Sometimes the hardest advice is actually the easiest.
One class loomed large in my college course sequence: EN 360 – Advanced English Grammar & Composition. People spoke of it in somber tones, shuddering, recoiling at the mention. Even English majors failed it or barely passed it.
The survivors painted graphic pictures of the coursework: labyrinthine diagramming extremes, freewriting exercises that would cripple your hand, and a gargantuan “annotated bibliography” littered with technical traps and bedeviled details that would papercut the work into failing.
After enough conversations, brave attempts at small talk, researching ahead of time, a colleague gave me the absolute best advice on how to pass and ace the course:
“Just do it exactly how Dr. Chapman shows you to do it.”
This guy had to be kidding. It couldn’t be that easy. It just couldn’t.
Next semester, for the course, I took Dr. Chapman (as recommended), the school’s resident grammatical and compositional authority, a genteel Southern gentleman, rigid-but-kind, proper-yet-warm.
My first assignment drafts? Trash. He wasn’t pleased. Then again, that seemed to be the consensus for all of us.
But as he started to walk us through how we could revise our drafts, I heard that advice clicking into place. Dr. Chapman walked through the assignment, and wrote out the very words, sentences he was hoping to see in our next drafts.
This. This was it.
He wasn’t making a recommendation.
He was showing exactly how to do it. How to rewrite the assignment. The words, the sentences, the sequences.
I wrote them down, word for word. It clicked.
And where the next drafts also suffered for many, they did not suffer for everyone. Because some of us were in on the secret. “He’s telling you exactly how to do it.”
So what does this have to do with The Life Autistic?
We’re telling you exactly what autism is all about.
We’re explaining the why, explaining how we feel, explaining our triggers, elaborating on the challenges of our autistic experience.
If “Understanding and Supporting Autistic People” were a course, you could ace it just by literally listening to autistic people telling you about autism. The more people try to overcomplicate it, to render judgment, to debate the experience, the harder it gets.
But better understanding autism through autistic voice is that easy. It would make your life easy! It would do wonders for us!
Not everyone listens. Not everyone seems convinced that our first-hand narratives are enough to overcome bias or pre-entrenched suppositions or other personal obstacles.
Sometimes it’s easier to believe less than the best, or that something you don’t understand is just “bad,” or that we’re just trying to excuse our faults away. Or that experts about us know more about us and don’t care or see the need to value our voice.
Those are the people who failed courses like Advanced Grammar.
Because it can’t be “that easy” or “that obvious.”
But it is.