Am I on the spectrum?

And I do not mean the old games console or the electromagnetic version.  I know I’m a bit of a crazy creature – and a few things have happened over recent times that have made me query if I actually am on a spectrum of mental disability.

Now, I want to be very careful and considerate in this, as it is a delicate issue for so many.  If I demean it in what I say, or I contract the actual nature of people which such a diagnosis, please accept this as an apology immediately – it is never my intention – my intention here is merely to show us through a path of my thoughts.

So anyway, a few things have happened recently that have got me thinking about this.  One was passing, and didn’t mean anything I am assured, but a certain someone who knows me very well described me as in a conversation as ‘highly-functioning.’  Of course – that is nice to hear, but the fact that this phrase itself had to be used certainly puts me to one side of the general population.  This I should stress is not a bad thing, I am who I am and I love who I am, but I feel all this thought process may help me to understand how best to work with me more.

Through teaching – I’ve actually come into not just more contact, but more awareness of those with special educational needs.  What really struck me is how for some it isn’t obvious, and pupils are treated by myself and peers as complete equals.  Which is nice, but means sometimes we don’t take into account the extra processing some information needs.  I’ve been asked to help experts with classroom observations with understanding special needs of children, and the questions they strike me how made me shiver for a moment.  They are just standard questions about how the children interact, what their work is like, but the correlations are startling when laid next to mine at the same age.  I got different work than others to do, as I preferred working alone because I was frustrated at not getting my point across.  I knew I was different, but I didn’t consider it was special – why would I?

So from this, I investigated one night last week a daft online quiz for autism.  Now the results, saying I was a likely case to be tested for it, isn’t exciting or reliable.  What is more interesting is exactly how this was tested.  One question I distinctly remember was ‘do you notice number plates on cars and find yourself good at remembering them?’  YES!  Yes I do!  I make words up out of them all the time.  But, I thought I was the only one…  Another one, was a question asking if you like or dislike fiction.  I thought I was the only person who hated fiction to the extend I do?  With these specifically me characteristics I thought being so explicitly tested, of course my mind does wander a wee bit.  It should do, shouldn’t it?

And all of this of course is without considering my huge love for data at every level I work in.  It was with huge relief that I checked DEVote for the election statistics in the DSU Elections last month, and that they fell just 0.06% behind my record high for turnout.  My love of the numbers game is certainly one factor in my love of all things Eurovision, it is a dream of information and predictions won or lost as those votes come in every year. My fascination in memorizing maps of the world is different from others I know, and further to that I had an ability (I have since lost a little) as a small boy to know every nation’s flag in the world.  These were just these weird things that I do, and make me love life, but they are indicators of somebody with a special learning need.

One moment is recalled in my head repeatedly about this as well.  I can’t at all remember the subject matter, but on my first day in my sabbatical role I had a meeting with Natalie and Nicky.  We were discussing something about societies and I just said that I couldn’t do something that was suggested.  I remember freezing, and feeling very awkward and then concluding that I just couldn’t do what was being asked.  It must have been a really hard few minutes for the girls and I apologise for it, I just found myself completely unable to compute my thoughts into any rationality, my adrenaline was kicking in and I just wanted to flee out of there.

So my conclusion to all of this is yes, probably, there’s something a little different going on in my head, but I wouldn’t disagree with expert opinion either way.   Either way, I cope pretty good with life.

So I figured, this probably affects my job.  Certainly, I would believe that my social skills, whilst ok, are certainly not natural.  I have a search online to see if I could find examples of people in the teaching profession with a diagnosis of some description.  But I couldn’t.  I would love to read about it, and how it works, and see if it sounds similar or not, but it appears not to exist.  That made me feel a little silly, that maybe I’ve exaggerated everything I’ve felt before.  The social, high paced and unpredictability of teaching is something that would be difficult for many.  However, I have to remember that I seem to have this other side to myself, this performing side I’ve had for years, like a different personality, it isn’t really me I feel like, and it feels like I’ve learnt to cope with standing out, and I’ve learnt to ride out the awkwardness of being centre of attention, rather than a natural thing.  I yearn for it, because I think it can be fun, but again, this makes me ponder just how odd that makes me, and just odd, rather than the way I think being problematic.

My closest peers, in terms of mindset I lean back towards my PGCE, and the fellow trainee physics teachers.  We were all, in our own way, a little bit different, a little quirky.  And I loved it.  I’m glad to have thought about this in depth, but there’s little I can care about with it now, this is just a quirk of mine I am going to have to cope with regardless, there isn’t time in the adult life to wait around with this – I’m paid now to help others to learn rather than learn myself.

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