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On Intelligence

Apparently, a common misconception about people with Autism is that they are great with numbers, can spot patterns and are generally more intelligent than a neuro-typical person. Obviously, this is not the truth. Intelligence however you decide to measure it is more than how your brain is wired. It depends on opportunity – be it easy access to the best tutors, best educational systems and best technology, if a person is born in an area of high deprivation, then their focus may be on survival and not on academics. Intelligence is not just exam results. If you have access to the best of everything then the chances of you succeeding is profoundly improved. Furthermore, IQ tests can be culturally exclusive which will lessen the chances of people scoring well. Clubs and Societies such as MENSA and their ilk strike me as snobbish and just as an excuse to show off. Though, admittedly, I am basing this on no research whatsoever.

When I told a friend of mine that I was Aspergic he did say, “but you suck at maths” and I do. But I am good in other areas.

I am more thinking about my own levels of intelligence. I think this can be broken down into four areas of my life: Academic, Social, Emotional and Common Sense.

Firstly, academic intelligence. For me this is a mixed bag. I have a decent GCSEs, A-Levels, degree, a master’s degree and a PGCE in Secondary English. Which, under any sane person’s estimation is pretty good. Yes, more people are completing post-graduate than previously. Whether this is because Universities have lowered their admission standards or people are performing better. I am not sure.

My GCSEs are bang average – I was put in for the foundation papers for most subjects that I sat. This meant I could only achieve a maximum C grade. Which I duly got. In English I was told by my teacher that they thought about putting me on the higher paper but worried about the extra pressure so decided against it. Before the actual exams I found that I couldn’t revise. I would sit and stare at the revision guides that had been bought for me. I could not focus; I could not think. Some of the information must have sunk in and been recalled when necessary.
When I sat the exams, I just wrote down whatever came to me; it was good enough for the maximum that I could get on each paper. Except for my German paper that I just fluffed. Mainly by writing a letter to my German pen pal in English and looking blank when doing the Spoken component. Not ideal.
I did not do well in my A levels, but it allowed me to go to the university I wanted to and that was all I cared about. I had to resit some exams and on one English paper I received 98 out of 100 on the paper. Which, after some help from a private tutor (again access to resources proving key) enabled me to go from an Unclassified to a D. Which while not great is better than no result at all. The fact that I had gone for a primary school teacher course and not gotten it but had received an unconditional offer also helped.

During my under-graduate degree, I was awarded at 2:2. Bang average. I did not put enough work in and would, on more than one occasion, write an essay on the day it was due. This highlights a symptom of autism that I was unaware of. I could focus on an essay for a long period of time and write an essay that got the 2:2. If I would have concentrated more and worked harder could I have done better? Sure. But I have spent too much of my life in regret and it got me to the next stage.

During my master’s degree I set off with the plan to get a Merit. I thought that the classifications available were: Distinction (70+), Merit (60+) and a Pass (50). This was not the case and I fell into the attitude that if could not get a distinction then I might as well just ensure that I didn’t fail. And essentially that’s what I did. Did I work hard enough? Probably not. It didn’t stop me getting the degree.

The over-arching theme could be assessed as one of under-performance and not trying hard enough due to an ability just to get good enough without really trying. This then leads to a few “what if” scenarios. What if I worked harder? What if I proof-read everything? What if I knew about my autism? Would anything have changed? I doubt it. I see other teachers on social media and they are always talking about things they have tried in the classroom or areas of literature they are introducing to their kids. This does make me wonder if I know enough about my subject. Am I clever enough? Other people have commented on my perceived intelligence though that is just their own perception.

Secondly, is what I’ve called social intelligence. That is understanding the world and my role in it. It is also understanding other people. It is similar to what people call the University of Life, which is said mainly by people who are irritated that you went to university. I am certainly not naïve but I don’t fully understand why people act how they do and I frequently act in the wrong way. I can talk to most people, but I do find myself trying to avoid it. I am happy on my own and that has taken some work. When I was younger, I couldn’t spot women flirting, or showing an interest in me. I didn’t know when I was coming on too strong or if there was any interest at all. This meant that I would assume no interest unless it was really bloody obvious.  Added to this I never realised why my friends were, in fact, my friends. It isn’t that I would assume the worst; I just couldn’t understand why people would want to be around me. I always felt on the outside of the groups that I was in. All of this added to saying the most inappropriate things at the worst possible moments all point towards ASD.

They are copious over examples of me messing up in public and most of them have been covered in other blogs. It is just fair to say that if something horrendous can be said then it will be me that says it. If someone needs to be accidentally offended, then I am your man. Non of it is ever malicious and it is all said before I realise what I have said is bad. However, words once said cannot be taken back. They remain said and if they sting then that pain remains.

Thirdly, is emotional intelligence. Simply put that is understanding not only the emotions of others but my own. My wife has semi-jokingly said that I have a total of five and a half emotions. And they are as follows:

  1. Sad
  2. Hungry
    1. Not hungry but I can eat
  3. Excited
  4. Anxious
  5. Happy

As you can see this is not a massive range of feelings. I know that I love my wife and I love my child, but I don’t know if I feel love like other people do. When my son went for surgery, I knew I was worried, I was terrified but inside felt nothing. My wife has been gravely ill and at times I felt calm only to be told that I looked terrified. How can I feel something and not know it? To be aware of your own emotions allows you to say “I am feeling this and as a result I need to do this”. I do not have that process because more often than not, I don’t know what it is I am feeling. I have suffered from mental health problems (as a result of an undiagnosed ASD – quite possibly) and have relied on other people to spot my triggers. Is it an odd form of disassociation from myself and it can cause considerable issues in life. Again, would earlier diagnosis make this more manageable? I do not honestly think that it would.

Finally, I have thought about good old fashion common sense. Which doesn’t seem very common. Hashtag satire. My son went to stay over at his nan’s house this weekend. She asked me to pack his console in his bag. Which it I did. She didn’t say that she wanted me to pack clothes for him which meant that he didn’t have clothes packed for him. I didn’t think: he is staying over and will need a change. I thought she has asked for this and that is what I have provided. They are numerous other examples of me doing things like this. I have messed up at work in the past because I have not understood what someone wants from an instruction and then made an error.

All of the above can be seen as different forms of intelligence and how that is applied to life. I know a lot of useless, random facts and I have the ability to think. This doesn’t come across as well as it could do in an academic setting but it is there. Does this mean I am smarter than average? I don’t know. Does this mean that I would score over a hundred on IQ tests? Again, I don’t know.

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