Neuroatypicals find themselves repeatedly a square peg in a round hole especially in academic settings. That is to say the traditional style of education does not quite meet their unique needs. They may never “master” the standard in a classroom. However, they may exceed the standard at a later time through self-teaching or other non-traditional means. This is extremely true in case of learning a new language. I am a classic example of this dichotomy. I still recall having to write a paper on the Aztec civilization for extra credit to barely scrape by in middle school Spanish. In high school, I was a C-D student in Spanish as well. I still recall how once my foreign language requirement was complete, my GPA shot up no longer hindered by this burden. So how is it that I am now fluent in Spanish and even understand the nuanced slang and accents of various countries?
This is the most frustrating aspect of education for folks like myself. It’s like being forced to take the stairs with a heavy load when there is an elevator waiting in front of you. The task at hand is achievable but the outcome will not show our intelligence or ability to learn. Furthermore it will require hard work, more so than our classroom peers.
Having been immersed in a Spanish speaking environment, and also being a huge fan of Netflix’s Narcos, I was able to pick up this new language in a matter of six months. Muy rapidamente. Now once again immersed in another foreign language environment, my unique brain has managed to nail down the basics of Japanese. This is due to my uncanny ability to learn verbally. This extreme aptitude for verbal information is a hallmark of NVLD. Often on my exams my grade would be split, extremely low on the grammar/sentence structure portion but very high on the listening/oral portion of the exam.
Why is this not achievable in a traditional classroom setting? For some reason there is an overemphasis on grammar, sentence structure, and minute irrelevant “proper ways” of writing. For example, when completing my homework, my Mexican family member said “We do not write or speak like that, no one does.” Grammar, sentence structure and conjugation were learned by myself through verbal practice/immersion. This disproportionate gap across the board of academics should be noted and examined by educators as a flag that something more lies beneath the surface for their students. It also demonstrates that it is not the student’s inability to learn or “master” the standard. It is simply the way the information is being delivered. More funding, resources, and understanding is needed to allow neuroatypical students the ability to show their true potential and demonstrate their intelligence. This gap between traditional intelligence and non-traditional intelligence is not just limited to linguistic learning, but endemic of larger problems of the American style of education as a whole.