High School was home of many changes. Not just growing taller or fighting acne. It was also the chance to grow into a new person.
I have mentioned before that Math was one of my favorite classes. That was because there was rhythm and reason. However, during my third year, my regimen of mathematics of any sort began to lose interest with each passing day. My only strength in my career as a student had become a subject of weakness. To make matters more odd for me, was my sudden improvement in my English classes.
I have also mentioned that English class was one of my weaker classes. Spelling didn’t make sense to me, and that is still true. English didn’t just confine itself to spelling out words and putting them in the right order. In High School, it now meant to write papers. English Papers: The talent of transcribing ideas, information, feelings through paper and ink. To me, writing a paper involved typing down my feeling about a subject blindly and then have my Mom comb out the mess into a passable paper. Writing a proper paper myself seemed an impossible task.
In one particular English class in my third year, the students were required to write a daily journal entry with a specific topic in mind. With my laptop handy, I wrote my daily requirement and handed my entry. When the English teacher would finally pass back our graded journals, I would always be enamored by the results. The teacher at the time continuously complimented that my journal entries were the best in the class. Here are some examples of my early handiwork:
Thankfully my literary skills have improved significantly since then in form, style, and purpose.
Naturally I was flattered by the teacher’s comments, and I was not ungrateful. Yet here I am; the autistic student, with the worst spelling and literary skills in the world and using a laptop like his life depended on it, is excelling in an English class with literary doodles. “How did this happen?” I would ask myself. “When did start having trouble in Math and start improving in English?” Unfortunately, I had little time to reflect on this new development. With a combination of after school clubs, homework, and tests to study for, I had enough on my plate to worry about and would have to ponder this mystery at another time.
Ever since those journal entries, my literary aptitude had developed. With each project paper I was assigned from any of my classes, my abilities to transcribe thoughts to paper improved slowly but surely. However, truth be told, I was not born a scribe, and my new abilities did not come to me overnight. I required some sufficient coaching to make full use of this method of communication and to achieve the desired passing grade.
To be properly coached on how to write a project paper, my parents decided to take the strengths vs. weakness approach. Back then I had a hard time learning how to create a project paper the traditional way, but I did know how to build things like models or Legos. So my parents restructured the basics of creating a project paper into a construction blocks-like premise. Like so:
In essence, I built papers. I understood building. Papers consisted of parts and my job was to find the parts and put them together. In addition, my parents and I set up an agreement with my current teachers. The agreement was that once I was assigned a paper project I would:
1) Immediately set to work on the paper and build a working rough draft
2) Take the rough draft to the teacher WEEKS before the due date, have the teacher look over the contents, and provide constructive feedback on how to improve for the new version
3) Repeat steps 1 and 2 until paper was at satisfactory status
This technique helped me build my literary repertoire for future project papers, build better language compositions, and helped build respect with my teachers. This is one of my favorite pieces during high school. It depicts the events of my Boy Scout Eagle Project in 2004:
I became very proud of my literacy accomplishments. Before I knew it, I started to take a liking to project papers and to express my opinions and knowledge through my new skill. At first, I only wrote the papers so well so to make a good grade for the respective class. But eventually I found that writing these papers was an effective conduit to express my true thoughts and feelings on any subject. By writing these papers, I could communicate to the world and express my true self that would be otherwise confined by my lack of social grace and hindered vocal aptitude.
No one was more surprised than I when I entered “My Eagle Project” in the Seniors Writing Guild. A school wide contest for the Senior class to judge who has the best English paper in the school. There are only three winners per senior class and my project paper was one of them. Image my surprise. I started out by struggling with spelling and now I was writing prize winning papers.
And that’s how I realized that I was not just a man of rhyme and reason. I can be fluid, changeable — capable of evolving so to speak. Time changes everything.