condition” makes them look ignorant, kind of how I would assume humans look in the eyes of a dog who is tired of your superior nature.

Another thing, Karen, is that the only reason you are treating depression and anxiety in Autistic people is because you are making money off of these people being Autistic- FOR SHAME. Making Autistics feel less-than because they aren’t considered neurotypical is what is depressing. Going out into a world who doesn’t accept you for the beautiful mind you have and is judging you at every turn, is what causes anxiety. Being told you don’t “function like a normal person” is disheartening. So we have to put on a brave face (you know, because those of us “high functioning” Auties who are on the higher end of the IQ should KNOW BETTER), to accommodate you and the world YOU live in that was build FOR YOUR SUCCESS.

It speaks VOLUMES. How people respond to your “diagnosis” says more about them than it does about you.

Let me get to the point, here. AUTISM CANNOT BE TREATED. It is a legitimate difference in the brain than that of a NT person. It is a developmental disorder, not an intellectual disorder. Generally, we are rather intelligent intellectuals, we simply do not understand (or care to understand) “common sense” or societal norms, which obviously sets us apart from the standard.

Why do people get upset if someone jumps into their conversation without being invited? If it were such a private conversation, why not have it IN PRIVATE? Who came up with these rules? Why is it rude to ramble about my special interests and what sets me apart? That makes me narcissistic? Or does it make me passionate? Does it mean that I have impressed myself with these things and have extensive knowledge that I love to talk about because I have taken the time to research these things? Why is it that when I jump in to a conversation after everyone else is laughing and talking, suddenly the conversation stops? Do NTs think NDs don’t notice these things? We do. We are rude and condescending, but it’s not rude and condescending to treat someone like their the scum of the Earth because, in their mind, they have opinions and interests, too?

All of this to say – don’t treat me any differently because I am autistic. Treat me exactly the same as you did before you knew. Bully me. Pretend like I am a burden. Don’t claim me as your family. Why? Because this is who YOU are. Treating someone differently just because you find out they are “disabled” is belittling and disdainful.

The Good. The Bad. The Aspie.

“Stage 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder formerly known as Aspergers”. I was 26. I AM 26. It has taken 26 years of pure social HELL to understand myself.
But, I knew it. I’ve always known it. From being mocked in grade school, to my first grade teacher giving up because he “wasn’t able to challenge me”, to the way people look at me like I am an other worldly being when I open my mouth. The long, awkward pauses that happen in conversations after I join in on the “banter”, the way people treat me simply because of my “demeanor” (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean).
I never, never, fit in with a group of people for more than a few months, as much as I desperately wanted to belong somewhere. I just wasn’t normal. I wasn’t… normal? What does that even mean? It means that society is not comfortable in accepting the fact that someone with an above average IQ questions the standards of what they have deemed “acceptable”. Why am I not “normal”? Because I have no concept of communicative boundaries? Please. This doesn’t mean I take my clothes off in public. It doesn’t mean I go around smelling other people (which, some ND kids do, and you need to accept that JUST AS MUCH AS YOU WANT THEM TO ACCEPT YOU). It simply means that I feel just as comfortable communicating about my personal views with someone in line at the bank as I do with my own mother. It means that I unintentionally interject myself into conversations that have nothing to do with me. It means that I give my unsolicited opinion before my brain can even process what’s being said. I come across as rude. I seem to go off on monologue tangents. I cut others off if I am uninterested in the conversation or if I am reminded of another topic. Do I do this knowingly? No. Do I do this to intentionally be rude and abrupt? ALSO NO. It is not “socially acceptable” behavior. This makes it increasingly difficult to make friends. It makes it difficult to keep friends. It makes it difficult to tolerate others who are not like-minded.
We live in a society where everyone is an advocate for something. But are they? Are they REALLY? So many nuero-typical (non-autistics) are quick to “support” something because it’s trendy. Because they’ll get all of the praise. You want praise for MY developmental “disability”? You want a pat on the back for “standing up for the non-verbal”? What exactly are you doing to bring awareness or “give us a voice”? Do you know how many autistic people are ACTUALLY non-verbal? Well, according to Autism Speaks (insert eyeroll here), it’s 40% of the autistic community with 31% of children being non-verbal and dependent upon others for everyday life.
Let me be frank, I do understand that most of these people are coming from a good place, but I know far too many who “do it for the likes”. I know a handful who have personally bullied me, and when asked why they disliked me, didn’t have an answer (you know who you are 😉 ), yet they advocate against bullying. They promote equality, self-love, etc. But they are the epitome of why neuro diverse people are not wholly accepted In society.
I won’t go into detail about my childhood. But what I do hope to do, is show the neuro typical community what it’s like from the inside. Everyone is always concerned about the caregivers, the parents, the families. Guess what? Most women are never diagnose, with the very few being diagnosed as late as their 50’s. Some of us already have children (hellooooo, struggle bus!), we are married (yes, also a struggle when you’re married to an NT), and lead what seems to be “normal” lives. But y’all – WE STRUGGLE. I have to set alarms to put my clothes on or I sit in the same clothes for days. I don’t remember to eat until my sugars are so low that I’m nearly incoherent. I have a hard time holding a job. I find an interest and I am obsessed over it to the point that it takes over my whole life. I am raising three neurotypical kids (one who is JUST like me, and will likely be diagnosed with Stage 1 ASD as well). I get overwhelmed at day to day life. I forget to make dinner some days because I’m not hungry (yes, my kids still eat). My life revolves around alarms, my planner and a transition to a very strict schedule.
For the longest time, my husband didn’t understand why I couldn’t “Just function like a normal human being”. But girl- let me tell you. Finally having a diagnosis is the lightbulb we’ve been waiting for: I AM NOT A NORMAL HUMAN BEING. I have an IQ of 133, I am extremely talented, I question the “normal” routines of society and reject 99% of it.

So, hi. I am Kate. I am a mom. I am a wife. I am autistic. I am brave. I am smart. I am an Aspie-Minded Mama, and I will be showing you the world through a blunt, rejected and autistic mamas eyes.

Married to Normie

Allow me to preface this: My husbands name is NOT Normie.

But he IS what society would deem “normal” in every sense of the word.

He’s hilarious. He is the life of any party. He is sociable. He’s patient. He’s driven. He is organized. He’s everything I struggle to be. I am his polar opposite without the mask. I am awkward. I dread parties. I am socially inept. I am impatient. I lack “basic human abilities”. I have to set reminders to stay on top of things.

So how are we married? Well, up until this point, my husband was under the impression I just suffered from debilitating anxiety and depression. We had no idea (well, HE had no idea) that all of these “issues” were from childhood misdiagnosed ASD. We have three kids together, have moved 5 times and built this life together. A relationship with a neurotypical is very fragile.

Let me be frank- I have been married before. It ended in domestic violence (quite frankly, before it ever started) because we couldn’t understand each other. I won’t make excuses for putting hands on anyone, from either side, ever. There is ALWAYS the option to walk away, regardless of your level of intelligence (in most cases).

But this is about MY husband and what it’s like to be married to an NT for years without an official diagnosis. We have seen so many doctors about what was “wrong” with me (before we knew I was autistic, and before I had a formal diagnosis). I was projected to have some form of MS, which ended up being a perinatal stroke. But then I was told I had a Chiari malformation (another fun one!) which mimics symptoms of MS. THEN I was told I needed brain surgery for that. NOPE. But wait, it’s actually Lyme disease. So, let’s treat it! Where does it end? I spent all of 2019 contemplating suicide. I almost lost my husband (who by this point had been so incredibly patient, so I totally understand). He was a trooper. He gave me my space. He stuck through it.

Are there times when he wanted to call it quits? Where he really thought I needed psychological help? When he regretted marrying me? Before, yes. Absolutely. I was almost placed in a long-term care facility because I made the psychiatrist feel inferior. I was diagnosed with agoraphobia, bi-polar, PPD, depersonalization, derealization, etc. And the physical symptoms! Oh Lord. Did you know that the weather effects the pressure inside of a persons head? Well, Autistic people are even more sensitive to barometric pressure changes (and no, it’s not fibromyalgia – also a misdiagnosis in a lot of people).. This can cause debilitating migraines. Stress gives me migraines so intensely that I lose vision and puke my brains out. My skin is so incredibly sensitive that I break out in hives over the smallest irritation. I could go on and on, but we will save the symptoms for another post.

This one, is tips on how to be married to an NT (or for NT’s, how to be married to an ND).

  • Patience is KEY. In all situations when an ND is married to an NT, there will always be some sort of masking (unless you are married to a saint).
  • UNDERSTANDING. People – if your s/o is diagnosed with Autism (or any “disability”) – DO YOUR RESEARCH (insert obnoxious hand clapping – STIMMMMMM). Knowledge is power (and what fuels a lot of us deemed “high functioning”). This will be a huge breakthrough for you. Understand what makes the other person melt. Understand their interests. Realize that, while this DOES affect you and your relationship, THIS IS THEIR WHOLE BEING. Autism makes them who they are. All of those quirky things you love about them.
  • Always have time for yourself – both of you! Everyone needs to decompress, but especially fragile relationships where legitimate societal, structural and emotional differences are so prominent.
  • Encourage your partner (ND) to unmask in a healthy way. You are, in fact, the person they are the most comfortable with.
  • Respect your partners needs and privacy. This is their story to share. You are important, and it definitely effects you, but again, they are living this life. NT’s are socially accepted. ND’s are not, and need to feel comfortable with where they unmask, how the unmask and their privacy to do so with confidence.
  • Most importantly – THIS ONE IS CRUCIAL – do your research. And I’m not talking about “how to cope with a partner who has autism”. I do not encourage using Autism Speaks as a method of education, as they are not for the acceptance of Autism, but rather, for helping OTHERS how to cope with people like us.

To my husband – thank you for sticking with me and loving me through years of unknown, years of misdiagnosis, and years of self-proclaimed “hypochondria”. Thank you for letting me recharge on days where you have worked all day, only to come home to a messy house, loud kids and an over-stimulated and exhausted wife in the middle of a meltdown. You are a Rockstar.

Eating for “Easy”

Let me clarify- nothing about being on the spectrum, living in a word that is not built to cater to those who are “special”, is easy. But there are certain things I do feel helps take away the stress of “conformity”.