Learning can sometimes be difficult for people on the spectrum. In this blog, I will explain to you how I learn and process information for the first time.

When I learn a new subject or lesson in college, or anywhere else, I view it as seeing a picture up close right where I press my nose up against it. At first you can only see one part of the picture or just one color. At this point I really can’t see the whole picture. However, when I get a better idea of whatever it is I’m learning, the lens slowly zooms out and I can see a better view of the subject and I understand it more and more. Sometimes the “picture” can be too unpleasant and I just prefer to zoom in so I don’t see the entire picture.

To me, everybody has their own zoom lens, but some people can focus on the big picture faster than others when learning something (that’s if they are willing to learn the topic). It is harder for me to zoom out and get the picture to focus in faster than others because my brain processes information slower than neurotypicals, or autistics that are a little more developed in one area than I am. If I have a little bit of knowledge of the subject, I can focus in on the lesson better. Everyone is different and there are people who get the entire picture faster or slower than certain people. For me, it takes me more time to learn something than my classmates so I have to work harder at it, or just do the best I can.

Radio Control car racing came to me faster because I had watched full scale car racing in real life. I had that competitive instinct already because I learned it from other  car racers on television. If it is a subject that I don’t have much interest in, it is much harder for me to learn and process. I am, however, better at this practice now than I was five to seven years ago or even two years ago. I now ask more questions, both in class and in conversations, to help keep my interest up.This also helps develop the fringes of the picture. I then try to minimize my typical distractions, which are human voices, engine noises, and music. All this helps me to read and concentrate better, too. I’m still figuring it out. So far I’m getting an “A” in Japanese!

Lee Passehl blogs for the Autism Society about his life with autism.