A blog advocating autism through my own personal experiences and insights.

All of my varied interests have provided me with challenges. Whether it be the challenge of adjusting to graduate school that my interest in math has provided me or the several long hours I can spend just thinking about the plot twists I can use in a novel I’m writing, challenges abound in my life. There is one particular hobby that I have yet to address on here that has provided a challenge in its own right on me, a challenge that I’ve overcome a few years ago.

This hobby is reading novels. As someone who likes to write novels, I also like to read them. In fact, this past winter, I had decided to cut my writing time by one half to allow time to read as well. Before then I probably got in on average about 20 novels per year, which is pretty good considering I read very little if anything during the school year. Since cutting my writing time in half, however, I feel like I’ve doubled my reading rate and probably get in on average about 3 books per month!

And time hasn’t been the only issue with reading either. School, time to write my own novels on the side, and the desire for a social life have certainly made reading time difficult, but a few years ago, I overcame another challenge of reading. I had a mind-set about reading that in affect greatly reduced the amount of joy I had in doing so. The mind-set was that everything I read for leisure I had to have perfect or 100% comprehension. Again, just another way how perfectionism took over me.

You can imagine how difficult I found reading then. Instead of simply just skipping over a minor sentence that I didn’t understand, I would read it over. And sometimes again. And inevitably this happened on an almost constant basis. My reading speed was incredibly slow. I don’t mean to say that I think being a slow reader is bad. I think one should strive for a balance between how much detail you want to understand versus how efficient you want to be. My problem was that I wasn’t efficient at all about it. I wasn’t distinguishing between sentences that would, say, describe a chair in a room versus someone admitting that he or she had murdered someone.

So why did I have the mind-set that I had to have perfect comprehension? Perfectionism is the answer. I assumed that when other people read fiction, especially popular fiction, that they found it easy to get 100% comprehension. After all, I was only ever told that for reading texts for school that I didn’t need perfect comprehension, but just “good” comprehension. Yet I never heard the word ‘comprehension’ when anyone talked about leisure time reading.

What really ended my flawed thinking on the matter was talking to a university counsellor about it and she showed me where I was wrong. I was pretty grateful. It took a few months to adjust my ‘old ways’ of reading to a new attitude toward it where I didn’t let comprehension be as big an issue as I previously held it to be. The result was that I found what I read to be far more enjoyable and relaxing. I sometimes can read a mystery thriller in just a day or two rather than having it take three weeks or a month. Of course, I’m still a slow reader by today’s standards. In fact, in an autism assessment done by a family psychologist, there was specifically a mention about me having a relatively reduced reading fluency (consistent with my slow reaction time) and having a weak reading comprehension with respect to verbal comprehension. And I will admit I have found a lot of school texts hard to understand, as well as the occasional novel. Go figure.

But at least I’ve found a proper balance between details and efficiency. Faster readers probably appreciate less anyway since a lot of them probably miss “too many” interesting details.

Another hurdle done away with!

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