Zoom Autism Magazine Issue 8 - Page 8

(The following article contains excerpts from Jennifer’s book, Sisterhood of the Spectrum: An Asperger Chick’s Guide to Life) Autism and Eating Disorders The Fight that Has Nothing to Do with Food By Jennifer Cook O’Toole 8 ZOOM Autism through Many Lenses S ome years ago, psychologist Carol Dweck took a good, hard look at a bunch of very bright fifth-grade boys and girls. Specifically, she observed what happened when these kids were presented with new concepts — confusing information meant to cause them a bit of frustration. How, Dr. Dweck wondered, would they handle the stress? Among the girls in the study, the higher the IQ, the more likely they were to give up when asked to learn something that was particularly foreign or complex. That’s right: the most intelligent girls didn’t stick around and keep thinking. They didn’t persevere. They quit. Fast. And there’s more bad news. The girls with perfect grades — “Straight-A’s” — reported the most intense feelings of helplessness of any kids in the entire study. On the other hand, boys in the very same group saw the very same difficult material as challenging, even energizing. Instead of giving up, the boys were far more likely to increase their focus and turn up the effort. When I read about this study, it made me heartsick. Why would that happen? The girls should have been the most confident kids in the room. The most resilient. The ones who said, “Let me at it!” At 5th grade testing levels, there is a consistent standard: girls routinely outscore boys in every subject, including math and science. (Who- ever said those weren’t “girl subjects”?!) So, the trouble couldn’t be a matter of intelligence or classroom success. The only difference between the boys and girls was how they reacted to difficulty, to the possibility of not having the ready answer, of pleasing everyone, of shining brightly. When the going got tough, the girls got going. As in out the door. Gone. These clever young girls turned on themselves as if they’d been waiting for proof of being not-good-enough. In mere minutes, they’d lost all confidence … and walked away in shame. Now, I’m being honest. The single best motivator for me has always been when I’m told that I can’t do something. “Oh, really?” I think. “Just watch me — and watch me do it better than you ever could!” So, I would LOVE to tell you that I’d never fall for such silly mind games — love to say I could never be so easily undone. I’d love to tell you that. But the truth is … I’d be lying if I did. My best friend from high school once said, “When we were little kids, I knew two things about Jenny Cook. She had red hair, and she was really, really smart.” Those were my only for-sures. My identity, as far as I could count on ] [HH]YH[š[Z]\[] \[\YYYHYX\˂HH[YHH\[[]\]KHYH\XܘYH[]\YK[HܘYX][]ۛܜ[\ۛۈۈ[\\\8'BYXY8'H Yx&[H]H\H]Z[šۛۈH[][]^HۈH\۸&]X[HH\[Y[H]]JKY[]H[X ܈]Y[YY ۈH[YKH\\ BH]]\HYX[H[\‚B