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I'd rather stab my eye than do this... (spoiler: it's group work)

autism behaviours learning styles neurodivergent Aug 13, 2021
I still cringe inside when remembering the moments I heard “Okay everyone, find a partner”, or “So we’re going to get into groups of three”...
Nah, not doin’ it.
I would rather stab myself in the eyeball with a rusty fork than engage in group work.
Group work caused me to lose marks, not get work done and to feel so completely isolated and inadequate at both school and university.
And I had no issues with social engagement typically.
I had plenty of friends.
But being placed into situations I’m not built for highlights my difference in a negative way, and only has me feeling less than.
When you’re the only person in a group setting that feels extraordinarily uncomfortable and unnatural and you have to work double-time to mask, it’s never a positive experience.
I work best alone.
I’m a monologuer, a sole thinker and a doer.
Adults, knowing and accepting a neurodivergent child in the classroom is important to be able to get the best from us.
Enforcing social constructs inside the classroom that works for others and not autistic students is discriminatory.
Sure, not all autistic people will hate group work.
But here’s the thing...
I can only work on one skill at a time.
If you place me in a group, I’ll either focus on my work and neglect the fact that others are a part of the group and my need for controlling and taking charge will be present, or I’ll drop back and not do my best work.
I have to drop back and not be an active part of the group because my autonomy and control is severely compromised and my anxiety is escalated.
In order to manage my anxiety, I need to become quiet and withdrawn or escape into another place in my imagination.
This is how I regulate.
OR my focus will be on the group. The social aspects. How everyone’s feeling, what their faces look like, what vibe they’re giving off.
Studying, guessing, analysing non-autistic social interaction and working styles that are organically NOT my WAY.
I can’t do my best work, focus on academia AND the social construct of a group.
It’s just too overwhelming.
If the goal is socially based, then focus on that. But don’t make me work with other people if you want me to like them. 😆😆😆
And please, avoid bundling academic and social goals together.
I am autistic. I’ll never not be autistic.
As an educator, without knowing I was autistic, I intuitively understood this when my students would come to me in private moments and beg to work alone.
I can now identify easily that they were also unidentified autistic.
I always permitted whatever was most comfortable and accessible for my students to continue to want to learn and to do their best.
Work outside? Sure. Sit on the floor? Absolutely. Listen to music? Of course. Eat? As long as you share with me. Do laps of the oval? No worries. Stand on your head? Ahuh. Didn’t get the work done? No probs, you’ll work that out.
That’s what individualised learning and understanding and acknowledgement of learning styles are, after all, all about, are they not?
- KF

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