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Higher Education for Mentally Handicapped? 86

Anonymous Coward asks: "I am an autistic high-schooler, who is currently in special education. I am very bright, but I lack the ability to do even very basic math. I am interested in Technology and Computers very much, but after looking at the requirements for a computer science major, there is no way I can do all that. What options, other than college, are available for a good education?"
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Higher Education for Mentally Handicapped?

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  • Get a book. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shfted! ( 600189 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @06:18AM (#9181351) Journal
    No one says you need higher education to learn what you wish. The best education you will get is an education you are interested. Stay focused on what you wish to learn, find away that you can learn it, and you'll get there. Remember that some of the greatest minds had trouble with simple math. If you're looking for employment in a field, start or get involved in an open source projet, and let your results speak for themselves. Don't be fooled by the elitist attitude that post secondary education is your only option.
    • Re:Get a book. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Councilor Hart ( 673770 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @06:49AM (#9181470)
      Don't be fooled by the elitist attitude that post secondary education is your only option.
      No, it isn't. But it sure opens a lot of doors a lot easier.
      The annoying part is that I expect them - on the day that I graduate - to say:
      "Here is your diploma/degree, Now you can start learning the things you need to know, and should be able to do."
      The horrible part is, that I tend to agree with that. But I sure want that piece of paper. It's a ticket in, and for some things the only ticket there is.

      Oh, if you really like to do something. Of if you want to make a profession out of your hobby. Then don't. After 4 years of learning, most people end up either disliking or hating the thing they loved to do.
      • Re:Get a book. (Score:2, Interesting)

        by shfted! ( 600189 )

        Oh, if you really like to do something. Of if you want to make a profession out of your hobby. Then don't. After 4 years of learning, most people end up either disliking or hating the thing they loved to do.

        I know that story too well. I really loved comp sci. Even after just two years, I hate it. I'm leaving university after three years of undergrad. It's just not fun any more. I must find new challenges.

        • Re:Get a book. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by KDan ( 90353 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @08:28AM (#9181959) Homepage
          And that's exactly why a (real) degree in any subject is worth something on your CV. Because some people just can't stick with one thing for even 4 years - so how can you expect them to stick with one career for 10+ years?

          • What a load of crap. How many jobs are available for 10 years. The expectation is that you, the *lowly worker* should show how much you will sacrifice for your employer. Then, when they've paid you the bare minimum that they can get away with, they lay you off and hire a cheaper workforce overseas.

            Sure people want to know you'll stick with something for 10 years, but the likelyhood that the employer will live up the THEIR end of the bargain (by promising you employment for 10 years) is next to nil... they
            • Re:Get a book. (Score:1, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward
              What a load of crap. How many jobs are available for 10 years....

              That's not the point. We're talking about what employers want, not whether it's fair for them to expect it. They simple fact of the matters is that they do want someone they can count on sticking it out indefinitely (i.e. until the employer no longer has a use for him). Whining that it's unfair may be gratifying, but it's not very helpful advice.

          • A most valid point. If I were an employer, that's probably the second reason why I'd look for a degree (the first being qualification, of course).
          • Re:Get a book. (Score:2, Insightful)

            by daveb ( 4522 )
            maybe your work culture is different to mine - I think I only know two IT people that have been in the same job for 10 years ... and we suspect theyr'e a bit lazy to advance their career. From what I've seen it's the indentured slaves ^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h umm loyal unskilled workers that stay in jobs for life
      • Many people in the IT industry have made a profession out of their hobby (myself included). In my experience, people with geek tendencies often find an IT course and career quite rewarding. Every decision like this is a bit of a lottery, so you might have to try something out and see how like it.

    • You should look into your local community college. The one here has certificate programs in a variety of programming topics. These aren't actual degrees so you don't have to jump through all the general education hoops but you still get a piece of paper from an accredited school that says you know something about the subject.
    • Higher education makes a world of difference. I wish I knew some way to get this to that guy... Some way to get the "learn how to think". Anyway, in some points, you're not that wrong. Programming is about math, but is about language, too. And intuition. I have an interesting project that will need some hands, I'll try to keep him posted.
      • Higher education does make a world of difference, but I wanted to stress that it isn't necessary. Higher education provides a basic foundation in a given field -- which is good both to the student to save time, and to an employer, to know the student should have a basic grounding -- though it's not impossible to learn a basic grounding on one's own, if a strong desire is there.
      • who is "that guy"? If you are referring to the story submitter it appears that Anonymous Coward asks: is a mail to link to his email address ""

      • Some way to get the "learn how to think"

        In my experience the number of times someone uses the "learn how to think" argument is inversely proportional to the value of the material they are peddling. For example, at Ohio State, it's not uncommon for a Computer Science undergrad to take 30 credit hours worth of math in a 200 credit hour program.

        After having worked for a few years as a developer, I can safely say that virtually all of the material in those math classes was of no direct utility in my occ
        • OTOH (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hummassa ( 157160 )
          I use calculus all the time. And for the last 2 years I've been an business app developer. But I still integrate and take derivatives when I have to estimate how the size of an Oracle table will influence the time a query will take to run. And to calculate short paths when the crappy oracle7 won't optimize something. And a lot of other stuff.
          Before that, even more so, because I worked in a geoprocessing program... that calculated loads in the electrical plant of a whole state (yeah, 12 million people). Glob
  • Tech schools (Score:4, Informative)

    by john_is_war ( 310751 ) <> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @06:42AM (#9181431)
    There's the option of possibly using a technical school. They tend to be a little bit more hands on so you could probably find a certain path you could take which accomodates your needs.

    Another option would be finding a college that has a "Built your own majors" or whatever they're called. Plenty of schools have them, just check around. That way you could just work with your guidance counselor to create a course structure that shys away from what you have difficulty doing.
    • Re:Tech schools (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Glonoinha ( 587375 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:03AM (#9183669) Journal
      I think you are going the right direction here. Software engineering as taught under the department of engineering in a university is heavily math based, and thus not aligined with the OP's skillset.

      OP: you already 'do computers' to some extent - have someone work with you to understand exactly where your interests are and then decide how to better develop them. Writing web page / scripting languages like HTML with ASP or JSP, talking to a database back end is something that can be done with little or no math - it is more along the lines of text and image processing, with simple addition being the most intense math. Network administration and doing in-house hardware / software maintenance is something that can be done with very little math. Installing wifi networks (including setting up the encryption) or regular router / firewalls, plus removing virus / worms at the small business / home consumer level can be done with very little math and given the rampage Sasser went on, both are in high need.

      Your strength, as someone that has acknowledged his Autism, is your ability to reliably repeat a known working ritual or set of steps to a given goal. With a proper and complete set of instructions, you can recreate the procedure with good results. This is pretty much what 'computer stuff' is all about at certain levels.

      That said, I have two comments.
      First, determine honestly how interested you are in Technology and Computers. At the high school level if you understand and can program in several languages (not the math, but a fairly good grasp of the syntax of more than one language) and have written programs longer than 120 lines to do some things you want to do, if you are completely comfortable with more than one operating system (Windows / Linux / MacOS are readily available to anybody that is 'interested') to the point that you can fix things when they go wrong, or reinstall it without issue, these indicate a strong aptitude and genuine 'interest in Technology and Computers.' If 'doing computers' is chatting in IRC or AIM, playing java based games you find on the web, and surfing the Internet - these are not indicative of genuine 'interest in Technology and Computers.' If you have ever played Solitare on the computer to completion (regardless of whether you beat the computer or not) ... that is a bad sign.

      If you are using the computer as an environment, as opposed to using the computer as an appliance - then you are well on your way to being a 'computer guy' and only need to consider one last aspect :

      Are you willing to learn all that you can learn, become as good as you can become in computers and technology whatever direction you find best fits your abilities - and then continue to do it for free? If you would still be a 'computer guy' if it meant you would be the poorest person you know, unable to provide for yourself except in the most minimal manner - then I encourage you to pursue it because you would be doing it because you wanted to do it, not for any other reason. I ask this not because of the current economic conditions in the tech field, nor for where I think they are going ... but because even in the best of times tech is a highly competitive field where hiring managers would rather leave a position unfilled for two years than hire someone with zero experience in their very specific niche and let them get the experience over those two years. There are a LOT of very good techs out there making zero dollars an hour so the competition for paying jobs is going to be intense - and as you already know 'entry level' positions don't even exist in this country anymore (in the tech sector.) If your motivation is wealth or even self sufficiency then reconsider your motivations. If you are willing to 'code for food' and love computers enough to do that for the rest of your life - then I encourage you to go for it and recognise that getting paid to do what you love to do is simply a pleasant side effect.

      PS - in the context of this discussion 'very little math' means very simple math. Doesn't take differential equations or calculus or even trig to do web pages or networking. Addition, multiplication, and binary/hex math can all be done with the help of a $40 calculator.
      • Re:Tech schools (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You guys are a bunch of blubering ideots. I have terrible math skills (and spelling skills as well, dislexic). Anyway I struggled through a BS in computer science and the real challenge (aside from motivation) was the math. It took me 9 years to get through difeq.
        Anyway as a practicing CS I can tell you that I did not need one lick of math. You need the higher math to understand how to analyse algorithms and for advanced graphics optimizations. But 99% of the time you get your algorithms from a book
  • by Anonymous Coward
    But the real down side is the math. Even networking has simple arithmatic, and converting from base 10 to base 2. Programing is almost always at least algebra even for trivial things.

    But, that doesn't mean you're down and out. You can nurture your artistic side, and then there is usability which is a good bit more psychology, or even anthropology than math.

    If you want to give programing a try, you'd be the extremely rare exception to whom I recommend something like visual basic as a starting point. I'
    • Not sure what test you're talking about - but the ASVAB is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery - a test to help the military decide what you're capable of.
    • Couldn't agree with the parent more. I find math in almost everything I program. Even in straight design, you have to deal with complexity issues. Usability is the only thing I can think of that you might want to investigate.

      Then again, with JavaBeans and a good visual IDE, you might manage to get some development done.
      • Not everyone in IT is a programmer. I know posting this on /. is a major no-no, but it's true. Almost every opinion I see on this board is how you won't be able to write good code without a BS in CS. Not everyone wants to write code, and honestly, if you're looking for a high salary that probably is not what you want to do. We have killer programmers in my company, but I dare say they all make at least 40% less than I do, and I do not write code. And no, I'm not a PHB, either. I also do not have a degree. I
        • You aren't a programmer, you aren't a PHB (this implying you aren't a manager) - you started out doing network admin and that position evolved. And you make one and a half more than the best programmers at your company (I'm guessing this puts you into the low six digits, or at least into the $90k's.) And haven't been out of work for any length of time in the past decade.

          So what do you do?

          I'm guessing you are now a contractor / consultant doing infrastructure through a broker, probably on a 1099 basis (a
          • Not a contractor. Full time W2 employee. My skills are general (name a technology and I have worked with it). I am not a jack of all trades, master of none. More of a jack of all trades, master of many. I have done the consulting thing, but not recently. I do mainly infrastructure architecture, with some programming when necessary. My job is extremely technical. I just get a little wound up when I see the monthly slashdot flame fest where everyone insists you have to have a degree. Tell that to someone who
            • The key is to not stay at a job more than 2 years (average), because you will not learn anything new after that, chances are, and you cannot expect to get a 20% raise at the same company.

              Not actually inevitably true. I have been at the same company for 25 years, and my salary is now approx 16 times my entry salary. OK, we've had a fair bit of inflation in the mean time, but in real terms I am probably getting four times my initial salary. And I am still, basically, a geek. I design system architectures an
  • Don't worry.
    The are lot's of places you can work []
  • Computers and Math (Score:5, Informative)

    by flonker ( 526111 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @06:58AM (#9181507)
    Computer programming requires a very intuitive grasp of boolean logic (Discrete math), symbolic logic (Algebra) and set theory (Discrete math again). Also, a good short to mid term memory is more important than intelligence. For many people, programming is a state of mind [].

    For example, the speed of a bubble sort is O(n^2). A trivial bubble sort has to iterate over a list for every element in that list. So, assuming n items in the list, the bubble sort needs to go through the list n times, each time going through the list (in a nested loop) n times. Giving you a speed of n*n, or n^2. Anyway, a merge sort is O(n*log(n)), but it requires 2n memory, whereas a bubble sort is done in n memory. So, which would be better for your application?

    Network administration usually also requires a bit of math.

    For example, the IP addresses and are in the subnet To do this, I converted both IPs to binary, and found the most significant 0, and then 0'ed out all of the bits below that. Then I converted back to decimal.

    (I simplified the examples, because explaining subnets or sorting is beyond the scope of this post.)

    In short, I rarely do basic math, but some of the more advanced stuff is critical. I would suggest grabbing a copy of a programming language, and attempting to modify a simple program to do something else, to see if you have what it takes to be a programmer.

    I'd suggest Perl [], but that's my opinion, and opinions about languages vary greatly. Perl is one of the more natural languages, and may be more forgiving for you. Then again, it may cause more problems because you're not explicit enough in telling it what you want, in which case try Python [].

    Good luck.
    • by Prien715 ( 251944 )
      You could use quicksort which has the O(n log n) benefits of Merge sort and can be done in place (like bubble sort).
    • I clicked on your link [] and found this line from ESR:

      "this is why every good hacker is part mystic".

      What a load of crap! Just because ESR thinks he's "a shaman and a vessel of the Goat-Foot God []", that doesn't mean other hackers have to.
      • What a load of crap! Just because ESR thinks he's "a shaman and a vessel of the Goat-Foot God", that doesn't mean other hackers have to.

        So then are Microsoft Visual Basic programmers are the shamans and vessels of the Guy/God?
    • Suggesting perl as a more natural language is a really wrong. Just -- Wrong.

      As you said, programming is a state of mind type of exercise. My experience has been -- consistently, and backed up by classical training, that you do not start people on things like perl which is indescriable.

      A simple structured language -- python is acceptable but i'd still suggest good old fasioned pascal. Granted it teaches out-of-style procedural kind of programming, but it enforces rigid structure, is fairly simple and s
    • >For example, the speed of a bubble sort is O(n^2). A trivial bubble sort has to iterate over a list for every element in that list. So, assuming n items in the list, the bubble sort needs to go through the list n times, each time going through the list (in a nested loop) n times. Giving you a speed of n*n, or n^2. Anyway, a merge sort is O(n*log(n)), but it requires 2n memory, whereas a bubble sort is done in n memory. So, which would be better for your application?

      This is how you conceive the sorts to
    • Computer programming requires a very intuitive grasp of boolean logic (Discrete math), symbolic logic (Algebra) and set theory (Discrete math again). Also, a good short to mid term memory is more important than intelligence.

      On the other hand, it doesn't require much in the way of number crunching beyond basic arithmetic. Someone can be good at discrete math and symbolic logic, and horrible at working with numbers.
      • I suck at math and have had little problem with programming sysadmin-related applications and scripts (this attitude might change if I worked in a different industry - ie bioinformatics).

        I very much agree with the hack-mode post above too, sometimes I look at code I wrote at one stage, and just frown in confusion. ;)
    • I use a subnet calculator. Math is a great foe to me... lc .htm
  • Hi there, and welcome to Slashdot. I know a couple of people who are autistic and it takes real courage to do what you've done, so well done in getting this far.

    As others have said, the main problem you will face with most Computer Science and Computer Engineering courses are the math requirements. I've been into computers since the TRS-80 yet when I did my studies in the 90's I found the math about as much fun as root canal work.

    I reckon your best bet is to find a local computer engineering shop who unde
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @07:36AM (#9181635) Homepage Journal
    When you say you lack the ability to do even basic math, what does this mean? That you are slow or bad at arithmetic?

    This doesn't even really mean you are bad at math. There are a huge variety of math related skills that are useful in computers. Geometric intuition is often useful. The abiliyt to make logical inferences is critical. Accurate arithmetic is not all that important -- we use spreadsheets and calculators like most people do.

    Generally speaking, if classic autism or something in that spectrum of problems is your issue, there should not be any problem with doing computer science. Working with other team members is going to be your biggest problem. Most work in computers involves interacting with customers and team members, and this can be socially challenging. It doesn't mean you won't be able to carve out a niche in the world of computing, but it will probably be your biggest challenge.

  • Is computer science what you're really after? CS is all about computability, algorithms, programming, etc. Like you said you want to get into computers but you're not good in mathematics. All programming subjects does require basic math. Take for instance first year programming subjects, a common assignment would be working with fibonacci numbers and creating a postfix calculator. In second year I made log parsers and implemented the Dijkstra's and the A* algorithms. You need basic math for this. In operati
    • Nothing taught in a degree program is neccessary to be a code monkey. ( Code monkey = laborer who writes custom software for a business. ) And 99% of programming jobs are Code monkey jobs.

      The remaining 1% are divided into canned software code monkey jobs who produce something used by more than one customer, and the other 1/2% are people with another esoteric skill that happen to have learned to program and are utilized to translate that skill into software. This is easier than feeling comfortable signing

      • You're off-topic. He's not looking for a job, he's looking for a post secodary course. All I said was, CS is probably not a good idea for him. Whether or not math or CS will be used in the real world is irrelevant, but whether it will be needed to finish a degree is.
  • by cpuffer_hammer ( 31542 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @08:00AM (#9181750) Homepage
    I can understand where your are coming from. I am dyslexic. Basic math is a struggle. I having gone thought tech school then collage I now work as in professional services (programming, teaching, and supporting customers). I am happy with what I have acheaved at work and in the rest of my like.

    My thoughts are:
    Do not let the math get you down there is a lot of programming and other high tech work in the world that does not require doing much mathematics. Most of the mathematical heavy lifting is being done by the computer scientists. Most of us just need to use the tools they create with some care and understanding to get good results.

    Learn to do the kinds of programming your are good at. It may be scripting, or user interface. Or you may find that a very specific type of work is correct something so specific that nobody thinks there is a market for it but by being very very good at it you can make a market for yourself.

    Go to collage I took as many computer science courses as I could but my degree is in anthropology. Many days what I learned in anthro is as useful as anything I know about technology.

    Do not give, up but also realize that you may not be a RMS or a Linus more than likely you will work very hard to be average. Start by excepting that and make sure you do the other things you want to do in your life.

    You like everyone else in the world has to choose a path. If you choose a path you are very likely to fail at you will be very likely to be unhappy (but you can change paths). If you choose a path that lacks challenge and or does not interest you, you will also be unhappy. Finding a path that is challenging and rewarding that you struggle and succeed is somewhere in between but that is a path the you will most likely be happy on.

    Charles Puffer
    • I am dyslexic.... Finding a path that is challenging and rewarding that you struggle and succeed is somewhere in between but that is a path the you will most likely be happy on.

      I don't mean this as a slam or a wise-crack, but as serious, constructive criticism, noting that you are dyslexic.

      Your writing would be considerably easier to understand if you:
      • spell-checked it (hey, I can't spell either, but for $15 I bought a hot-key invoked spell-checker), and
      • if, after writing, you read your sentences to you
      • I hate to tell you this, but only one of his words is mispelled (he meant to use anthro): acheaved instead of achieved. The rest is all grammar mistakes. He used a lot of real words instead of what he meant: your are instead of you are, collage instead of college, excepting instead of accepting.

        So you're picking on the wrong guy about spellchecking. However, your second point is correct. His post needed a lot more punctuation. Also, he may not know that he can use br and p html tags to break up his
      • English might not be his native language either. Save the grammar blitzkrieg for another time.
  • What kind of autism? (Score:5, Informative)

    by orthogonal ( 588627 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @08:33AM (#9182000) Journal
    It's become almost trite to assume that many people in computing -- especially programmers -- are on the autistic spectrum. Usually this means Asperger's rather than "classic" Kanner autism, but in truth, it's not yet clear what bright-line (if any) separates the two conditions, and many studies have lumped Asperger and Kanner autistics together.

    The lay distinction is that Asperger's is high-functioning autism, or autism without mental retardation, and in some cases of Asperger's even higher than average intelligence; but while there are more high-functioning individuals with Asperger's than Kanner's, high-functioning and low-functioning individuals with both syndromes exist. A diagnosis of Asperger's, unlike Kanner's does not include late speech or speech followed by a loss of speech, but both forms involve speech abnormalities of one sort or another, and both involve significant social impairment, related to an inability to "read" others' body language or (more so in Kanner's) an inability to conceive that others' perceptions differ from the autistic person's.

    In nuerotypical (i.e., normal) brains, the part of the brain called the fusiform gyrus is activated to "read" another person's emotional state from the other's facial expression. In autistic persons (either Kanner or Asperger), the fusiform gyrus is not activated [], with some studies showing autistic used parts of the brain used for object processing [] and others that each autistic individual uses a different brain areas to process facial emotional cues []. High-functioning autistics generally explain that they process faces consciously, apparently as part of general problem solving.

    Autistics are often seem as having less empathy or "flatter" emotions, although Temple Grandin [], a high-functioning Kanner type autistic, reports that autistic have different emotions with the predominant emotion being a pervasive sense of fear. It is unclear whether this fear is the cause, effect, or just a
    correlate of, the social impairments of autistic.

    Autistics genenerally have special areas of interest which they obsess over, and this is in fact one required criteria for diagnosis.

    Autism has only been included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [], the handbook of (American) psychiatry, since 1994, and so was apparently often mis-diagnosed (as depression, schizophrenia, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder) until recently; in many cases, the diagnosis of a child has led to a retroactive diagnoses (usual of Asperger's, as it's more "subtle") of one or both parents. Autism is one of the most strongly inherited neurological syndromes.

    For more and more balanced information (I happened tonight to be browsing the journal articles that I cited, thus my emphasis on them) see (as usual) Wikipedia's article on autism [].

    To the submitter: do you know what form of autism you have?
  • There are many different roles with the computer field. You say you lack the ability to do even basic math, but also that you are very bright.

    I infer that by this you mean that your intelligence lies outside of mathematical skills. Strictly speaking, computer science can be similar to a math degree, and you might not want to go that route.

    In business, however, not everyone is a computer scientist. In my experience, that type of a degree is more suited to scientific, engineering, and generally abstract types of programming. This is usually (but not always) associated with some mathematical skills, and a Com Sci degree would help.

    In business a huge percentage of the undertaking of software development centers around tasks outside of this. For instance, project planning, requirements gathering, testing, and technical writing are all tasks that are integral to software development, but not neccessarily related to math or 'hard' CS skills.

    You could try pursueing a Business Degree, an Informations Systems degree, or even an English degree.

    Good luck to you
  • options (Score:4, Informative)

    by SolemnDragon ( 593956 ) * <solemndragon AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:19AM (#9182486) Homepage Journal
    First, hit your local community college. Many actually have programs to accommodate disabilities of various kinds, and you may be able to get part of your courses tailored to include one-on-one training in the learning style that you need to use. You also may qualify for a number of scolarships, by the way, so be sure to check around. There may be special programs where you can get credit through alternate means- which is to say, tutoring, testing, or time spent on certain projects.

    Also, look into trade and tech schools for certification programs. If you can teach yourself to do the work, and can prove that you know how, that may be all it takes for some of what you want to do.

    There's a lot of room in the computer world and no, not all of it involves math. You probably have some adaptive skills that other people don't have, both from the unique brain makeup and particularly from having to work around it. These can be a big asset when it comes time to develop unique approaches to problems. I'd rather have someone who can think on my team than someone who can calculate- calculation can be done by computer, but originality and creativity are still human-led fields.

    One thing is certain- everyone loves it when people show initiative. So don't give up. The strength that it takes to tackle a disability head-on and work on such a goal in spite of it really does get respect in the real world. Above all, hang out where computers are being discussed. Make friends with the local geeks, hang out at tech school info meets, go check out what's out there. You'll find that they're all looking for bright people and willing to bend in a lot of ways if approached in a 'how can i go to your school' mindset. Let yourself be, to some degree, a group project- you will benefit, the school will benefit, and the world will benefit from one more person having one more skill.

    Good luck, and keep us posted, all right?

  • Maths, as we call it here, is many peoples' worst nightmare of a subject. They're scared of it for many reasons. Maybe because at first the kind of thinking behind it is mysterious, the notation is alien or they have prejudices built up from hearing other people saying, "I hate maths," or "It's hard."

    You imply that your problem with mathematics stems from your illness. Is this so?

    I'm not particularly bright, but I had supportive parents, and my dad in particular introduced me to some of the more interesting

  • Talk to the schools (Score:4, Informative)

    by RhetoricalQuestion ( 213393 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:01AM (#9182951) Homepage

    Most universities and colleges have facilities to help people with disabilities who are capable of a university education, but require some adjustments to the standard way of doing things in order to accommodate their needs. You may have to go through some testing to determine what they are able to do for you.

    Most traditional computer science or engineering programs do require math -- though mind you, higher-level math is very different from basic arithmatic. While you may not be able to complete a degree in these subjects without math, the schools may allow you to take a lot of the non-math coursework.

    You may also want to think about what really interests you about technology -- not everyone who loves technology belongs in a computer science or engineering program. (I graduated with a CS degree, but in hindsight I would have been much happier in another program.) If you like this kind of thing, social implications of technology, interdisciplinary programs like cognitive sciences, etc., are other ways to get into technology without the math.

    • Talk to a couple professors. It always helps to have a champion on the inside.

      Find someone who's work interests you and show up during office hours. Do a little research, read some recent journal articles as an ice breaker ("I have some questions about the implications of the algorithm you developed in the piece from last month's Journal") but don't feel the need to bullshit--don't pretend you understand more than you do. And don't hide your intent. You're not a colleague there to discuss the latest de
  • From a fellow AC (Score:4, Informative)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) <> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @12:30PM (#9184677) Homepage Journal
    Well, at the very least, AC means Autistics & Cousins in this case, I've got Asperger's. Here's how I did it, and I fully recommend my method to anybody in computer science: I learned to break problems down into iterative methods, and programmed them into (at that time) a RPN calculator. I still don't have any real understanding of trigonometry besides memorizing which functions are complementary- but the additional algorithim practice this gave me has become utterly invaluable in real-world programming, where I haven't had a single project in 8 years that has used any math more complex than the quadratic equation I used in high school.
  • ...I lack the ability to do even very basic math.

    Looks like you're on track for a management position!

  • "Much of what I learned, I learned in spite of school, not because of it." [From 'How Old Will You Be In 1984?', a late 60's counter-culture newspaper article compilation.]

    I've spent more time in school after high school graduation than before; 4 degrees and one state practician's license. I agree with the above statement.

    Be aware there are alternative ways to learn math. I used to teach algebra and trig to math phobics -- people who were afraid to balance their checkbook. Converting it to a natural lang
  • by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @02:17PM (#9186449)

    If math is your weakness, shouldn't you concentrate on it?

    AFAIK, the therapy for dyslexia includes reading lessons. The therapy for severe autism includes dealing with other people.

    Personally, I'm pretty shy in certain situations. So I force myself to go out and say hello to strangers on the sidewalk, bore checkout ladies with chitchat, etc. If I ignored my problem, it would get worse. Will I ever reach the level of social interaction the average person has? No. But am I getting better? Yes!

    So why are you avoiding math if its your weakness?

    • I think there's a difference between failing to develop a given skill and having a disability that prevents you from developing that skill. From what I've read, people with autism don't learn to respond to social cues - they learn to watch for body language, etc, and also learn to identify those cues with the interpretations other people would give them. It's more like learning a way around your disability than changing it, and that is what I think is the difference between a weakness and a disability.

  • by Mr. Piddle ( 567882 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @03:00PM (#9187053)

    and seem to be interested in computers, why not skip Computer Science (overrated, BTW, for most jobs that specify it) and look into things like computer-based art, music, or graphic design. Is your issue with math skills with math itself or with abstract thinking in general? Answering questions like these along with other introspection about your interests and ambitions should help guide you in making the right choice. Also, don't forget to plan how you will *pay* for college. Any more than a few years of post-college debt for a particular school means you need a cheaper school. People who allow themselves to get suckered into ten years of loan payments made a mistake and they typically regret it (speaking from experience).
  • Be your own person (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Brandybuck ( 704397 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @04:23PM (#9188291) Homepage Journal
    Don't let them label you "autistic". Don't let them classify you "special education". You should be the one in control of your life, not a bunch of school counselors.

    Read about the education of such geniuses as Franklin, Edison and Einstein.
    • Don't let them label you "autistic". Don't let them classify you "special education". You should be the one in control of your life, not a bunch of school counselors.

      Autism isn't just a label: it's a group of symptoms that can be incredibly debilitating and limiting, but as they are better understood, can be mitigated. And that's why a diagnosis might be crucial, especially to someone with academic ambitions. Once a condition is identified, and to some extent understood, everyone involved -- students, t

  • ...I'd suggest identifying your strengths and seeking ways to best put them to use. Many of us on the autism spectrum have "splinter skills" - aspects of cognition in which we are very capable. (For example, mine involves visual metaphors.) If a good fit can be found in the rather-wide range of activities called "programming", then success is possible.

    Several posters have focused on math. But I would argue that, as part of a system-design team for instance, one would not need math skills in order to m

  • The university I attend, Wright State University [] in Dayton, Ohio, has an excellent disability services office with professionals who are willing to help every step of the way for both the mentally and physically disabled. I have been truly impressed by their aid. As a result, a whopping 5% of the campus population happens to have a disability -- 5% is much, much higher than the average.
  • Forgive me in advance if this comment is ignorant or seems thoughtless, but it's sincere.

    We tend to forget this from time to time, but computers are there to serve people's needs. You need to understand how people interact with computers in order to design good user interfaces (why *does* your grandma prefer the mac, for example?). You need to understand customer requirements to design an application.

    Now, if your autism makes it hard to relate to people, this may be an issue. If not, great. But think abo

  • Community colleges can be a good place to "roll your own" program with the classes that suit your interests and abilities. Even if you can't satisfy the requirements for one of their Associates degrees, you can still benefit from the classes. For example, some of them are good prep for certificate exams, which - if you're not getting a degree - are what you'll need on your resume to keep it from getting tossed out.

    I've been working the past 6 months at a community college after working previously at a p

  • by AgniTheSane ( 608074 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2004 @12:05PM (#9195901)
    Two quick points. First I think Community Colleges are great. I went to one before I went to a university, but I really disagree with the people who are telling you to start there or at a trade school (which are also great). The implication seems to be that you can't handle a university. You are bright, so try a University first. The second point. I start teaching next semester as a grad student. One of the things I learned this semester is that universities, at least public universities, are required by law to make accommodations for people with learning disabilities. Good Luck
  • To be honest, I've been kind of disappointed by the lack of response for this topic. In fact, I'm rather upset at some of the snide remarks. I was a horrible student in high school. I had little skill in math. I hate to see someone give up their future profession over a few math classes. For the sake of disclosure, this post is coming from a guy whose now finishing his math degree. You're probably thinking "way to go with your strengths". However, you'd probably be right.

    To give you an idea of where

The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer. The haves get more, the have-nots die.