Monday, December 2, 2013

Education and Anxiety - Advice

"I would love to know how some people with Asperger's can strive academically and manage a classroom environment/university while others with Asperger's can struggle with even just attending due to anxiety and having to drop out."
- Andrew 

Everyone's different, and so are aspies. Every person with Asperger's has different levels of tolerance when it comes to sensory stimuli and anxiety. For instance, I'm sensitive to bass from speakers while my friend with high-functioning autism has no problem with it (she actually loves loud raves!). How each aspie deals with sensory input at school depends on what affects them. I mention sensory issues because they tend to be a primary source of anxiety for an aspie.

Sensory Solutions
One solution involves preventing unpleasant sensory encounters on a larger scale. Here's a list of steps that might help:
  1.  Figure out your anxiety triggers. Are they connected to certain sensory input or situations? Consider these before making big decisions that might cause you anxiety in the long run.
  2. Look into what school you'd like to attend. Visit the campus and keep an eye out for things that might cause you anxiety, such as the size of the campus or classroom arrangements. 

Okay, let's say you find a school you like, but some unpleasant sensory experiences cannot be avoided. I'd suggest finding what works for you everyday to keep you functioning normally. For instance, I wear orange sunglasses under florescent lights so I won't get brainfog. For those with sensitive hearing, earplugs might help when you have to go places with large crowds or lots of noise.

Thriving Academically
People with Asperger's can struggle academically due to sensory issues, but there can be various other obstacles like learning disabilities or ADD. You're considered an adult at college, so you're expected to accommodate for yourself. So don't let yourself fail... be honest about your needs! There are people who can and will help you. Get in contact with whatever department that provides academic assistance for students with disabilities.

Accommodations that may be available:
  • Tutors
  • Extended time on exams
  • Separate testing environments
  • Use of a computer to type instead of hand-writing notes

These are just a few that I know of, since I myself receive these accommodations. Another helpful resource that I personally make use of is counselling. Whether they're on-campus or off-campus, find a counselor if you feel the need for more guidance, or even just someone to vent to.

Other things you'd have to manage...

Figure out the best way to communicate with your professors. As for me, I'm nervous about talking to professors in person (typically if it's about a difficult problem), so I email them everything I wanted to say before meeting. Tell them about your specific issues to avoid misunderstandings.

Staying organized is critical to success in school. If you're like me, messy backpacks would bug you to no end and can cause a lot of anxiety, but others are okay with messiness somehow... in any case, use folders or binders—or whatever you prefer—to keep your homework neat so you won't lose anything.

It's important to know what's due, when it's due, and how to get it done before it's due. Use whatever is available to keep track of things, preferably something you'd refer to a lot, like a wall calendar, phone calendar, an app, a planner, or a notebook. Break down assignments into smaller steps and record it somewhere so you'd be prepared when you begin those assignments. Whether you use one or multiple resources depends on your preference.

I use my phone's calendar to keep track of due dates and events... little notebook for writing down assignments...
...and the EpicWin app on my iPhone to motivate me to earn virtual "gold" for completing tasks.
One suggestion I always have for planning and managing your workload: make it fun! Think of what you like—certain colors, themes, objects, etc—and make it a part of your planning/organization process.

I like flowers and colors, so I use color-coded paper flowers to represent tasks on my weekly calendar. The yellow "clouds" are my classes. ^_^

I hope this helps!

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