I have a theory I’d like to propose for your consideration: The more self- and other-aware individuals with ASD are, the more self-critical (often inaccurately self-critical) they are. When they notice their “differences”, any other “differences”, even if meant to help, become Catch-22s.
Example #1: Duncan. Duncan knows he has Asperger’s. He knows he has behaviors that make him look different. He is painfully aware of these behaviors. His teachers have proposed he carry a behavior checklist class to class in his planner. On this sheet are target behaviors. At the end of each class, each teacher “checks” or “minuses” his chart.
Duncan is highly unsatisfied with this chart. He does not want to check-in with teachers at the end of each class — no one else does. He does not want to use part of his precious passing period time to have another person assess his behavior — it’s over. It’s done. A plus or a minus isn’t going to do much at that point. But, there is a small voice in Duncan’s head that remembers those menial pluses and minuses because of the reward. But, again, he hates that reward because this reward makes him different.
Example 2: Cameron. Cameron is like every kid I know on the spectrum. Passing periods are like crossing the river Styx. Sensory overload: too close, too loud, too fast, too smelly, too much, too much. Too far to travel, too little time. Cameron’s teachers offered early release from class — a common, highly useful accommodation. Ask any kid, they’d take it in a heart beat — like a get out of jail early pass. Not Cameron. He’s worried that others will notice when he leaves early. “Where are you going?” they will ask. “You’re special,” they will say.
So, leave class early to more easily traverse the hallways with parting shots from peers but reduced stress, aggravation, and stimulation? Or, withstand class for the horrors of the hallway and — possible — more parting shots from peers when you try to de-stress at the start of your next class?
Example #3: Shea. Shea always has her homework. If you or I were to review her work, we’d say it was done. Well done. Teachers have asked Shea to submit her homework, and she’d say it wasn’t done. But, they could see her homework, sticking out from a book, nestled below her pencils, or hastily crumpled in a folder. She had not finished it her way — to her level of perfection — so she kept it. And got a 0.
These Catch-22s are debilitating, keeping Duncan, Cameron, and Shea in a state of inaction between change and status-quo. Change is good, right? But, what if change makes you more self-aware of what you don’t want to be aware of?