Most NeuroTypicals have little idea about how to work with autistics. They seek to make autistics behave in a compatible manner with their society. Their goal is to manage autistics, not to develop them. Hence, to create their successes, autistics must invent and use unconventional strategies and methods. NeuroTypical strategies usually fit them poorly and NeuroTypicals often lack suitable strategies.
Mass-produced NeuroTypical-designed education is almost certain to turn extraordinary autistic talents into mediocre workers. Unlike the teachers of Waldorf Schools who create their customised syllabus for each class, mainstream teachers simply make their students fit into a mass-produced syllabus. They are also unlikely to go the extra mile to try to bring out the child’s potential.
A young autistic child’s lack of experience and poor executive functioning abilities mean that they are fully dependent upon their caregivers to guide them towards their successes even when they approach adulthood. Caregivers must ask themselves how much effort and resources they want to put into developing their child’s potential, as well as who can help them devise suitable strategies to bring out their child’s potential.
Caregivers who are serious about talent development must employ home-schooling. They should engage autistic autism experts to help design a customised curriculum for their children. They must be prepared to break with convention – such as letting their child specialise deeply in certain areas instead of striving for the well-rounded development profile of NeuroTypical children. [This is simply an example; I am not saying that learning about multiple subjects is a bad idea.]
I went to a mainstream school. No one around me knew at that time about autism, or that I was on the autism spectrum. Few suspected that I may have a problem because I was quiet and well-behaved.
During Upper Primary school, I started reading university science and psychology textbooks borrowed from the public library. All the teachers could say was that I stop reading these and focus on the syllabus, the textbooks of which I found too boring to study. I was even previously denied the chance to represent the school for a science competition just because a classmate scored three points higher than me for a science test; he studied for the test but I did not. It would have been easy to encourage me to learn systematically to obtain a degree, after which I might have a chance to become a professor. But my parents did nothing to develop my interests.
In Secondary school, few classmates owned a computer. My parents had the foresight to buy a computer for me. I mastered the basic functionality by myself within days but they were oblivious to my achievements. They sent me to attend boring basic computer lessons to learn what I already knew. Later, not knowing any better, I simply used my computer to play games. But my parents did nothing to guide me on how to use a computer productively.
I soon also learned to programme by myself and created my own automated Internet Relay Chatting (IRC) bot. I picked up computer repair skills and charged people for my services. When the entire programming team of five Polytechnic graduates quit an Internet start-up, the boss was a client of mine and asked me to fix some problems on their web service. I quickly picked up web programming and cut the website load time from eight seconds to half a second. With some guidance, I could have honed my skills to hacker level and joined a viable dot-com start-up, retiring filthily rich when it gets listed on the stock exchange. But my parents did nothing to launch me in my career.
After I acquired self-consciousness in Secondary 3, I hated school which kept insisting on dumbing me down. The principal refused to let me drop arts and humanities subjects so that I could focus on specialising in science, even when I offered to bet her that I can answer her science questions correctly. The subject teachers could not explain to me why their irrelevant subjects were important, simply telling me to focus on scoring well for my exams. But my parents did nothing to change my school situation.
Frustrated and upset, I purposely neglected my studies and failed A-Maths to punish my school. This cost me the opportunity to study Information Technology (then a highly popular course) in Polytechnic and severely damaged my future career opportunities. This time, my parents did something – they scolded me for being stupid and stubborn. The rest is history.
Caregivers, it is fine if other people do not believe in the potential of autistic people. But if you also do not believe in them, then you have already lost the battle. If you are unsure about how to develop autistic potential, ask someone else for help. Do not make the same mistake as my parents.