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The Problems of Completeness and Perfection in School-Aged Aspies

Posted May 28 2008 12:00am
I've already discussed perfection in a previous post . This post is intended to provide a bit more background.
We already know that aspies can be obsessed with patterns. In many cases, particularly school work, patterns only make sense when something is perfect and/or complete. It therefore follows that aspies often have major hang-ups about perfection and completeness at school and at work.

This obsession with impossible levels of perfection and completion can cause a lot of stress, particularly in young aspies at school and particularly where other factors, such as learning difficulties, writing problems or other forms of work-impairment are present.

For example; An aspie with poor writing skills may find that he is constantly crossing out and redoing entire paragraphs of work because it doesn't meet his or her standards. Often they will tear out a page in their exercise books rather than leave imperfect work on the page.

This isn't limited to writing and can happen during mathematics, science experiments and craft activities. In fact, the perfection issue can pervade all aspects of the aspies life from school, to sport and even solitary play.

Parents need to watch their children closely for signs of perfectionism.

In some careers, such as programming where code only works when it is correct, perfectionism is a bonus. Usually though, perfectionism is not good. In the workplace, perfection can lead to employer cricism for slowness and in school perfectionism is particularly harmful.

In cases where school children have other difficulties, perfectionism can cause students to become stressed, lose confidence in themselves and take considerably longer to complete set tasks.

Completeness is also a form of perfection. Aspie students may become very irritated if they are required to stop working on projects before they are complete.

I have a particularly vivid memory/irritation surrounding a poster I did in Kindergarten. We did a poster with the word Halloween stuck on it. I managed to cut out the last N but was not permitted to stick it on because time had run out. I kept the N for months and constantly pleaded with my teacher to let me put the N on. Instead, the poster was hung up with all the others - and with the irritating misspelling. I still feel irritated about it now, and I'm 38.

My point is simple; not allowing aspies to complete work can lead to stress, fixations and anguish. There are two ways in which work may not be completed;

  1. You don't allow them enough time - in which case, they should be permitted to take extra time, or perhaps take work home to complete.

  2. Issues of perfection prevent them from completing the work. In this case, the teachers and parents need to give the child a little "push" to move on to the next stage of the work. (eg: "That first paragraph is fine, now start on the next paragraph").
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