I have the same professor for two different classes this term. We’ll call him Professor K. He is one of those professors who, if he had taught at UM, would have been held up as an example of “evil commies” brainwashing innocent minds, because he has a special interest in the history of military industrial complexes and war machines, with a special focus on his native Japan. He is also incredibly autistic, setting off my “autdar” five minutes after I met him. This is probably the first time I’ve had a professor who was very obviously autistic, and it’s made me realize certain things about myself and my own style of learning.
I’ve been talking with some other students, and their opinion of him is not unlike that of Percy Weasley towards Albus Dumbledore: “Oh, don’t get me wrong, he’s brilliant, but half the time I don’t know what he’s saying;” “He’s very bright, but the class is difficult for me. I don’t really get how he lectures;” and “My God, he’s all over the place! His mind must be a crazy hurricane!”
I’ve not noticed this, though. Everything he says makes perfect sense to me, and I’m able to understand the lectures and the points he makes with ease. I’ve already done three assignments for his course, and gotten great marks on them, so I know it’s not just me thinking I understand what he’s on about.
Jaime very astutely observed once that the way my mind works “is so logical to you that you don’t need to really explain or think about how you get from Step A to Step Z. You just do, and then you can’t understand why other people can’t see the blatant logic behind it.” Methinks Professor K is the exact same kind of thinker, which is why he and I have such a great rapport, and why his NT students struggle to keep up with some of his lectures and assignments. Without any real verbal one-on-one communication, our minds synced up, and the lectures and assignments came naturally to me, because his way of thinking mirrored my own.
This experience makes me realize just how truly silly it is to claim that autistic people have no empathy and can’t relate to others intuitively. Moments like this one demonstrate how wrong that assumption truly is.
About the Author: Nominatissima is an undergraduate student at the University of Victoria studying history and social justice issues. She is on the autism spectrum, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of fifteen. This post first appeared on her blog, nominatissima, and is reprinted here by permission.