Rounders – the perspective of a 7-year-old with Asperger Syndrome

When I first started this blog, I asked:

Do I take you for a ride inside my mind, with all the odd twists and turns it takes? How uncomfortable would that be? Would it alienate readers who are not on the autistic spectrum? Or do I try to translate myself into language that is easy for people who are not on the spectrum to identify with?

I’ve tended to do a bit of both. I think that now, as an adult, with so much awareness, I’ve learnt to automatically translate myself into NT language.

But today I’ve written something pretty much in Asperger language – it’s a childhood memory, of which I was reminded today, and it occurred to me that it might be useful to write here, to show the Asperger perspective in a situation where people simply don’t ‘get it’ (and where I quite genuinely didn’t ‘get it’ either). Hope it’s not too alienating…

I am seven years old and at school. Mostly school means sitting at a desk and copying things from the whiteboard, which I can’t see very well, so sometimes I write things down wrong. I am slow at writing, so the words get rubbed off before I’ve written them all down, so then I get confused and lost, and I draw pictures instead. Our teacher is a man with a bald head, and when people say ‘That’s not fair’, he says ‘Life’s not fair’. He once hit a boy on the head with a Bible, which means he is a bad man, but he is never bad to me. I don’t think he knows who I am. He never notices that I’m confused and not writing what’s on the board. He only likes to talk to the boys – the clever boys who are good at maths, and have finished all the maths questions from the board, so he thinks of harder maths things to teach them, and they boast about who finishes first.

There is another teacher, who is a woman, an angry ugly woman with a hard face who looks like a bulldog. She likes to make fun of me. She makes us go outside, and it is often cold and always confusing, because I never know what we will have to do, even when she tells us. Often she chooses two people to choose everyone else, in turn. No one wants to choose me but eventually they have to because they run out of people. I don’t want to be chosen. I don’t like this game. It makes no sense. Everyone wants to be on the batter team, but I like to be on the fielder team, because then you get to just stand there and do nothing. Well, you are supposed to do something with the ball sometimes, but I don’t know what.

Being a batter makes me scared because someone throws a ball at me and I have to hit it with a heavy long piece of wood called a bat, but although I move the wood towards the ball, the ball just goes past it. This is called a miss, and people get annoyed with me for missing and they think I’m stupid. I’m supposed to hit the ball, but I can’t. I try, but it doesn’t happen. I can’t see where the ball is going, because it goes too fast, and I don’t have time to make the bat go to the exact place where the ball is going at just the right time. Other people can do it, but I don’t know how.

When I’ve missed the ball three times, I have to run. This is confusing. There are people standing by bits of wood sticking out of the ground, and I have to run to them and hit the wood with my bat. There are rules about running to different bits of wood and then stopping. If you keep running when you’re supposed to have stopped, that’s bad. If you miss the ball, you just run to the first one, which is easy, but the next person after me might hit the ball with the bat and might run to lots of wooden posts, and then I have to run too, but I don’t know when to stop. If I do it wrong, people shout at me. If the person behind me runs fast, I have to run fast, and I am not a fast runner, and I get scared because it’s like I’m being chased and people shout at me to run faster.

So I like being a fielder. Well, I don’t like it, but it’s better than being a batter. I don’t stand by a piece of wood in the ground. I stand far away in the field (that’s why it’s called a fielder). They make me stand far away, because then I don’t have to do anything, and then I can’t get it wrong and make them lose points. They all want to win, and they get upset if they don’t win. If I do things wrong, they won’t win. It doesn’t make any difference, though, who wins, because then we all go back and get changed and have to go back into the classroom and sit at our desks again and write things from the board. It is the same if you won or if you lost.

Sometimes, if you are a fielder, even if you are far away, you might have to do something with a ball. The angry bulldog teacher tells us that just because we are fielders, that doesn’t mean we always do nothing. The ball might come to us. This is confusing and I always hope that I will not have to do anything.

One day, I am a fielder, and the ball lands near me. I don’t care about the ball, and I don’t know what to do with it, but everyone else cares and everyone else knows what to do with it, so I let them get it. But they run around looking and they can’t find it. I don’t know why they can’t find it – I know exactly where it is, hidden there in the grass but you can see it in between the blades of grass. Why aren’t they finding it? They run around and look and shout. Sometimes they think they find it but they don’t. They say it’s lost. Then someone says to me, ‘Did you see it?’

‘Yes.’ I point to it. ‘It’s there.’ I am pleased to share my knowledge and do something useful in the game. They will be happy now, to know where it is, and that it isn’t lost.

People look at me and shout at me. They shout at me, angry, because I was standing there and I knew where it was and I didn’t tell them and I didn’t pick it up. They tell me this was wrong and bad. They ask why I was standing there. Because I am a fielder and fielders stand there. They ask why I didn’t tell them the ball was there. But I did tell them. They ask why didn’t I tell them before when I could see they were looking for it. Because they didn’t ask. I thought they would find it. They tell me I should have thrown the ball. That I should have picked it up and thrown it as hard as I could. I didn’t know that. Next time pick it up and throw it hard, they say. Well, some of them say that. Others mutter ‘Idiot!’

A few weeks later, I am a fielder again. The ball lands near me. This time I know what to do. I pick it up and throw it very hard. I don’t care about the ball, but I want to do the right thing, and I don’t want to be shouted at. I am pleased that I know what to do now.

People are shouting at me again. I don’t know why. I threw the ball. What were you doing, they ask. I was throwing the ball. I’m supposed to throw the ball. The ugly teacher says to me in her hard voice, making fun of me: ‘Where did you think were you throwing the ball to?’

‘I don’t know,’ I say. I was throwing it. How could I know where it was going to go?

Now people are telling me where I should have thrown it. It makes no sense to me. It’s about the pieces of wood in the ground. This piece of wood? I ask. Or that one? No, it will be different each time. It is about the person running.

This is too complicated. I don’t understand.

Next time the ball lands in the grass near me, I ignore it. I won’t help them this time. It’s a silly game.

 

It’s odd – obviously now as an adult it makes more sense to me, but I can clearly remember the confusion I felt. And even though I now understand intellectually, I still can’t understand emotionally the enthusiasm people feel about hitting a ball and running around, or why people get so emotional about winning or losing when there are no rewards.

Anyway, I also wanted to say I’m aware I haven’t updated this blog in a long time. I am very busy with college, and find multitasking hard, and so at the moment updates are infrequent. I hope to make them more frequent when I am less busy.

Advertisements

14 Comments

  1. Oh I was so sad reading this….i was imagining my son in your shoes as he is 7 at the moment.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us…..the insights that you have provided are wonderful though I’m sure painful for you to remember…..It must have been so overwhelming, confusing and emotional to remember the 7 yr old you ….but thank you for sharing.

    I would visit your amazing blog more often but I often forget to….can you put a subscribe button on here? I πŸ™‚

  2. I had similar experiences at school. I could never understand what I was supposed to do. I could manage being goalkeeper in lacrosse and playing singles tennis. But things like netball and cricket, or being in the field in lacrossse were a complete mystery. My first memory of these games was a very small child, maybe about five, taken to Brownies and told to play rounders. I was standing on the pitch and everyone was shouting at me. I burst into tears and ran off. That was the end of Brownies for me.

    I could never understand how all the other children knew what to do. Still don’t. I avoid these sort of activities as far as possible.

  3. Something funny (to me, anyway): I was and am like you when it comes to things like baseball or basketball. No idea what I’m doing or supposed to do and zero interest or understanding why people care about something with no reward other than winning.

    BUT

    Games of trivia or knowledge? I’m all over them! I think I must feel about things like integration bees and games of Trivial Pursuit the way other people feel about playing football. And, of course, other people are completely baffled as to what I see in a competition of calculus with no reward. “You WANT to do math? For fun? With no prize? What’s wrong with you?”

  4. I may have just had an epiphany! I came across your writings while researching Asperger’s. You see, my daughter is being evaluated for it because she has so much trouble with people and school, we have to homeschool it is so bad. I was exactly like her as a child and desperately wanted to be homeschooled because I didn’t understand other children or the ridiculous social rules that were intangible and fluid. She doesn’t either. My point is, your perspective of baseball is much like my perspective of basketball and volleyball was. I got yelled at often because I didn’t understand what to do, and didn’t want anything to do with the ball. I only liked the running part, and was faster than the other children. I thought that was the point, to be faster, but it was not. I was unable to play baseball because I couldn’t hit the ball and did not like people throwing balls at me, because I was not well liked and the pitcher would often actually aim for ME. The only sport I ever enjoyed was track, as a distance runner. I knew what to do then. When I did the big checklist for my daughter’s pediatrician, I noticed I have the same difficulties she does, except she can make eye contact and I rarely do. I hate it, and I can’t explain why. Her father has another child who is her half-brother that is severely autistic, which is why everyone suspects her father passed the gene to her, but I wonder if it came from me? Maybe I have Asperger’s. It would explain, oh, everything I’ve ever done weird. Which is basically everything. People think I am rude or lying because I tell them the logical truth. I took something called “Aspie Quiz” after reading your post, and scored a 42. Nearly all the chart was on the Asperger’s side, and very little on the neurotypical. I may finally have an answer why I don’t “fit”. Now I just hope I can use it to help my little girl so she never endures the horrors I did in school. No child deserves that. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  5. Your story sounds very close to my experiences in elementary school. I feel better knowing that others with AS are just as clueless about sports. I was diagnosed just a few months ago (I am 27, will be 28 in about a month). I usually became distracted by either patterns on the floor or plants on the field. Sometimes I even got hit by the ball because I wouldn’t be paying attention. Even now, sports don’t hold any interest for me, but as other posters have noted, trivia was and will always be my special interest.

  6. Interesting!

    I… sort of understood sports at school. They explained the rules to us, at least, so we knew what to do. And I played soccer for one *miserable* summer at age… 6 or 7, I think. Pretty sure I was 7. (Note that the summer was miserable because it was hot – which I had trouble tolerating even then – and I could *not* play soccer. Period.)

    So, soccer was miserable. Baseball was even more miserable – I could never hit the ball, or catch it, or anything. (And I don’t get what’s so great about sports – honestly, for people not playing, why are they so interested? Except the equestrian events. And that’s about the horses.) Volleyball, likewise. Field hockey, likewise. All I ended up doing was standing there, watching other people play, and hoping like hell that the ball never came near me, because then I’d have to do something, and I knew I’d fail. The same with Frisbees. Or *anything* that gets thrown. Which, when people try to toss something at me at lunch, or invite me to play with them, gets *really* embarrassing.

    Imagine my surprise this past summer when I discovered that, hey, *most* people with ASD can’t catch balls (or other thrown items)! It’s part of our problems with the proprioceptive system; we might know where the ball is going, but we don’t have a good enough sense of our body and control over our body to actually *catch* it. Which means that it’s *not* abnormal. It’s just that I’m an Aspie, and that’s *normal* for us. Caused a huge sigh of relief. Suddenly all those failures at sports and missed catches and embarrassment was *not my fault*. It’s the way my brain and body work. There’s no one to blame for that.

    Anyway, yeah. I don’t *think* I had it as confusing as you did at that time – my teachers tended to be pretty good at instructions, as I recall, and as an intelligent (gifted, even) student, I got away with a lot. (Which I really shouldn’t have; I suspect I would have done better later on in school if they’d been stricter with me. Though I would have hated it, which might have contributed to further psychosomatic issues… anyway.) I think. My memory for my childhood is rather vague, and I recall more generalities than specifics.

    But it’s easy for me to see how you were thinking. It’s easy for me to put myself in your shoes. Which tells me that I’ve experienced that kind of thing before… only not necessarily at that age. *nods thoughtfully* I think it was usually when I had projects, with no clearly defined result wanted – at least, not one I understood as clearly defined.

    Well, basically, what I’m trying to say through this, is this was an excellent post, and I think you got the point you were trying to make across. (I hope you did!)

    πŸ˜‰ tagAught

  7. This was exactly how my brain worked at 7… Happy memories when you are just a child and people just write you off as being a kid. Now I really understand how different I am to other people, it makes me feel a bit alone.
    This was reassuring, because i don’t feel as alone. You know, that clichΓ© “you’re not alone” when you actually realise it has a huge effect on you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s