Joey's mom wrote a very insightful post about meltdowns a while ago that got the cogs turning in my brain. My brother has special needs, although he does not have autism, and I had about 15 false starts on a comment on her post to try and address meltdowns without saying too much personal information about my brother. I just don't think he would appreciate it. And then I thought, "Duh, Katie! Math!"
I am a very verbal person. I have always loved words, and words have always come easily to me. I am not a numbers person. As a child I developed a sort of mental block around math. I hated math, and math would always be hard and dumb. I could feel my brain shutting down when I sat down in front of a sheet of math problems. When I tried to verbalize how I was feeling, all I came up with was, "It's hard. My brain doesn't work that way. It just doesn't." I think what bothered me the most about math was how all the concepts they taught you seemed so random and unrelated to each other. I never understood the logic behind how I was taught to solve the problems, and I had trouble just blindly memorizing the steps. I often gave up because I just did not care. My parents had and have high expectations of me, and I was expected to get A's in my other classes, but with math...they learned to settle with low B's and C's. (Yeah, horrible grades, I know. The real bad ones came at college-level French, which is another post entirely ;) )
Slightly guilty confession: In high school I got diagnosed with a learning disability in math so my SAT scores wouldn't look so bad. I'm pretty sure I got in on a technicality; there was a large gap between my verbal IQ and my math IQ and apparently that gap is what determines if you have a disability.
Just recently I was encouraged to tutor children struggling with 5th grade math. I was so stressed out about it that I cried. My assigned child showed up extremely rarely, but the one time our paths crossed I had to call over the professor multiple times because I did not and do not know how to do fifth grade math. It was extremely embarrassing and frustrating.
Now, I am grateful for my experience with math. I understand how it feels now to have one's brain just shut down when presented with a task, and to not feel capable of turning it back on. Having a tantrum was so much easier than solving those math problems. It's still easier for me to count on my fingers to figure out 7+9 than to reason that since 7+7 is 14, 7+9 must be just 2 more, i.e 16. It is nothing like what it must be to have multiple brain shutdowns across the board like what I gather can happen during a meltdown, but it is a small-scale something that I can use to relate.