September 25, 2023

If you’re “twice exceptional” (gifted and disabled) and kids tease you at school, adults might say it’s because the kids are jealous.

I believe that’s hardly ever true. Here’s what I think is happening instead.

Outside school, where stress is likely lower, your gifts stand out more than your struggles. But inside school, or on the playground, your struggles stand out more.

Social struggles often start with behaving in ways that other kids don’t understand – or misunderstand.

If they don’t understand, then it’s hard for them to imagine being you. They might see you as another species of kid, and thus someone to fear or ignore.

If they misunderstand, they might imagine motives that aren’t there. Assuming you’re mean or power-hungry, they act the same way in response – trying to win a game you aren’t even playing.

None of these reactions have anything to do with your talents or the quality of your schoolwork. They have everything to do with other kids struggling to understand.

So I wish adults would shift their default assumption from “kids are just jealous” to “kids are just confused.”

Or better yet, “kids are confused but I’ll help you understand why, so you can help them understand your beautiful brain.”

Or best of all, “kids are confused but that doesn’t make it okay for them to tease you, so let’s discuss what to do about it.”

Which, honestly, is helpful even if it turns out the kids were jealous all along.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.