There was no room for my brain in school. I understood it as early as in second grade, if not before.
“Uneven” intelligence seemed to be a concept impossible for teachers to understand – you could either be a good, bad or average student, which meant that you were good, bad or average in every subject. My teachers and my parents were puzzled: how could I be so hopeless with math while being exceptionally good at reading and writing?
As time went on, it seemed clear to them that I belonged in the “bad students” category. There was no way of making me understand mathematics, subjects like history and geography didn't work either because I found most of the information uninteresting and couldn't remember any of it no matter how many times I read it, and I usually didn't even participate in gym class. The natural conclusion was that I was lazy. Just to make it all even worse, I had trouble concentrating and would often look out the windows or daydream in class, sometimes sat under my desk and refused to come out and didn't respect the teacher's authority. One talent was not enough to compensate for bad behavior and a large number of difficulties, so that one talent was no longer worth mentioning.
Although I moved to another school in fourth grade, it never got better. I was always put in the lower part of the average category, or even seen as stupid. One teacher frequently accused me of cheating until he finally realized that I got perfect results on the English and Swedish tests because I knew all that. Whenever I learn a language, it takes me years before I feel comfortable actually speaking it, which meant that I never read aloud or spoke in class until seventh grade. When asked to, I would start trembling and sweating, saying nothing, so it was believed that I did not know a single word of English. The same teacher even accused me of plagiarism once: “Anna, you copied this. You can't write this well”. By then I was ten and wrote novels, but I didn't match his idea of a good student.
Every time I came to a new class, there was already a “good student”. Someone who was good at everything and would get top grades no matter what, because they had such a reputation of being brilliant that it would be criminal for a teacher to even consider their results. They deserved it, of course, the problem is that nobody could ever be considered to be as good as those perfect students – even in my best subjects, I would get a lower grade than I should have, or I had to struggle three times as hard as others to get a proper grading.
The ideal image of the good student has to die. It is a structural discrimination against children with Asperger's syndrome and a ritual murder of our self-esteem. When I shared this story with aspies online, several responded and said they had the exact same problems in school - a majority of them were women. It's not only destructive for aspies, of course – I have seen several “good girls” suffocate under the pressure of their teachers' and parents' expectations of perfection – but it is an ideal that a majority of aspies can never fit into. We are all at the mercy of our teachers' subjective ideas about whether or not we deserve good grades. The teacher's notion of the individual student's intelligence is rarely based on actual achievements in the subject. It will be influenced by irrelevant things such as other teachers' personal opinions, the student's behavior (sometimes even critical thinking is seen as a bad habit), how well (s)he fits in with his or her classmates and his/her achievements in other subjects. Needless to say, this does not work very well for a quiet child who has trouble adapting to social codes and struggles with some subjects while being exceptionally good in others. Throughout my school years I spent significantly more time trying to prove my worth in my strong subjects than actually learning things. As late as high school, I would have tantrums in class because of the frustration of constantly being seen as an idiot, which of course didn't make things any better. My journey from being the intelligent hyperlectic child to a hopeless school kid was not only painful and frustrating – it was a loss of identity.
A side note (which I feel uncomfortable calling it because it is positioned at the bottom of the entry, not on the side):
The ironic thing is that I'm not actually bad at math. In fact, I am quite good at it, at least on those levels - I just have a (quite AS typical) need to visualize certain types of information in order to understand and use it. My problem was that there was only one acceptable way of doing things, and I was forced to assume that the number seven looks like this: 7. It doesn't. These things: 1, 3, 20 etcetera, are not numbers. They are simply someone else's way of visualizing them. I agree that they are good for communicative purposes – they are standardized symbols for numbers, and therefore good for situations where you have to write down a number for someone else to read and understand. My way of counting is like a game of Tetris (or pentis, hexis, heptis – you get it). Each number is represented by a block consisting of smaller blocks, and they can be put together in certain ways to make new numbers, or divided. Yes, I see them falling, but there is no Russian music to it (it just clicks when one block joins another). The number four is the square, never the L or any of the other possible Tetris shapes, and the same rule applies to the other "number blocks". Of course, drawing little squares on a paper wouldn't get me any points at a test, but I have no problem transcribing it to standard symbols or explaining my calculations step by step. Even so, it wasn't good enough – in school, you are not just given useful tools, you are taught how to think. My answers were correct, but as long as I found them in a way that differed from the expected (and in my mind far more complicated) method, it was no good. I tried to do it they way I was supposed to, got everything wrong and kept struggling without success for the following fourteen years.