I suck at following spoken directions, verry merry berry much. At following spoken directions, my suckage is not within normal limits. I suck abnormally at following spoken directions. My suckage at following spoken directions is not only high, verry merry berry, but high, eggstremely.
Here is a schematic to visualize these advanced concepts:
As you can see, I really really really suck at following spoken directions.
I suck at doing things when someone tells me what to do:
When someone tells me what to do when I am cooking dinner, I have no idear what they are talking about, and I wish that they would stop, so I can cook my dinner in peace, quiet, and combobulation, a lack of discombobulation.
When someone tells me what to do when I am doing a science experiment, I have no idear what they are talking about, and I wish that they would stop, so I could do my science experiment in peace, quiet, and combobulation, defined above.
In seventh grade, when my Home Economics teacher told the class what to do when we were making aprons, I had no idear what she was talking about, and I wished that she would stop, and I sucked at making my apron. At making my apron, I sucked so eggstremely much that I had to go to school extra early in the morning for a special remediation of my apron-making deficits. Me and the teacher both had to show up extra early, so she could show me how to make my apron, me having learned nothing at all from her spoken directions in class. After she showed me how to make my apron, my deficits in apron-making dissolved, problem solved, and I became purrrty durrrn good at making aprons. I made an apron for my class, and I made moar moar moar aprons for fun. I made so many aprons for fun that you could even say that I got an itsy-bitsy obsessed with making aprons, but fortunately, the fad went almost as fast as it had come.
In general, I learn nothing at all from people telling me what to do, whether they are teaching me how to cook dinner, do science experiments, or make aprons. When people tell me how to do things that I already know how to do, I can do everything just fine by ignoring everything that comes out of their mouths. When people teach me how to do things that I don’t know how to do by telling me what to do, or giving me spoken directions, I suck at doing whatever I am supposed to be doing, knowing whatever I am supposed to be doing, understanding whatever I am supposed to be doing, and learning whatever I am supposed to be learning to do.
This was true when I was a child. This is true for me as an adult. This was true when I sucked at language. This is true now that I have good language skills. It doesn’t matter how old I get, or how great my language skills become. I suck, sucked, and will suck at following spoken directions 4evar and evar and evar.
But why do I suck at following spoken directions? Why do I suck so much at learning from people telling me what to do?
I don’t know eggsacly, but I have a few idears:
I suck at processing hoooman speech.
I suck at processing hoooman speech into meanings.
I suck at processing hoooman speech into the non-spoken meanings that I understand fast and good in my own mind.
I suck at processing hoooman speech into the non-spoken, non-verbal meanings that I understand fast and good in my own mind.
I suck at processing hoooman speech into the visual meanings that I understand fast and good in my own mind.
I am a visual thinker, so I understand non-spoken, non-verbal, visual meanings fast and good in my own mind, without taking much time or making much effort to understand them. Them, I just get, just like that, and that is just how I naturally normally think.
I am not a verbal thinker, so I have to translate all verbal spoken directions into non-spoken, non-verbal meanings as the verbal directions are spoken into my ears and brain. This translation takes time and effort, so my understanding of things passed this way into my brain is slow and sucky. It is slow and sucky compared to my natural normal way of thinking, and it is slow and sucky in general. Sometimes, the machine that does the translation gets bogged and clogged when there are too many directions feeding into it too fast, more after four after three after two after one. Sometimes, the machine gets overloaded and shuts down, and all the translations stop. For awhile, anywhile from tenths to tens of hours, the translations cease, and the machine rests in peace. After awhile, when the machine slugs back to life again, the translations start again, but it would be a good idear not to overload the machine again. It would be a good idear not to shut down the machine again. It would be a good idear not to tell me what to do, step after step after step. It would be a good idear not to teach me anything new by giving me spoken directions, yak yak yakkity yak yak. Instead, just show me in actions, pictures, or text, and I will probably get it just fine.
This is what it looks like when the machine bogs and clogs:
“In one ear…&…Out the same ear,” the machine rejects the snail trail.
In moar moar moar official terms, this slow, sucky, sluggish, slimey snail trail is a language processing disorder, an auditory processing disorder, or both. Many autistic people have one, the other, or both.
For example, many autistic children have poor receptive language, meaning that they suck at following spoken directions, learning from spoken language, and understanding what the begeebus people are yakking at them. Maybe they can follow one step at a time, or maybe not. Maybe they can follow two steps in a row, or maybe not. Slime together three or four or moar moar moar slugs in a snail trail, moar moar moar words, and forget about following anything or learning anything. I can’t follow that many steps, that many words, and my brain overloads and shuts down when the machine bogs and clogs, which means the end of any learning of anything in any way for the rest of the day.
So what do we do about this problem? This language processing disorder or auditory processing disorder or ear-brain disconnection disorder or whatever it is?
Problem: Poor receptive language through the ears, slow and sucky, sluggish and slimey
Solution: Develop good receptive language through the eyes, fast and good, autistic and awesome
When I was in grade school, I had a special education plan that I call the “Leave Me Alone” education plan. Ackshuly, I call it the “Leave Me The Fark Alone” education plan, or LMTFA for short. According to LMTFA, I was allowed to ignore everything that came out of everyone’s mouth at school. I did not have to listen to the teachers in class, and I did not have to pretend that I was listening either. I did not have to work or play with the other kids, including the other kids in the gifted and talented program that I had gotten into based on the results of a non-interactive, non-spoken, non-verbal test, basically an IQ test like the Raven’s Progressive Matrices.
Instead of learning from other hooomans in the typical way that hooomans learn from each other, I got to learn on my own from pictures and words in textbooks, worksheets, flashcards, puzzles, and games, thus completely bypassing my receptive language deficits through my ears and my expressive language deficits through my mouth.
If slow and sucky through the ears, then try the eyes instead.
If slow and sucky through the mouth, then try the fingers instead.
Nevar evar evar assume that slow and sucky in one way means slow and sucky in all ways.
Nevar evar evar assume that disability in one way means disability in all ways.
Always search for a way that works.
When I was a kid, I could not learn many things in the typical ways, but I ended up learning many things anyway, because there was always someone willing to adapt to me and teach me in my own way instead of me always having to adapt to everyone else and learning nothing on their highways.
From third grade (or was it second, I furrrgotz) through fifth grade, I had my special education plan that worked grrrrrrreat!!! for me, but I am not advocating for all awesome autistic kids to be left alone to their own soft- and hard-ware. Instead, it would help a lot lot lot if kids with receptive language problems and/or auditory processing problems were taught to read and write and type, so they could bypass their weaknesses to develop their strengths. It would help if the kids could read what was said at the same time that it was said. It would help if the kids could write what they wanted to say, then read what they wrote. It would help if the kids could type what they wanted to say for everyone else to read. All these things would help adults as well, no matter how highly intelligent or how high-functioning they are. As long as they are autistic adults with language and auditory processing problems, then they will benefit from an accommodation for their weaknesses and a recognition of their strengths.
Speaking of strengths, here is another story to balance out the snail trail:
In seventh grade, we were required to take both Home Economics and Industrial Technology as part of the standard junior high curriculum in our school district. Industrial Technology consisted of a bunch of twelve-year-olds on sugar highs running around in a large multi-room workshop operating saws, drills, and sanders, while the lone teacher operated on standby to call the nurse’s office or 911 when I sanded off my fingernail on the belt sander, ooops, or the nerd/geek/dork with the preppy haircut and big glasses cut off his finger with the bandsaw, yikes. In this class, I completed several projects with no problems whatsoever. We had to make a whistle, and I made the whistle that blew the loudest. We had to make a miniature load-bearing bridge, and I made the bridge that bore the greatest load. We had to make a gas-propelled model vehicle, and I made the sharkmobile that flew the fastest.
In this class, I did grrrrrrreat!!!, but not because I knew lotsa fizzicks (I didn’t), or had lotsa experience building things (I hadn’t), or was a gigantic nerd/geek/dork (OK, I was). I did grrrrrrreat!!!, because there were no verbal directions for doing anything, no spoken directions, no written directions, no textbooks, no worksheets, no flashcards, no rulez. Instead, the teacher just drew some pictures of whistles and bridges and cars on the chalkboard and showed us a few of these things, the real things, to hold in our hands, and we were left alone to our own soft- and hard-ware, small pieces of which got lost during the process, ooops.
The only verbal directive was not to lose any of our body parts in class, and I had no problem complying with that spoken direction. The fingernail didn’t count, cuz it grew back just fine, and I’m purrrty sure that the guy got his finger reattached just fine too, two for two.