Complex Math Is “Easy” but Tying Shoes Is “Hard”??

A complex math equation on a blackboard next to an image of an untied boot with text that reads, "Complex math is "easy", but tying shoes is "hard"??"

“You’re so good at X! How can you possibly have trouble with Y?”

If an autistic person had a quarter for every time we heard this question or one like it, we’d probably all be quite wealthy!

Some of us excel at what would be called “hard” things, but we struggle with what would be considered “easy” things, and this can cause doubt in the minds of those who don’t understand how the ND mind works.

It can also cause abusers and bullies to be meaner than usual to ND people.

One example for me is that I can create characters with full backstories in 5 minutes, but I can’t do even the simplest math problem without a calculator.

Other “simple” things I can’t do:

Open baby gates.

Tie my shoes without doing “bunny ears”.

Parallel park.

Give directions to a place I’ve been hundreds of times.

Remember names or birthdays.

Play card games without someone explaining the rules over and over and helping me throughout the entire game.

Solve even basic puzzles.

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The best way to improve communication with your autistic loved one is to understand how your autistic loved one’s mind works! Intentions, motivations, and personal expressions (facial expressions or lack thereof, body language, etc.), are often quite different in autistic people than they are in neurotypical people.

Experience a better understanding of your autistic loved one by reading books about life from an autistic perspective as well as stories that feature autistic characters. You’ll have so many “Ah ha!” moments and start seeing your autistic loved one in a different light (and you’ll have a better understanding of their behaviors, which you may have been misinterpreting up until now).

Books I recommend for a better understanding of your autistic loved one:



Now, you may think the reason I avoid telling people I struggle with these things is to avoid embarrassing myself.

That’s like, 10% of it. What REALLY bothers me is that, one, either someone won’t believe me…or worse…FAR worse, someone will say, “That’s easy” and try to teach me.

I can’t even explain the terror I feel when people try to teach me something I know I can’t learn, even if they mean well. I will disassociate so fast, I’ll practically give my body whiplash trying to escape from it.

– Jaime A. Heidel

Why? Because whenever (with very few exceptions) someone has tried to teach me these “simple things”, they have inevitably become frustrated with my still not getting it, and it becomes a VERY traumatizing experience for me.

This is why I won’t even attempt to let anyone try to teach me anything unless I trust them with my life.

If your autistic loved one seems to struggle with what you would deem as “easy”, it may not be for them. They are not making it up or trying to get of doing a task. They just don’t understand, and that’s OK.

If it’s something that you feel they need to learn for their survival or independence, try this teaching technique called “Scaffolding”.

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2 Responses

  1. Kris Erskine says:

    I’m so glad I found you. Your stories sound like every day around here!

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