HeadlineThe Autism Spectrum
Headline The Autism Spectrum is in a newspaper article pertaining to people living on the Autism Spectrum . On the front page: USA Today August 29, 2017, USA Snapshots© “New way of learning?” According to the Snapshot, “58% of Americans say they learn more from technology than from people.” And, below that the headline: “Automation is here to stay; personal contact, maybe not” and “As technology leaves out the human element, some worry that we’re ‘walling ourselves off’” as described in this article by Katharine Lackey @katharinelackey also in USA TODAY that same day.
The article talks about new restaurants that are automating services, where only a single attendant stands by for glitches in the system. It describes how people order online and, upon arrival to the restaurant, walk up to a wall of “cubbies” compartments that light up when their food order is ready. The cubicle doors automatically open, customers reach in and retrieve the ordered items. If not done quickly, the attendant is there to help because the doors close automatically. Self-driving cars, 24-hour tellers, online purchases . . .
The Autism Spectrum: My View
For those of us with Living on the Autism Spectrum automation has relieved the anxiety of dealing in person with strangers. Nothing is more stressful than having to deal with customer service people to return an item, ask for a refund or complain about unsatisfactory service. I could go on and on. But, at the end of a day, after dealing with strangers for food, banking, car service, postal services, dry cleaners, I arrive home a total mess. As an ADD-ADHD-Dyslexic Autism Spectrum person we cannot spread these errands out to one each day of the week – that would multiply the anxiety level times the total days out! Add in rush hour traffic and . . .
When we apply the above explanation to millions of people who are dealing with learning differences, we might better understand how easy it is to be overwhelmed by life in general. Consider those with no diagnosis, no family or professional help, coupled with poor housing and/or economic situations — who wouldn’t lose it now and then?
The Autism Spectrum
More than half of Americans say they learn more from technology than from people. Since more than half of the population is no longer in a formal school setting, I think that is a realistic statistic. Thanks to the Internet, yes, it is much easier to research and learn from technology than traipse over to the library. Absolutely. We now have, at our fingertips, any answer we need as long as we know which sites are honest and valid versus those made-up by attention-seekers trolling for your attention. Everything I have learned within the past few months about launching, maintaining and expanding a web presence has been through online research. Who would have the time and energy to go to a classroom or the library to get that much information? I feel more powerful, smarter, and emboldened to do this Blog because of what I have learned from reliable, professional online sources. Instead of wasting valuable gas and time I have been able to devote all my energy on gathering the information I needed.
The Autism Spectrum, A Caveat
There is a big but I need to insert here. Yes, learning on the Internet is wonderful — a virtual candy store of information. I have even heard people say they received their degree from “YouTube University!” What a hoot! However, we with learning differences do not retain what we learn on a screen. Many jobs have required me to train solely on a computer: I can click my way to the correct answers but I am unable to remember anything! If you have ever wondered why you don’t seem to retain what you have just learned on the computer, this could be the reason.
We who learn differently must also write things down. We are visual learners. I once read that Winston Churchill had such a problem remembering facts his assistants had to draw charts for him to follow. Visual learners, and all of us are to some degree, need the mechanical movement of handwriting notes to make that visual-to-brain connection. When trying to remember a lot of text, putting things in bullet points and numbered lists help because we tend to scan written notes. It is also helpful, when reviewing our notes, to underline, highlight and circle important facts.
During my most recent job as a teacher, I spent years training food service professionals from restaurants, hotels, hospitals and entertainment facilities a two-day course on safety and sanitation regulations required by the health department. Students were ages eighteen to fifty-six, some with culinary, bachelor, or associate degrees while others had high school or on-the-job training all in one class. They all had to pass an exam to earn a required sanitation certificate. Being a different learner, I developed a teaching method assuming everyone had some issue. I started each class with a practice test of former exam questions. We then went over every question and answer adding as many tips and helpful “tricks” I knew would help them on the exam. Methodically we went through their textbook, page by page, all fourteen chapters, as they highlighted every pertinent point. We completed all text questions before watching videos on each chapter. Two hours before the exam, I gave them another practice test where we again talked about ways to successfully answer multiple-choice questions. I am sharing this teaching method because, amazingly, the passing rate was always 90% or better for all the students during those ten-years!
The Autism Spectrum, One Last Thought
Yes, once we are out of traditional school settings, technology is our number one instructor. This is a boon to those of us who choose to be lifelong learners. And, most jobs today require us to absorb a lot of information by computer. However, if you are finding computer training does not stay with you, remember to:
- slow down,
- take written notes and
- use them to reinforce what you need to know to do your job.
As far as automating our customer service positions, well, that would be sad. The service industry is the number one employer in the world. Every industry is a service industry: every industry provides us some type of service, either directly or indirectly. Even highly respected doctors, engineers, scientists, lawyers, financial experts are part of the service industry. Even our pets receive a service from us when we feed and care for them! By automating, and therefore removing, the most obvious, lower paid positions in the service industry we would be eliminating incomes of all the people who depend on those jobs. We must think through this with a more holistic approach. And, as always, please leave us a comment.
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Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices.
Do the hardest thing on earth for you.
Act for yourself.
Face the truth.”
Recommended Reading: Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
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