Cross Trained

Among the things he learned was that trying to leverage peer pressure in the classroom didn’t work with these children, because they were already alienated from their peers. Flattery was equally ineffective, as they were curiously immune to it. What kids like Harro did care passionately about, however, was logic. They had an innate desire — almost a compulsion — to seek out universal laws and objective principles.
The primary motivation for learning in typical children was their emotional (“affective”) identification with the teacher. But autistic children sought learning for its own sake in the course of pursuing their passionate interests. They didn’t care how their teachers felt about them; they just wanted to know the facts.
-- "NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity" by Steve Silberman

Kids on the spectrum grow up feeling challenged because the people around them all think in a normative way, so they try and teach those techniques to their children.

I grew up feeling challenged because my parents thought in a Aspergers way, so they tried to teach those techniques to their children.

When I grew up, there wasn’t the awareness of neurodiversity, as Mr. Silberman explains in his fine book.  To me, the book is rather frustrating because the history is rather frustrating; some people got it, most didn’t, the medicos looked for a cure to make kids normative, lots of hucksters wanted to sell snake oil  cures, all that.

For me, though, I recognize the patterns, not because they are the way my brain works, but because they describe the way I was trained by my parents.

My fifth grade teacher couldn’t imagine how peer pressure wouldn’t stop me, my VP of Sales couldn’t imagine how flattery wouldn’t motivate me, and everyone has been baffled by my quest for universal laws and objective principles, even to this day.

I trained in the school of neurodiversity from my first moments on earth.   That education kept me both an outsider and an autodidact, and it most certainly affected my approach to finding balance as a transperson in a binary obsessed world.  I couldn’t just assert my beliefs, couldn’t surrender to medicalization, and needed to find good understanding to work with.

The best teachers for these children, Asperger observed, were willing to meet the children halfway, instead of insisting that they act like everybody else.
"The teacher must at all costs be calm and collected and must remain in control. He should give his instructions in a cool and objective manner, without being intrusive. A lesson with such a child may look easy and appear to run along in a calm, self-evident manner. It may even seem that the child is simply allowed to get away with everything, any teaching being merely incidental. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, the guidance of these children requires a high degree of effort and concentration."
He put it even more succinctly in a 1953 textbook that has never been translated into English. “In short,” Asperger wrote, “the teacher has to become somehow ‘autistic.’”
-- "NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity" by Steve Silberman

To survive in my family, I had to become somehow ‘autistic.’ I had to be the teacher of my parents, so they first had to teach me to be like them, as hard and as frustrating as that was when it erased the emotional self I did hold.

I had to be able to walk into their world because I knew they weren’t going to walk into mine.

And as to my teachers,  how did they offer a “high degree of effort and concentration” to help a kid whose home life was full of terrors?  Best not dwell, eh?

I know why I have the skills to reflect others, asking the questions that can help move them away from their old habits.   I have been cross trained — across gender, across mindsets, across cultures and more.

Our strength always comes from where we bridge worlds, from the liminal spaces we inhabit.  I had to start learning that very early.