Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Academia takes it's toll

I suppose, looking back that my blog has been much concerned with the trials and tribulations of being and Aspie in Academia.

I left the relative security of taught courses in further education for the insecurity firstly of a distance education course, and now research, travelling deeper into Terra Incognita with each move.

I know it is difficult enough for most of us at any level of education, either as children or adults. Support did not exist when I was a child and the whole ethos of education was radically different from what it is today (not that either is better than the other they are both as bad)

I was pushed toward University when I was younger, but I was clearly not ready for it, either academically or socially.

Today I am maybe more successful than many of my peers simply because I have all those years of living in the world behind me. In a strange way I never felt fully adult until both my parents were dead.

Nonetheless my particular path is not one I would recommend to any other aspiring Aspie academic, it has been taken of necessity rather than choice, both because of the limited funding available to me, and the choices dictated by my initial lack of the right qualifications. It is also a function of the callous disregard that this government has towards reskilling people of an older generation

For those of us who were not successful the first time round this is devastating news, socially, economically and educationally we are being written off.

For me nothing is certain, I was just about able to pay for my studies last year, and at the moment I have embarked on a long process of research with no certain future so far as funding is concerned.

Research that is not just for it’s own sake but I hope will make a difference to the understanding and conceptualisation of autism as well as having pragmatic applications for the design and delivery of education to my peer group.

It is something, whilst I await ethical approval and all the other bureaucracy, which is taking me deeper into the realms of cognitive neuroscience.

That is the problem with my research, it was bad enough last year having to deal with the lack of structure brought about by a non resident course, now I do not even have the structure of modules and guided learning to comply with. It is not so bad for all researchers, many will find that they simply slot into an already determined research programme, not for me alas.

I do find however that mind mapping software is invaluable, because I can keep my notes all linked within this structure albeit it is getting somewhat re-entrant in the complexity of its loops and links as you can see from the illustration that heads this blog, though in a way that appeals to my mind which seems to revel in multidimensionality. I have already conceived of a vast array of statistical tests I can carry out on my first questionnaire in order to see how many different sub sets I can create from one set of data :) All of that somewhat off topic perhaps.

According to my supervisor I am well ahead of the game, many students not having reached this stage until the second year, but without anything to guide me I actually feel awfully behind.

I have a desperate schedule to keep up as I have already been accepted to present on my Research in September, and before I can even get ahead with writing that paper I have committed myself to writing another of which more anon.

In some peoples eyes this would make me a despised “super aspie” but it has taken me more than forty five years since infants school to get this far, I am way behind Temple Grandin, Stephen Shore and Wendy Lawson as if anyone is counting.


kristina said...

I look forward, very much, to your research. I've wondered about the mind-mapping software that you mention----for the moment, I seem to be able to manage with more "traditional" methods (paper, which is, as always, accumulating). Best wishes from Kristina

Casdok said...

The mind mapping software looks realy interesting.
Am also looking forward to hearing about your research.

laurentius rex said...

The software comes courtesy of the Disabled Students Allowance that I was awarded when I started at Birmingham Uni last September. It was recommended during the assesment.

I was first introduced to the concept of mind mapping during the extra dyslexia tuition I had when I started at a local Further Education College.

I only wanted to pick up some vocational qualifications in Photography and Computer Graphics back then.

Brett said...

Mindmapping is an excellent technique for visual thinkers. It can be done by hand (my notebooks are filled with little mind maps), but there are many good programs out there to make the maps more useful.

Last semester I got Z started using Inspiration to plan out a world history project about Leonardo da Vinci (he got an "A"!). It is easy to use and relatively inexpensive.

What I love about the software, and as you mention, is the ability to visualize the connections between all the various thoughts and idea. I often find connections I didn't realize existed, and never would have found if it were all just written out as an outline.

Good luck with the research.

Anonymous said...

as another accused "super aspie" I look forward, as always, to hearing about the paths you traverse and where you arrive.

Hal (AKA Aspie Dad)

Dave Seidel said...

FreeMind is a very good piece of mind mapping software that is completely free. Requires Java.

Marla said...

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