Ugh, stutter.

So. I had a ridiculously busy weekend. Busy day today at work, too. Then someone was all, “Can you help Undergrad with Experiments this afternoon and teach him Techniques?”

Sure.

My mouth had other ideas.

I’ve been dealing all afternoon with stutter issues where I have the word, and I know the word, and I just can’t get it out.

Frustrating.

Today, I can make words happen… if I’m not looking at the person I’m speaking to and I talk at about half my normal speed, with… some… very unnatural… pauses… inserted. And, um. Lots of, um. Ums.

Undergrad is nice and understanding about it. Not certain whether he realizes how much of my energy is going towards getting words out today, but he didn’t tell me to spit it out or make fun when I dropped articles because why say “the valve” when saying “valve” is easier and gets the point across and words are like fighting through moleasses today?

(my mouth throws tantrums like a petulant toddler sometimes)

If I get a smartphone or tablet, I might install a text-to-voice system if my stutter plays up again when trying to teach. Because I was concentrating so much on speaking, I made a few oversights that could have been dangerous if he didn’t have the insight to ask me about them. Eeek.

Note to self: Next time coming off a busy weekend with guests and shopping and eating out and also 4 straight nights of <6 hrs sleep, make excuses to avoid teaching duties.

Why Don’t Kids Report Bullying?

Why Don’t Kids Report Bullying?

This post by Evil Autie basically sums up allll the reasons why I didn’t report.

Why report when nothing will happen?

Why report when it will get worse for me if I do?

Why report when I’m the problem?

Why report when chances are, it’ll be me that gets punished?

Yeah. Allllll the reasons.

And every bullied kid I’ve ever talked to in my life? Cites all those reasons, too. We don’t not report because we’re immature or scared or what have you. We don’t report because we know from experience it doesn’t go well.

Plz explain why an engineering building is so badly organized.

So, first I have to rant about the completely nonexistant organization to the engineering building I’ll be attending most of my classes in:

Literally, no organization whatsoever. I am not exaggerating.

On a given floor, you can have a sequence like 11, 39, 38, 40, 79. That’s an actual room number sequence on one of the floors. Or you’re wandering around 9, 10, 11, 44, 33, 21, 7, 8. WTF?!

And that’s only one side of the hall. The other side of the hall usually – but not always – has nothing to do with the side you’re looking at. Occasionally, they decide to alternate the numbering down the hall odds on one side and evens on the other just for fun, so you can’t even depend on that.

Oh, and even though the hall layout remains the same – for the most part – floor-to-floor, they decided it would be a grand idea to change the numbering schemes completely floor to floor. So if you go to a room with location Y on floor X, and then go up a floor but to the exact part of the floor, you’ll be in a room with a completely different room number.

Oh, and then for funsies they decided to give building wings their own floor numbers so you’re walking along floor X and suddenly you’re on floor X+5, but if you were to turn left at that juncture you’d come to floor X+3, and if you turn right, it’s floor X-1. If you go up two floors you come to floor X-3 but up one floor and you go to X+1 and down one floor and you’re on X+2. Another actual numbering scheme that actually exists in that building.

Oh, but they can’t hand out building schematics to new students, oh no. That would be too easy. Better to have us wander around completely lost throughout the entire building and spend 2+ hours looking for a single classroom (I’ve done that twice already this semester). I met someone I recognize from another department who works there now and I just go ask him for directions when I need to go somewhere new since he has copies of the building schematics and can tell me where to go (I will have to figure out where the hell he got those and/or borrow them from him to get copies of my own). And once I know a way to get to a classroom, I only go that way because if I try to find a shortcut, I will get lost because nothing makes sense. It’s like someone who read way the fuck too much Alice in Wonderland designed the place.

When I’m trying to find my way around that building, I’m always completely disoriented and wanting to scream, “WHO THE HECK THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD WAY TO DESIGN THIS BUILDING?!”

I misremembered my class time earlier today (because all my other classes start at half past and in my old program, classes on M/W/F started at half past and classes T/Th started on the hour, so today being Wednesday I thought it started on the half hour… I was wrong) and then when I remembered, I was already five minutes late. So I went sprinting across campus (the lab I work is in a different building from the class) to the classroom. But in the building, I got lost. Then I found the right room, but was a half hour late. I over-apologized (as usual) and spent the rest of the lecture staring at the table in mortification. A guy I met in the summer from an upper year in the program told me not to worry and that there are always newbie latecomers in the first few seminars since the building is such a maze and you can work in it for years and still not know where everything is (no, really, he’s been there for almost three and still doesn’t know where everything is).

So… yes. I don’t like the building. Can you tell?

Dysgraphia is obnoxious.

So I was at class on Friday. Class where prof prohibits laptops, so I have to try to take notes by hand. Half hour in, hand cramp becomes unbearable, so I stop & massage it out.

Prof: Yes?
Me: *continues massaging*
Prof: *points at me* You?
Me: *blink* Huh?
Prof: You have a question?
Me: What? Uh…
Prof: Did you have a question?
Me: Uh, no.
Prof: Oh. You were moving your hand, so I thought you had a question.
Me: No.

After class, I had to go explain to the prof that I get hand cramps and sometimes have to massage them out. Really hope getting my hand-massaging pointed out to the entire class is not going to become a weekly thing. It hurts. Massaging helps stop it hurting.

… And I’m not used to taking notes anymore. My writing endurance is not as good as it used to be. So my hand is still sore. Because it cramped so bad. I don’t know how to spot my warning signs anymore. So I really, really wish prof would let me take notes electronically.Ā 

Or that I’d been able to get a diagnosis as a kid, so I could get my laptop as an accommodation. šŸ˜¦

Gatekeeping

You might not believe this to read my writing today, but I did not receive any education in writing until ninth grade.

None.

I received spelling lessons, sure. And I received handwriting lessons. Everything else was withheld until I could hand write to “grade level.”

Which, since as an adult I still have handwriting that’s messier than that of most third-graders I’ve met, happened never.

I’ve mentioned before about my ninth grade teacher and how she saved my education, but I don’t remember if I ever fully explained the extent to which she saved my education.

Before 9th grade, my grammar knowledge was almost nonexistent. I knew that periods go at the end of sentences and that question marks indicate questions and that exclamation marks indicate an exclamation and that quotation marks go around stuff people said because I read voraciously. Beyond that, nothing. Aside from periods, I didn’t even know what the rest of them were called. Periods, I only knew because I got curious and looked up why people say, “period!” when they’re trying to emphasize something (for you non-North Americans out there, the equivalent is “full stop!” and has the same etymology). I was a ninth grader who would sometimes still spell cat with a K, who put commas in places that made no sense, and who didn’t even know that the colon-like thing with a comma instead of a period at the bottom was called a semicolon. I had no idea how to write an essay or a paragraph. I didn’t even know what an essay was, beyond “written thing longer than a paragraph.” You could’ve handed me a short story and called it an essay and I wouldn’t have known the difference.

Why?

Gatekeeping.

My teachers knew I loved learning. They knew writing gave me a hard time and I hated it. So they came up with the bright idea to “motivate” me to learn how to handwrite by holding hostage the rest of my education in English.Ā I also did calculus and read at university level, and this was used as “proof” of the “fact” that I could have written neatly if I wanted to, so obviously I mustĀ want to spend my days in boredom and pain and occasional physical restraint when it got too much and I refused to scribe further.

So while other kids learned paragraphs and sentence structure, I was sat at the back with handwriting sheets. Reams and reams of them. When my parents got the school to agree to not give me any more handwriting sheets, they instead gave me stuff to copy over and told all the teachers to mark me on handwriting. Same shit, different format. They still gave me the assignments everyone else got, but instead of being given writing, grammar, and composition exercises in class, I was given handwriting work. Instead of listening to the teacher teach on those subjects, I was told to practice more handwriting.

Because I read so much, I had a decent intuitive feel for grammar – I knew when stuff looked wrong versus when it looked right. But I didn’t understand why it looked wrong or right, just that it did. Thus, more obscure or advanced grammar rules (like when you use a semicolon or why you use parentheses) were beyond me. Intuition is no substitute for understanding and knowledge, but they pointed out that since I did okay on the assignments that were handed out, I needed to practice handwriting more than I needed to learn grammar, sentence structure, or composition.

It was getting to the point that my clumsy grammar was affecting my other subjects. In history, a third grade teacher doesn’t care if you splice a comma so long as you get your dates right. In eighth grade, they do. In science, a fourth grade teacher doesn’t care if your short answer doesn’t have proper paragraph format. In seventh, they do. So I was being docked points for not using grammar skills I’d never been taught in the first place.

When my ninth grade teacher arranged for me to type, she also arranged for me to actually get the same work and education as the other kids. Without her, I would not have had a hope in hell of passing my provincial exams in high school, and in turn, I would not have gained admittance to university. I would not know how to formulate an argument. I would not know how to write a paragraph, let alone the thesis I submitted last year. All because I can’t make pretty letters on paper.

Everything I have ever done with writing, I owe to her, and to her firm opposition to scholastic gatekeeping. And for that reason, I get angry when I see people – especially teachers – talk about how kids “can’t” learn Subject Y until they’ve passed Unrelated Milestone X. I I still haven’t passed my Unrelated Milestone, but I think I’m pretty damn good at my Subject Y. Without a teacher willing to look past the dogma of handwriting then spellingĀ then grammar then sentence structure then composition, I would never have learned to write.

One final note: I also learned the rest of it out of order: I grasped sentence structure before spelling, and composition before I understood why grammar was necessary. Order of how stuff is typically taught is not always the order that it must be learned in. Some kids learn differently and need to grasp Milestone X+3 before they’ll get Milestone X, and teachers need to learn to deal with that.

Social anxiety

I have to meet someone new today. Well, technically, xe’s not “new” – I’ve met hir once before. Still, not long enough to figure out hir rules, so new.

And my words are being assholes.

And this meeting is important, because it might be a job.

But it’s a new type of job, one I’m unfamiliar with the rules of.

But I know I can do it. Because it’s basically teaching through writing and I’m good at that because I’ve done it before. My boss gets me to write up user’s manuals since I’ve got a good memory for all the things that gave me trouble when I was just learning how to do something, and when I teach I tend to personalize it so instead of saying, “Don’t do that,” I say, “Don’t do that unless you want to suck fluid into your line and then spend the rest of the day cleaning it out and have to put your experiment on hold and learn how to clean out a Schlenk line… it’s a pain in the bum. So make sure you do this instead, so that doesn’t happen.”

And people learn better when they know why they’re supposed to do stuff. And I explain why, which is why I’m a decent teacher.Ā 

So I know I can do this job. If I can get it. And not get myself screwed over for it. Because Person is a business person and I know xe’s fairly nice but business people are trained to get themselves the best deal possible. And I have to social-negotiate. Eep.

So… anyway. Fairly nervous.

Because I’m scared I’ll mess it up.

Because what people in general don’t get is that I’m not clumsy at social because I’m anxious, I’m anxious because I’m fucking hopeless at meatspace social and through hypervigilance body monitoring and social flow chart following and suchlike, I can make myself look just clumsy.

But right now? I’m down four tools: I have no social flow chart for this, I have no person-specific rules, I have nobody’s lead to follow, and my words are on the fritz.

Halp.

(and don’t tell me to do calming shit because calming shit is bad because I need the extra awareness anxiety brings. It’ll help me pick up on stuff like “Oh, he’s extending his hand, I guess I should shake hands.” Anxiety for me in meatspace social is not maladaptive, even if it is unpleasant)

Ā 

Exhausted.

Asthma flare on a day when I’m busy doing physical lab chores all day.

Exhausted. When asthma’s acting up, walking drains me as much as jogging, and everything is twice as hard, and I was already spending 6 hours hauling around 45lb vacuum pumps with undergrads.

Having a hard time finishing sentences. Part because short of breath so I need to insert pauses. Part because just too tired.

Had to tell partner, who thought I thought he wasn’t paying attention because I was speaking so haltingly, “No, I know you’re paying attention.” Long pause. “It’s just… just thaaaat I’m really tired. So brain is like, ‘No, I don’t feel like giving you words for that.”

And he was all, “Oh.”

When I’m tired, brain decides I don’t need to remember how to say words.

Thankfully, I’m not so exhausted that my brain has decided I don’t need to remember how to write. That happens sometimes. It’s really annoying when it does.

I’m going to rest now.

Accommodating each other

One thing I kind of dislike is how a lot of resources paint workplace accommodations as something the workplace gives 100% in. Which is kind of true but kind of not.

Allow me to explain what I’m talking about: Just because my workplace is asthma accommodating and (I’ve found out over time since they recognized me as autistic before I recognized myself as it) autism accommodating doesn’t mean that they do all the accommodations.

I work with coworkers who have disabilities of their own. Something like 14% of Canadians have disabilities, so it’s not too surprising that I work with a couple who have them. I provide accommodations for dyslexia (I read to a coworker and type for her sometimes) and arthritis (I cart stuff up and down the stairs so my coworker doesn’t have to, do heavy lifting, etc).

So accommodation is less “Them providing 100%” and more “a formal way for everyone to be safe in playing to their strengths.” Proper workplace accommodation is, to me, just an extension of a healthy working environment.

Of maybe and no

My mother has an inability to say no. I don’t know why, but she’ll never say no. Ever. To anyone. She’ll equivocate instead. “Maybe,” or “I’ll think about it,” or “We’ll see.”

My sister figured out that “maybe” meant “no” early. Not me. To me, mom was saying maybe, which was an ambiguous answer. As such, I was always more disappointed when the requested thing never materialized. An explicit “no” to space camp, for example, would have been easier to deal with than months of hope and then it never happening. Because maybe wasn’t no, so I’d hope and hope for it, but it would never happen.

My sister was the one who taught me that “maybe” meant “no” when it came from mom. Mom said maybe to something that my sister had asked for, and my sister complained that she was never allowed to do whatever she’d asked for, in the way that elementary schoolers will when they’re told no. This had happened before, but for some reason, this was the time that I noticed my sister had responded to a maybe as if it was a no. My sister stormed up to her room, and I followed.

“Why did you get mad at Mom?” I asked. “It’s not like she said no.”

“She might not have said no, but that’s what she meant,” my sister huffed. She punctuated her emphasis by throwing a toy. I winced as it hit the wall.

“I don’t get it,” I said. My face was blank. Others would call it my “deer in the headlights” face.

My sister rolled her eyes. “Of course you wouldn’t.”

“How did mom mean no when she said maybe?” I persisted. It felt important somehow, in a way I couldn’t articulate.

My sister rolled her eyes again, as if she thought I was being purposefully obtuse. “Mom never says no. She says maybe instead.”

“Why?!” I exclaimed, outraged. It offended me greatly that one would lie by saying maybe when they meant no. Maybe meant there was some possibility. No was, well, no. You couldn’t argue with no. You could with a maybe. Or so I’d thought. Now that rule had a hole poked in it, and I needed to patch it as soon as possible.

My sister shrugged. “Don’t ask me. I just know she never says no.”

The next day, I asked my mom if I could get a snack. She said maybe. I turned to my father.

“That means no,” I said proudly, showing off my knew knowledge. My father burst into laughter.

Excuse me?” my mother almost-shouted. Her voice stabbed into my eardrums.

I winced and plowed on, oblivious to the danger in my mother’s tone-of-voice – I wouldn’t pick that up for another two years. I replied, quite matter-of-factly, “You don’t say no. You lie and say maybe instead. When you say maybe, it means no.”

My mother stared, speechless for a moment. Her cheeks began to turn red. My father was bent double, clutching at his sides in mirth. Mom smacked him to shut him up.

“But I don’t understand why you lie. If you mean no, why don’t you just say no?” I asked. “Why do you lie about it?”

My mother sent me to my room with a stinging cheek, and I went, at once angry at finding yet another example of my parent’s mantra of, “You know you can ask us anything,” being a lie and puzzled at why it was wrong to point out when an adult was lying. My sister shook her head as I climbed the stairs, a wry grin on her face. “You idiot. What did you do that for?”

“I wanted to know.” I shrugged.

Sister

I did talk about some of the problems with my relationship with my sister, but it wasn’t all bad, so now I’m going to talk about the upsides.

I love my sister, but she’s as extroverted as I’m introverted, and sometimes as a kid, I just needed to get. away. She literally could not grasp that I was getting recharged by reading a book (she always has found reading draining) so if she saw that I was tired or drained, she’d try to get me to do stuff she found relaxing. I think she knew I was about to blow up and was trying to direct me to relaxing things to defuse me, but she didn’t have the emotional maturity yet to realize that what she found relaxing stressed me out.

Once I got old enough to realize that I didn’t have the emotional control to not hit her when she tried grabbing me and pulling me with her to go socialize with her friends when I was that exhausted, I’d sneak off and go hide from her when I needed recharge time. I only realized this past year what she was trying to do – she and I can drive each other up the wall at times, but she’s always been the one most tuned-in to my moods and feelings, and I think it was her way of trying to help me avoid trouble with our parents.

She’d also try to play interference with my parents when she knew I needed a bit of time after school before I had any demands lest I blow up. She’d burst in the door, chattering merrily away about school and her friends and so on in a verbal wall of text while I snuck away to my hiding place before my parents had a chance to tell me to do my homework or clean the dishes.

She was really more of an older sib to me growing up in some things even though I’m actually older – she led the way in social situations and when we were older, she made sure I remembered to eat when parents were away. For my part, I helped her with schoolwork (around when I figured out the magic that is social flow charts in high school, I figured that I could apply my social flow charts to math algorithms she could memorize, and it worked like magic for her because it did the pattern recognition that was giving her trouble. Her problem was never one of not being able to do the computation, it was one of not being able to recognize which computation she should apply and for some reason all the teachers thought it was a problem with not knowing how to do the arithmetic. To this day, when she takes a math course, she calls me up and has me help her with writing the flow chart for it) and taught her how to fidget without the teachers seeing – she had ADHD and so was fidgety like me, but unlike me, she needed to run and jump and so on. When my parents were angry with her, I’d act up to redirect their anger to me. I didn’t mind being grounded – but for her, it was torture to not be allowed to run around and be wild. Me? Oh, I’m grounded? Whatever. I have books.

I started doing that when she started sobbing on the way home because she’d got detention in school that day (more torture, for a kid like her – sit in a desk and don’t move or I’ll make you sit in the desk longer) and usually our parents would ground us if we got in trouble at school. I offered to act up and see if I could get them to forget that they’d been called. That was when it started. Thing is, I didn’t get why she was so upset about getting grounded, but to me, I accepted that my sister was different from me and different things upset her. I didn’t want her to be upset, so I figured I’d take the punishment for her, if I could. Because, to me, oh, I get to stay in my room and not be bothered by anyone for a few days? Awesome!

(Now, I realize that being grounded to her room was as bad for her as writing lessons or being made to sit in my desk with nothing to do or gym class or being forced to eat lunch in the school cafeteria was for me. But for her, it would last days or if she reached a point of can’t-take-it-anymore and broke the grounding, weeks).

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that for all the problems in our relationship, and for all that I will never willingly live with her again, she is my sister, I do love her, and our relationship isn’t all bad.