‘You can’t POSSIBLY be autistic unless you’re a maths genius!’
Another autism myth is that autistic people are mindbogglingly good at maths.
PLOT TWIST. I am autistic and I am mindbogglingly BAD at maths!
My dislike of maths started in September 1975. From the word go, it confused the hell out of me. Later on, the teachers started talking long division and fractions and my brain would go walkabout and fixate on shiny stuff stuck to the classroom windows. Or shoes.
Algebra. Sounds like a fungal infection doesn’t it? Or the green slime that furs up fish tanks.
I went to college in my twenties and scored high in English, but my maths score was THAT shit, they advised me to enrol in a maths workshop. I declined because the course I was taking was for working with pre-school children, so I had maths covered with my fingers and toes, but it got me thinking (and not for the first time) that maybe I was number dyslexic?
The condition is thought to be related to dyspraxia and dyslexia and occurs in people across the IQ range.
Typically, the signs of Dyscalulia are as follows.
• Confusing the signs: +, -, ÷ and x
• Inability to say which of two numbers is the larger
• Unusual reliance on counting fingers
• Difficulty with everyday tasks ie. checking change and reading clocks
• Inability to comprehend financial planning or budgeting
• Difficulty with times-tables
• Difficulty with conceptualizing time and judging the passing of time
• Problems differentiating between left and right
• Having a poor sense of direction
• Having difficulty estimating the distance of an object
• Inability to grasp mathematical concepts and rules
• Difficulty keeping score during games.
This pretty much describes me. I’d go so far to say that, in absence of a calculator (once I run out of fingers and toes) I’m pretty much fucked. Oh, and I do NOT know (and never have known) my times table.
Teachers have tried (and failed) to make me understand maths. My homework book had so much red ink in it, it looked like something from a crime scene.
I lived in fear of maths in general (double maths started my palpitations off) but especially maths homework. So much so, that I copied my friend’s once. Problem was, ‘Sir’ was so used to me handing in a pile of unintelligible crap that he instantly smelled Rattus norvegicus and instead of ‘See Me’, he wrote: Please bring your book to me in the next lesson to show me how you worked out the answers.
Most maths teachers gave up on me. My ‘inability’ to learn combined with refusal to speak pissed them off – so they invariably left me to it.
One teacher tried more than most. I liked him because he was kind. He tried several ways to try and help me to understand mathematics, but each time I would stare at my paper or manically chew my pen-top. I can see his face now, turning around from the blackboard with a beaming smile, absolutely certain he’d nailed it this time..
Now, do you understand?
He offered to give me lessons after school. As if THAT was going to happen? I think not!
So, he eventually gave up on me too.
This condition affects me in many ways, like driving. I can’t judge distance very well so I end up taking wrong turns. My Sat-Navs most commonly used commands are, ‘When possible do a u-turn‘ and ‘Route recalculation’. I also feel as I am going faster than I actually am. Or slower. Elsewhere, I have poor coordination – which explains why that step-class I took back in the 90s was a monumental embarrassment fest. Oh. The. Shame. *wafts hot cheeks*
Since my autism diagnosis, it’s become clear that I have many co-morbid conditions and I believe Dyscalculia is one of them, but at 48 (almost) is it too late to do anything about it?
I get by. Just. I use a calculator for the basics and for the bigger things, I ask someone else to do it. I’m not stupid, though I have been made to feel as if I am over the years. Someone told me I wasn’t very bright because I left school with no qualifications. That spurred me to go to college as a mature student and I passed my course (Child Care and Education) with merit, but I am undoubtedly impaired when it comes to maths.
Research shows that I am not alone. It is a difficulty that many autistic people have. It’s less common for dyscalculics NOT to have problems with reading and writing, but then I’m special innit?
I scored 86% in an online test, so it’s highly likely that I would get a diagnosis. I was offered support for this when I was diagnosed, so maybe I will take them up on it? I really don’t mind labels if there is some benefit to be had and in this case it would seem there is. If not for learning maths – the explanation for why I can’t do certain things. The latest being my son’s maths homework because it might as well be written in hieroglyphics for all I understand it, but I don’t feel quite so useless now I know there is a reason behind my struggles. It’s called dyscalculia.*
Hopefully this post has put paid to the myth that autism = maths genuis?
Dear maths, I am sick and tired of finding your “X”.
Just accept the fact she’s gone.
Move on, Dude.
* Dyscalculia on WordPress has red squiggly lines underneath it because it thinks it’s a spelling mistake and when you right click on it for options, you get ‘miscalculate’ which is pretty apt, no?