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Monday, November 5, 2012

Speaking My Mind

When I was eleven years old, I teamed up with another homeschooled friend to do a creative writing project. The project was to draw a make-believe animal and then write a set of instructions for another student to follow so that she could draw the same picture without having seen the original picture. I loved both writing and making art projects, so I was ready to have fun with this assignment.

I put a lot of effort into my picture, using my ruler and compass. The head of my pretend animal was made by tracing around a Jolly Rancher, so that the head was rectangular with the twisted wrapper sticking out on either side for ears. I could see my friend was working just as diligently on her assignment, though we kept our pictures hidden.

My strong Asperger's traits came to the surface when it was time for us to exchange our sets of instructions and try to draw each other's animals. We were working on opposite ends of the table, and when my friend saw that I was drawing her animal incorrectly, she wanted to explain and show me how to do it. "No, you're not supposed to help me," I objected. "I'm following your directions exactly, but they're not clear enough. I'm just interpreting them differently. That's why we're supposed to practice writing instructions."

So many years later, I can still remember the hurt feelings that showed on my friend's face. I had a definite attitude of having done a better job than she did, and I even commented that my animal was cuter than hers. I can understand now how rude and unkind my comments were, but at the time, what I cared about most was that her drawing turned out looking almost exactly like my original, proving that my instructions had been well-written.

As an Aspie, it was natural for me to act this way, but that didn't make it right. My perfectionism and desire to follow the rules of the assignment to the letter may have helped me get a good grade in this assignment as well as many others. However, I put my friend's feelings at a much lower priority.

I think at that time, I was capable of thinking ahead to how she might feel at being told her project did not turn out as well as mine. But I forgot to think ahead, and just spoke my mind, letting her know that her work did not come up to my perfect standard. I don't know whether I ever apologized to my friend, but I will invite her to read this post, so she will know that I am sorry, and that I learned something from the experience. I learned that pride is not pretty, and although my Asperger's traits may provide an explanation, they are not to be used as an excuse.


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