Spectrum

February 8th 2016

Today is a school night, and for me, it is the only school night of the week. On Mondays I attend an “Advanced Creative Writing” evening class at the local (and my ex-) college. 

On these nights half the class brings in work to be examined and edited and encouraged by the group, this week it was not my turn, so I was a critic not a creative. There’s this one guy in the class, Matthew, who’s maybe a couple years younger than me, and who, I’m sure, would be, or has been, clinically classified as somewhere on the Autistic spectrum. His Dad accompanies him to classes and his mannerisms are typical of someone on the spectrum. 

I’ve encountered people on the spectrum before, I’ve shared classes with some, I’ve sat next to some, I befriended one. Growing up in the public school system integration was important for kids with learning impairments. 

I’m trying to be as PC and non-offensive as I can here, but shall we say that interacting with, and in this case criticising, someone on the spectrum is difficult. 

So when he read his piece, and we commented on it, first positively, and then negatively as we have been instructed to do so for all pieces, he took offence to the latter part of the instruction. 

He wasn’t under the impression that his piece of writing, an excerpt from a fiction novel, was perfect, but he basically denied any criticism, and when he was offered some he talked his way out of it until you, and I, felt embarrassed for bringing it up. 

That’s not a productive way of improving a piece of work. Last week when it was my turn to present, I welcomed criticism because it leads to improvement, that’s why I joined the class. But if you refute comment or construction then there’s not a great deal of point you being there, pal. 

I felt that I shouldn’t treat, or talk to him, any different than I would any of the rest of the class as that would be discriminating against his disability by changing the way I speak to him, I guess? I just passed comment in the way I would’ve to anyone else, and he had a problem with that, as well as to any comments anyone else had to share. 

It was tricky. It should be noted that he’s hyper-intelligent and a decent writer, but it doesn’t make him immune to critique. 

Until tomorrow, it shouldn’t do, at least. 

Jacn

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