Learning How to Live

As the fall of 2017 comes to a close, I am one step closer to a new degree and one step closer to a new adventure. When I attend these welding sessions, I am reminded of the engineering classes I took in high school. CADD, circuitry, machine tool; in high school they were to highlight of my day. This is why I am a firm believer that shop classes such as these are more valuable than most academic courses. For me, learning with real-world tools was more valuable than learning from books. As started before, I’m a visual learner and a practical learner. If I’m given a history book and asked to memorize what happened between 1677-1754, I’m only going to use that information once and then never use it again. In an industrial arts class however, you wake up and learn something that you will use in the immediate future and you learn how to be self-reliant in the real-world.

If my school had a class for cooking, I wouldn’t need to rely on fast-food for meals. If there was an automotive course, I wouldn’t need to rely on mechanic as much to fix my truck. If there was a ceramics class, then I could create my own dishes instead of relying on a big-box story for my home needs. The list can go on! Plumbing, glasswork, metalwork, carpentry, and even hunting.

Just to clarify; I am NOT a hunter! I have no desire to hunt. I have a deep love for animals. With that being said, even I can see value in hunting classes for kids. Such classes can teach gun safety. How to hunt responsibly. And most importantly, how to respect your kill.

If my children ever ask me to ask me to take them hunting, I would have two conditions. (1) Be safe. (2) Make dinner out of whatever they killed. Hunting should be related to survival, not killing for the sake of killing. A hunter should kill for food, not acquiring ghoulish trophies. If children learn from the being what a hunter should be, then maybe we can begin to eliminate some of the many murderous poachers in the world.

To be independent is a difficult ability to most people, especially if they are on the spectrum. There are plenty of things I don’t know how to do to survive in the real-world. As such I constantly need to refer to my parents anytime something goes wrong because I wasn’t prepared beforehand. The long and short of the matter is I believe school need to care less about memorizing useless trivia and needs to be about teaching skills they can use to be self-reliant.

Rewards Greater Than Gold

School always feels smaller after you graduate.


Looking back at it now, school life back then did look pretty small after you go through college. Elementary, Junior High, Senior High. If I had to describe them now, I would embody them as independent islands. An isolated colony that resides far from my home and the only way to get to these islands was to be ferried by bus.

Year after year. All of my life, I have been obediently following a set schedule and path that has been predetermined for me. Get up. Get on the bus. Complete school objectives. Come home. Homework. Everyday the same thing. Now after what feels like a lifetime of hard work, diligence, homework, jerks, barriers, discoveries, it was finally time to close this chapter in my life.

Graduation. The time of freedom, choices, direction, goodbyes, ambitions, and rewards. What else can I say? I was happy. I have spent my entire life bouncing from one School Island to another. And after four years of High School, there are plenty of rewards to reap.

My first prize was for my diligence and hard work toward my studies was rewarded with a 3.5 GPA average and a prominent place on the School’s Honor Roll for many years.

For my newly polished literary and writing skills, the before mentioned Seniors Writing Guild for the English paper My Eagle Project.

Next was from the National Honors Society and Beta Club. Anyone who participates in these clubs is assigned a set number of service hours to complete before graduation. Being part of the Boy Scouts, I had no trouble finding service hour opportunities. When my requirement was met for both clubs, I was given recognition for my time and services to the communities.

Finally, the Outstanding Seniors Reward. This is a rare prestigious reward for any High School student. Once a year, the mayor of my city would hold a banquet for the most amazing High School seniors from different schools. In 2007, 45 students and their families from 45 different schools were invited to take part. And I was chosen to represent my school that year. I think back to those early years, when so many school officials didn’t think I had what it takes to survive such advanced courses. The head honchos thought that I was too different, too slow, not ready to take on high school or even college level courses. I would have liked to invite them all that night to the banquet, just to show them how wrong they were. All that I needed was a chance to prove myself.

I have had good times, and I have had bad times as well. But I didn’t let the bad things trip me up too badly. I didn’t let up and I didn’t give up my dreams to some little stones on my path.

“Steps to enlightenment brighten the way; but the steps are steep. Take them one at a time.” -Cheshire Cat (American McGee’s Alice)


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.