Intellectual Regulation and #Aspergers

Dysregulation

I think in complex epiphanies. I never have a single thought, except “I am insufferably bored!” Thoughts stay with me, whispering, connecting, birthing ideas faster than I can speak or write.

Life is a procession of instantaneous and profound moments. Some would consider my experience spiritual.  I know it is neurological.

I have little to show for my excessive mental energy. Too many ideas crowd me.  Sprawling narratives stream from my fingers. The ideas dart about so wildly  they hold meaning only to me.  Weeks pass before I whittle a simple blog post to lucidity. The world outside my skull is so slow it crawls.

Excruciating boredom opposes intellectual excitement.  The sensation is physical. Hold your breath until it hurts. The burning for air in your lungs is how boredom feels deep in my muscles and joints. Intellectual nothingness is drowning.  Movement is a gasp of air, but until my mind can latch on to the right thought, I flail.

I exist either dazzled by thoughts or restless with fidgety, aching boredom.

I am intellectually dysregulated.

Vroom

As a child, my mother smoothed my way. She fed my brain continuously or pressed me into captivating activities. She scheduled my time.

The hardest part of my life was young adulthood. I chose the wrong career path. I mistook intellectual ability for intellectual motivation.   Electromagnetics and calculus were easy, but boring. Despite natural talent, I failed.  I did not possess the maturity, the wisdom to find a good path for myself.

Only in the past few years did I become self-aware. Raising an autistic child placed a platter of insight before me. He is me revised. Perhaps most parents take this journey; a complete digestion of their own lives, absorbed and reflected upon to nourish the next generation.

My son must learn that uncommon intellect comes with a caveat—the rest of his abilities will lag.  One day he will celebrate not the marvel of his genius, but the other skills he mastered to balance it.

Boredom, A School Memoir

boredom

I used to consider boredom the remote affliction of others. Bored  people lacked imagination and an appreciation for beauty.  In my childhood, I spent hours  tilting and gazing at kaleidoscopes. Plaster patterns on the wall continuously evolved and reshaped into faces, beasts, and foreign geographies.  How could anyone be bored when all they had to do was look?

My assumptions about boredom were misguided. I struggled mightily with boredom, especially in the forced confines of school. I fidgeted and interrupted upon occasion. Usually, though, I traveled in my brain.

I remember Rafaela and her ponytail holders.  Decorated with translucent red balls, the holders fastened tight and close to her scalp.  I mentally traced the smooth channels of her dark braided hair up to the holders and back down again.  Sometimes the light would hit the holders just right and they would glow. Eventually the teacher picked up on my fascination and seated me elsewhere.

High school algebra classes numbed my brain. I digested material instantaneously, making lectures redundant and banal. One day I brought a Phillip’s screwdriver to school and disassembled my desk top.  The mischief makers behind me regarded me with new respect.  I spent the rest of class balancing the desk with my knees while I charted the progress of a rolling pencil.

Not soon afterward, I spoke to my math teacher, Mr. Tigers. “I know all of this, “ I told him, “From chapter one to seven. Test me.”  He didn’t bother and let me go to the library instead, provided I take scheduled exams. I wound up using my free period to tutor the special ed class he taught.

I relished making learning fun for other people.  Math class bored me  because it was too easy. The kids I tutored found math boring for the opposite reason–it was too hard. This irony escaped me at the time.

In my senior year, I took calculus with Mr. Guam, the wrestling coach. The course took place in a big booming room that felt more like an oversized bathroom stall than a classroom.  The ceiling was twenty feet up and small windows seemed to float in the distance.

Uneasy, for  subtle, incomprehensible reasons,  I drifted away during lectures.   I deemed his instruction style bewildering and disorganized.  Furthermore, his homework and assignments did not correspond to the book, impeding my understanding further. He held homework sessions after wrestling practice, too late for my anxious self to attend.   Coincidentally, his exam questions derived from these very  sessions (the wrestlers did quite well).  I hated his strategy and handed in a nasty note in place of my second exam.  He gave me a D-.

A year later, I re-took calculus at a university. My instructor was an unintelligible foreign professor, yet I aced all my exams. He followed the textbook. The next year I became a popular calculus math tutor.

So what happened to me? Why fail in one class and not another?  I’ve asked myself these questions hundreds of times, because my academic career was so mixed.

I succeeded when I worked alone and followed the book. I failed in a distracting and social environment. It is the story of my life.

So how does one with such a brain raise a chatty, precocious boy with autism?

I doodle (above), bounce on a yoga ball, and get excited about teaching my son math.