Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Higher Education for Mentally Handicapped?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the searching-for-other-options dept.

Education 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?"

cancel ×


Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Get a book. (5, Insightful)

shfted! (600189) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181351)

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. (3, Insightful)

Councilor Hart (673770) | more than 10 years ago | (#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. (2, Interesting)

shfted! (600189) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181492)

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. (4, Insightful)

KDan (90353) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181959)

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?


Re:Get a book. (1)

bigattichouse (527527) | more than 10 years ago | (#9185954)

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 want to hold all the cards.

I would say "Knows how to learn new subjects, do research, can write to specified formats and standards" would be a better use for hiring because of a degree.

Re:Get a book. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9195360)

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.

Re:Get a book. (1)

shfted! (600189) | more than 10 years ago | (#9189918)

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. (2, Insightful)

daveb (4522) | more than 10 years ago | (#9193624)

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

Re:Get a book. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9182283)

Thank you. The fewer people that might compete with me for any given job, the better. Kinda sad that you can't stick with anything for 4 years, though.

Re:Get a book. (1)

Rich Dougherty (593438) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181614)

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.

Re:Get a book. (1)

gallen1234 (565989) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181638)

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.

I don't know what you are talking about. (2, Interesting)

hummassa (157160) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181677)

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.

Re:I don't know what you are talking about. (1)

shfted! (600189) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181775)

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.

Re:I don't know what you are talking about. (1)

TheMysteriousFuture (707972) | more than 10 years ago | (#9188919)

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 ""


Re:I don't know what you are talking about. (2, Interesting)

Darth_Burrito (227272) | more than 10 years ago | (#9190876)

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 occupation. I can't even remember the last time I took a derivative or integral of anything. However, I still hear people proclaiming that these courses are good because they help teach people how to think.

But, my college education seemed to have very little impact on my ability to think or my general thought processes in attacking a problem. In addition, the suggestion that the math classes I took were designed to teach me how to think seems almost laughable. Most of those math classes had between 50 and 100 students and met at most 3 times a week for less than an hour with any given teacher. Not all of the teachers were understandable (bad english). It was more about processing students through an academic machine than it was about teaching them to think. To contrast that, I had a few very influential teachers in high school that had a rather large impact on how I think.

Yet people will still say these anonymous math courses are valuable because they teach people how to think. Personally I think it must be a cognitive dissonance thing with an element of deferral to authority figures. Dr. Milgram says this course is valuable and he has a Phd therefore it must be valuable. I've never used an ounce of calculus since that final three years ago even though I spent $5,000 and 6 months of my life studying high level math. If I didn't invest all that energy into acquiring the content, it must have been for something else. Perhaps I was learning how to think? Yeah, that's the ticket.

OTOH (3, Interesting)

hummassa (157160) | more than 10 years ago | (#9191714)

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). Global and local; dimensioning substations and trafos.

Strange (0, Flamebait)

JumperCable (673155) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181425)

It doesn't seem as if many slashdoters are paying attention to your question for some reason.

Re:Strange (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9181501)

It is the middle of the night in North America. Wait a couple hours.

Tech schools (4, Informative)

john_is_war (310751) | more than 10 years ago | (#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 (4, Insightful)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 10 years ago | (#9183669)

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 (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9195803)

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! Even more to the point 99% of the time you don't even care about the algorithm, outside of some simple queues I have not coded up a B-Tree or quick sort in years. All the math you need for CS can be taken care of with a good engineering calculator, one that can handle 64 bit numbers and can be set into bin/hex/oct mode for fast conversions and manipulations. And most run of the mill programmers don't even know how to count in binary or hex so there...

If I were you I would go to a good community college and see if you like the hard stuff. Its cheep and the teachers are 100% better than at a university. If it apeals to you you can easily transfer to a university later. If not try a trade school or just jump out there and start developing web pages/etc. Altho having a teacher makes learning to program a lot easier! I tried to teach myself to code for 5 years, but after 1 semester at a community college I hade it down pat.

Most colleges have programs for things like this. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9181435)

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'd go talk with an advisor at a local community college.

If you're still being treated for your condition, I would say that those helping you would have a considerable amount of advise for things that might help you transition into what is a new phase of your life. If you're not seeing a professional, it might not be bad to find one. They can help you become aware of the resources available too you, and provide expertise on how to really play to your strengths.

Even if you're just a guy who can write and has an unabating love of technology, there's journalism, and technical writing. Lord knows most of the people doing these jobs right now suck at it. You might be a superstar.

Animation and video editing are options too.

But seriously, I'd probably do something like take an ASVAB test, or whatever it's called and consult people who understood my condition.

Re:Most colleges have programs for things like thi (1)

MaxwellStreet (148915) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181520)

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.

Re:Most colleges have programs for things like thi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9181636)

Right. It's supposedly pretty accurate and thurough as an assesment of ones strengths and weaknesses. He can take it, and there will be things on there he did not think of. Some of them might be computer/technology related, and sound exciting and new. Many will sound ponderously boring.

If there is one thing the army knows, it's statistics.

Re:Most colleges have programs for things like thi (1)

Judebert (147131) | more than 10 years ago | (#9182530)

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.

Re:Most colleges have programs for things like thi (1)

Old Uncle Bill (574524) | more than 10 years ago | (#9183589)

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 had a full time job as a network admin while I was going to school, and after about 3 years of that job I got sucked into that more than school. I quit before I finished my degree, and now it's ten years later and I have not looked back. Part of my problem was the same as the submitter. I could not concentrate enough to do the really hardcore math. I'm not bad at it, I just couldn't sit through three hour mind-numbing math classes. I actually do a rather scientific job currently, and math is a big part of it, but I'm not exactly using the chain rule. Employers look at your resume, and part of that is college education, but after ten very solid years in the business, I have never been laid off and never had a problem finding good paying jobs. I have been in the running many, many times against people with degrees for a position, but their experience does not touch mine.

Re:Most colleges have programs for things like thi (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 10 years ago | (#9186563)

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 (although possibly on a W2 basis.) A healthy chunk of the position involves social engineering, maneuvering and jockying for your next gig, along with the historical overview and ability to draw facts from the nuances of a multitude of different sources on-site and put together both a list of issues and potential resolutions. It isn't math, but it also isn't something someone with Autistic tendencies and no practical experience in the field is going to be able to pull off.

What do you do, now that you have my head spinning?

Re:Most colleges have programs for things like thi (1)

Old Uncle Bill (574524) | more than 10 years ago | (#9188135)

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 has been making north of six figures since he was 24. 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. My reply to the submitter was to always try to improve your skills, and if you are good enough, you do not need a degree. They help, especially if you're really not that good in this field. If you are naturally talented, you do not the degree to get your foot in the door, even in this environment.

Re:Most colleges have programs for things like thi (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 10 years ago | (#9193586)

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 and program the critical bits; nobody reports to me.

Lot's of places you can work. (1)

arcanumas (646807) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181440)

Don't worry.
The are lot's of places you can work []

Troll. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9183484)

You, sir, are an asshole.

Re:Troll. (2, Interesting)

arcanumas (646807) | more than 10 years ago | (#9185932)

I rarely reply to anonymous cowards, but you got lucky
Maybe i am a bastard,but, surely, no more than someone who is blind and wants to be a bus driver.
Or someone who is autistic and cant do even simple math and want to....

Simple math ain't! (1)

1iar_parad0x (676662) | more than 10 years ago | (#9223628)

Albert Einstein, who fancied himself as a violinist, was rehearsing a Haydn string quartet. When he failed for the fourth time to get his entry in the second movement, the cellist looked up and said, "The problem with you, Albert, is that you simply can't count."

How creative are you? (1)

NetPoser (266960) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181480)

If you're the creative type then there's many options in the IT Industry. Marketing and Graphics are a big part of the IT Industry. Reporting and reviews. The list goes on for non-programming positions in IT.

What about gaming? Are you interested in that aspect?

Computers and Math (4, Informative)

flonker (526111) | more than 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:Computers and Math (1, Informative)

Prien715 (251944) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181541)

You could use quicksort which has the O(n log n) benefits of Merge sort and can be done in place (like bubble sort).

Re:Computers and Math (0, Offtopic)

gazbo (517111) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181575)

Quicksort has a worst-case of O(n^2) - it's only O(n log n) in the expected case.

I think the significance (or lack of) of this distinction is a good example of what the original poster was getting at in the first place.

Re:Computers and Math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9181855)

There is a version of Quicksort with worst-case of O(n log n), although it isn't very efficient for low ammounts of data, only for really big datasets.

Re:Computers and Math (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 10 years ago | (#9196794)

Link to that? There's ways to help ensure that you pick a good pivot (like average of 3), which will make it more likely to hit O(n log n), but I don't think there's any version that assures it.

Re:Computers and Math (0, Offtopic)

nickos (91443) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181979)

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.

Re:Computers and Math (0, Offtopic)

orthogonal (588627) | more than 10 years ago | (#9182017)

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?

Re:Computers and Math (2, Interesting)

lscoughlin (71054) | more than 10 years ago | (#9183538)

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 strait foreward, and verbose. These are important things to do when training someone else, or yourself, to program.

You can always move to a language that gives you mor syntactic sugar or a greator depth of standard libraries later, but ultimately the language is restricted beneath all of that to the rigidity of the 1 and 0. Having that firmly in your mind regardless of the $_[~/[...]]/i] syntactical shortcutting and flexability your still operating within that structure.

As far as the neccisity of math -- this depends on the kind of programming your doing. Most jobs these days are business app style jobs. They don't require the kind of math sensitivity that ivory tower programming (Sorry -- I tend to ignore accademic computing), systems programming or game programming require.

Yes the sort question is still applicable, but you don't need be able to determine the O(n) of the algorithm -- you just have to understand what it means and apply it to your problem domain. It breaks down to what philosophy students call first order logic, and mathematicians call boolean logic.

I've been architect and lead technical programmer on a number of different contracts and within my job now -- and i'm degree less -- my credits add up to two minors: philosphy with a concentration in logic and history with a concentration in eastern european.

Perhaps there are many things that i do intuitively, I've not studied those aspects of my style very deeply. But i do know that the focus on math in computer education -- particularly for programmers -- is a bit overkill.


Re:Computers and Math (1)

E_elven (600520) | more than 10 years ago | (#9184201)

>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 operate. You understand them in math. I understand them in a more -I don't want to say visual- conceptual fashion. There are many ways to program and not all of them involve thinking in mathematical terms -yes, one needs to understand the implications of the mathematics, but I've found that this can be done without even considering the process as mathematics. I'm not a great programmer but I'm by no means a bad one, either.

Re:Computers and Math (1)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 10 years ago | (#9188767)

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.

Re:Computers and Math (1)

harikiri (211017) | more than 10 years ago | (#9192936)

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. ;)

Re:Computers and Math (1)

mikeb39 (670045) | more than 10 years ago | (#9193266)

I use a subnet calculator. Math is a great foe to me... lc .htm

Good on you (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9181537)

but you should realize that arithmatic isn't the same as mathematics. Some universities (like mine for instance) explain things in mind numbing mathematical formula, instead of focusing on the concepts first.

My advice: Consider software engineering instead of comp sci. They are different areas - compssci is a branch of math.

My final bit of advice is not to click this link [] .

Re:Good on you (1)

ziggyboy (232080) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181620)

Are you kidding? Many universities I know of who have standalone Software Engineering degrees classify this as a real engineering degree like computer engineering or electrical engineering. They have the exact same number of mathematics and physics as any engineering degree would contain.

Re:Good on you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9182209)

not in my country. Please click on the tubgirl link above. kthxby

Learn On The Job (1)

Ed Almos (584864) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181621)

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 understand your position but are able to offer you a position there. Field service may be out but you can still learn plenty on the benches.

Ed Almos
Budapest, Hungary

You have to be more specific (5, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181635)

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.

Do you really want CS? (1)

ziggyboy (232080) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181640)

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 operating systems, you will also use basic math for disk/cpu scheduling algorithms.

If I were you, I would get into things like multimedia or information systems. There is a wide range of computer courses out there. Talk to a counselor.

Re:Do you really want CS? (1)

A55M0NKEY (554964) | more than 10 years ago | (#9195991)

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 off on a black box delivered by a code monkey who doesn't really understand your skill.

Some code monkeys call themselves software engineers. Like that makes a difference! Dilber might be an engineer that designs bridges or electrical components or whatever but he's still a <insert medium here> monkey. There is no technical profession that you couldn't learn on the job.

And management can call themselves social engineers if they want to. They are people monkeys spending all day tiresomely jostling for position. Even their macheavellian skills are learnable on the job.

Re:Do you really want CS? (1)

ziggyboy (232080) | more than 10 years ago | (#9202475)

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.

Seek a non traditional route (3, Informative)

cpuffer_hammer (31542) | more than 10 years ago | (#9181750)

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

Re:Seek a non traditional route (1)

orthogonal (588627) | more than 10 years ago | (#9182102)

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 yourself slowly, adding commas where you naturally pause for breath (you're already doing a good job breaking your post into short paragraphs, which is also very helpful).

Just my two cents.

Re:Seek a non traditional route (1)

CodeMonkey4Hire (773870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9182315)

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 post into separate paragraphs.

Re:Seek a non traditional route (1)

p4ul13 (560810) | more than 10 years ago | (#9182453)

English might not be his native language either. Save the grammar blitzkrieg for another time.

What kind of autism? (4, Informative)

orthogonal (588627) | more than 10 years ago | (#9182000)

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?

Re:What kind of autism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9201277)

that post deserves every bit of the +5 informative. Good job on that one.

Perhaps not computer science, but a related field? (2, Insightful)

peteshaw (99766) | more than 10 years ago | (#9182147)

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 (3, Informative)

SolemnDragon (593956) | more than 10 years ago | (#9182486)

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?

Learning Maths (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 10 years ago | (#9182568)

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 things in mathematics when I was very young. This helped a lot. He also helped explain things when I got stuck. I went on to do a Physics degree.

After Uni, I did some maths and physics tuition for some family friends. Apart from being financially lucrative, it was very personally rewarding. I got both the boy and girl up a grade (to A and B from B and C) in both subjects with just a few hours work.

I think I managed to convey some of my enthusiasm for the subjects to them, which they picked up, and helped to explain things properly but in uncomplicated ways, something that class teachers often aren't very good at (because they have to be very general for the whole class, and because they haven't time to teach each person as an individual.)

So, what I'm trying to say, is, have you thought about getting personal tuition from an enthusiastic teacher i.e. someone who genuilinely likes the subject and likes to take time to explain things? I often used to go well over the hour (50%) becuse we were having such fun.

In my day I charged about the UK equivalent of $20/hour. That was nearly 10 years ago. You may find that someone who is genuinely interested in the subject will do it for much less, or for having their lawn mowed or something.

Give it a try.

Talk to the schools (3, Informative)

RhetoricalQuestion (213393) | more than 10 years ago | (#9182951)

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.

Re:Talk to the schools (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 10 years ago | (#9195937)

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 developments; you're a prospective student looking for information.

Hopefully you'll get a couple things from this meeting. First, some insight into the admissions process at that school. As much as some people like to mystify this process, it comes down a small committee reads your application, reviews the transcripts, and says yea or nay. They look at grades, test scores, etc, but it is not a strictly by the numbers decision. If you've been identified by your current school and identify yourself as having some learning impediment, then you probably (presumption on my part) come up a little short of the published admissions guidelines. You may get some nugget such as, the admissions committee is de-emphasizing SAT scores, or they've had several students from your high school come through the department after taking Mr. Smith's class, and all did very well. A recommendation from Mr. Smith would be a big plus in your file.

Second, what can the department do for you once you've been admitted and decide to attend. Almost every department of every college has some sort of do-it-yourself major where you build your own course of study with an advisor. Almost every department of every college keeps this fact a secret. A state university with 30,000 students is not equipped to track 30,000 different majors. If you walk in with 'I want to do C.S. but I don't want to take any math,' you'll get, 'MIS. Two buildings down. 1uz3r.' If you walk in with 'I have an interest in C.S. but have a real condition preventing me some completing some requirements,' they'll probably work with you.

Third, whatever else you can pick up. Maybe they had someone in the same situation a year or two ago, and you can look at that person's study track. Maybe you'll get a recommendation for a school with a low profile in the general public but high regard in your field of interest. Maybe the prof you pick will be an asshole, and at least you'll know who to avoid if you attend that school.

And maybe you'll get that champion on the inside, or at least get a foundation in place. From admissions on through graduation and beyond, it ALWAYS helps to have friend in the right place. (This is true for the workplace, as well.)

Be prepared. Be up front about your purpose for this meeting. Be honest about your situation. And be brief. An unscheduled initial meeting should run 15 to 20 minutes, tops. You can always plan to meet again.

Hey, this is America, anything is possible. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9184089)

Did you think about a job in public service?

You are far more equipped for many jobs in public service than the people already filling them.

Like, Attorney General. You could win an election against a corpse, right?

Or, Secretary of State. You haven't lied to the entire planet yet, have you?

Or, perhaps, Secretary of Education. You didn't call school teachers terrorists?

Then, there is the USDA. You never poisoned anyone's food, did you?

How about SEC Chair. You didn't allow your buddies to cash out and crash the stock market recently?

Then there is National Security Advisor. You didn't sit back and allow terrorists to kill thousands of your fellow citizens, did you?

There's always a job in the EPA. I'm sure you can absolutely nothing as good as anyone over there.

Did you think about becoming President. You never offended the planet, turned the biggest outpouring of international sympathy into animosity? Did you ever have your stupid fat brother try to fix an election? Or commission your friends at a voting machine company to do the same? How about execute 150 people? Did you ever get so drunk that you drove straight into someone's bushes? Did you sit around idly when your nation was under attack? Did you ever go AWOL from a comfie position your Daddie got you to keep your ass out of actual combat? Did you start a war, based on a lie, and then not even have the time to go one stinkin funeral for a soldier your policy killed? Even though you had plenty of time to use taxpayer dollars to go see a NASCAR race?

See, there are plenty of jobs available! You are infinetly more qualified than any of these boobs!

But, seriously. Why, again did you want a job in IT? The only jobs left are deskside support, because its too expensive to fly in a $2.50 a day New Delhi tech every time the executive secretary has a paperjam.

Anything Really Is Possible (1)

Farley Mullet (604326) | more than 10 years ago | (#9200401)

Like, Attorney General. You could win an election against a corpse, right?

Actually, the corpse won. []

From a fellow AC (4, Informative)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 10 years ago | (#9184677)

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.

Lack of Basic Math (1)

mopslik (688435) | more than 10 years ago | (#9186043)

...I lack the ability to do even very basic math.

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

Re:Lack of Basic Math (1)

thempstead (30898) | more than 10 years ago | (#9195013)

more likely a Capacity Planning role ...

Learning vs. School (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 10 years ago | (#9186422)

"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 language is one way. Visualization is another.

Also, grasping the concepts and doing the math aren't the same thing, despite what those who teach math the traditional way would have you think. In my work I do nonlinear analysis of complex signals. I know what I'm doing. But I couldn't do the math myself for anything.

I hate to be an asshole, but... (2, Interesting)

dasunt (249686) | more than 10 years ago | (#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?

weakness vs. disability (2, Insightful)

beeplet (735701) | more than 10 years ago | (#9196567)

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.

Shyness, I think, can be one or the other. Forcing yourself to interact with people may help you (and that's great), but it doesn't work for everybody. I have been terribly shy my whole life, and even though I do force myself to interact with people, it never really gets less painful. And I would never take a job that required me to be outgoing because I just don't think that's realistic for me, just as taking a job that requires heavy math may not be realistic for him.

Re:weakness vs. disability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9199181)

One thing works wonders in overcoming shyness, and that is large quantities of alcohol. In my experience, this seems to work quite well. And once you've broken the ice while drunk, it's easier to have a sober interaction later! :)

Re:weakness vs. disability (1)

beeplet (735701) | more than 10 years ago | (#9212397)

One thing works wonders in overcoming shyness, and that is large quantities of alcohol. In my experience, this seems to work quite well. And once you've broken the ice while drunk, it's easier to have a sober interaction later! :)

So it does. When watching ads for anti-anxiety medications (Do you feel too inhibited at social gatherings? Do you have a hard time talking to people?) it seemed like they might as well have been advertising alcohol.

I have to add, though, that depending on how much you drink, I wouldn't always count on your last statement being true... ;)

If you are really set on college... (2, Insightful)

Mr. Piddle (567882) | more than 10 years ago | (#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 (2, Insightful)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 10 years ago | (#9188291)

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.

That's Remarkably Trite (1)

Farley Mullet (604326) | more than 10 years ago | (#9200512)

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, teachers, medical-type folks, administrators -- can begin to formulate strategies to overcome the real obstacles that autism can present.

And know this: before we had labels like "autistic" "ADHD" "dyslexic" and what have you, people were just called "dumb" or "idiotic". I've worked with children with quote-unquote special needs, and they've been able to thrive exactly because their needs have been identified, and they've been given help. I don't disagree that labels have the power to trap and limit people, but a label like "autistic", which gives both the person with autism and their support network some leverage in coping with the condition, is infinitely preferable to a label like "moronic" or "crazy", terms that people with autism were often stuck with in the past.

Read about the education of such geniuses as Franklin, Edison and Einstein.

Most people aren't Einstein, or Franklin, or Edison, and it's awfully perilous to bank on being like them.

From an autistic ex-programmer... (1)

Two99Point80 (542678) | more than 10 years ago | (#9192075)

...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 make important - and possibly brilliant - contributions to the design process. Even in the implementation of a design, one can conceive of a good approach or algorithm without being able to code it or describe its operation in great detail. If it has been your experience that you "just know" the right answer to some types of problems without being able to describe the steps you took to reach them, then you may well have some nonstandard abilities which could be put to good use, if not in programming then elsewhere.

My very uneven twenty-year programming career ended just as I was being evaluated for autism. Had I been able to use my strengths and gain self-awareness to interface better with others, things could have gone much better.

For more on my experience of being autistic and some insights into achieving good quality-of-autistic-life, please take a look at the two papers at the website above. Good luck!

I would still look into college. (1)

SeaDour (704727) | more than 10 years ago | (#9192300)

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.


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9192440)



Post Trolls - now with more marshmallows!

Unless you are an academic, its about people too (1)

Burb (620144) | more than 10 years ago | (#9193591)

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 about it.

Community College and/or Certs (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 10 years ago | (#9195542)

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 private 4-year residential college, and I've been surprised at how much more accomodating they are of cognitive disabilities here. A part of me is disheartened to see (for example) reading classes at a college, but that's my intellectual snobbery at work. It shows that they're trying to meet the needs of local students, which is a Good Thing, and might be good for you. Talk to the Disability Services folks at your nearest CC to see what they suggest.

A friend of mine with a learning disability (not autism) who probably couldn't learn algebra to save his life enrolled at CC several years ago. In his case, the classes didn't work out very well for him, but at least CC gave him a shot at it, and it didn't cost him an arm and a leg.

Community College is great... but (3, Informative)

AgniTheSane (608074) | more than 10 years ago | (#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

It can be done... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9199785)

You can do it!

In Elementary School, they had me in special education because I am autistic. Later on, they left me in regular classes where I just failed the stuff I couldn't handle. My autism isn't very bad, but it does affect every aspect of my life.

Since my initial diagnosis, I've finished high school, but failed out of two years of college. I worked hard and went on to be employed in the computer industry for 10 years now, including 5 years in the software engineering department of a major digital special effects company. I've seen my name in the credits of many movies, including one (or two? I forget) that was nominated for Best Visual Effects.

I don't know a whole lot about the various forms of autism, asperger's, etc, but I've done fine by learning my strengths and weaknesses. People around me tell me that I'm very strange, but they have no idea that I live with autism.

- I happen to be very good at math.
- I can stay focused for DAYS with only the physically necessary breaks.
- I can dissect ANYTHING into tiny pieces and put them in order. (by size, color, data flow, component dependency, etc.)

- loud noise or quick movements are highly disturbing. I use noise-cancelling headphones and a "blinder box" around my monitor so I don't see people moving around me.
- I forget to eat and sleep. I keep healthy food and water on my desk at all times. I have a bed under my desk at work - when I'm not telecommuted. I can curl up and sleep anytime.
- My moods are very dependant on light. I use X10 to control the lights in my room. They slowly wake me at 7AM and fade down at midnight.

So, just try to learn what your strengths and weaknesses are. If math isn't your thing, look at other aspects of computers. Take Apple for instance. They have whole teams of people who create the design and usability aspects of their systems. Don't let anyone belittle you or make you believe that you can't live your dream. You just might have to get creative about the dreams that you nurture.


My long-winded, but hopefully helpful, advice! (1)

1iar_parad0x (676662) | more than 10 years ago | (#9223660)

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 I'm coming from, I'm the guy who spent all of discrete math complaining about the lack of rigor. I'm the guy who yells "CHURCH'S THESIS" at the first sign of any "what is programming debate". I hate programming, but I've been doing it for years. In fact, there's a pretty good chance I'll end up being that egghead CS prof, who's really just an unemployed logician. I'll probably torture my students with abstract mathematics and unnecessary proofs.

I walked out of high school with a 2.5 GPA. I hated school. I remember telling my high school math teacher, if she even deserves that title, that it would be a cold day in hell before I'd ever study math. [To give you an idea of how bad this teacher was; she didn't understand the concept of base ANYTHING arithmetic. Certainly she used base 10, but she really had no idea what she was doing.] I figured I'd go to art school. However, being poor, I attended a local college instead.

Being the son of a math professor, who surprisingly never encouraged my interest in mathematics, upon entrance to college I was immediately thrust into a multi-variate calculus course. My father had a reputation for being a mathematical wiz. I guess they figured that this would have rubbed-off on me. In one of my ever-rare moments of reason, I decided to enroll in Calculus I instead. This was good, because my calculus-free high school math background was vastly inadequate.

During the third week of class, we had our first test [this was done to weed out people before the last day of withdraws]. I got a 30. You could have doubled my score and I still wouldn't have passed. Only one student got a decent grade and that was a B. Surprisingly, I actually did the homework for my calculus class. To this day, I still don't know why? I finished the semester with a B. I got an A for second semester calculus. Of course, I still didn't have the vaguest understanding of analysis, but neither does anyone else at this stage [okay, maybe this guy [] does....].

While taking a physics class, I wanted to understand the concept of energy. The definitions in the book were severely lacking [we used Resnick and Halliday]. So, I ventured to the library in search for an answer. I ran across an odd collection of books. It was the Feynman Lectures on Physics. I immediately knew these books was different. I was transfixed. Hours had passed and the sun had set. I didn't realize long I sat there reading the first few chapters. He made explanations accessible. He used Dennis the Menace to describe the conservation of energy. Feynman made sense. Thanks to Mr. Feynman, I managed to get an A in physics as well.

I still had bad study habits, but I spent quite a bit of my free time writing code in the computer lab. Eventually I got a job working for the school, doing a little IT and a little programming. I picked up work in town. Eventually I left school during the dot-com boom to write code full time.

Somewhere, during that time, I began a serious self-study of mathematics and science. I attribute such auto-didacticism to a general dissatisfaction with philosophy and religion. It was tough going at first, but after a while, I got use to the rigor. Unfortunately, it had the side effect of making me a pedantic smart-ass. Sometimes, I'm not sure if that's all bad.

My point is that anyone can learn to do math. You may never become a professional mathematician. However, you can certainly learn enough to get by.

I always start a truly "introductory" explanation on programming with an example. I lay my jacket on the chair and ask the audience to give a set of directions to help me put it on. Of course, I've probably given you a hard task in AI research, so clearly you going to fall short. Thus, hilarity ensues. I'll put the coat on backwards and I'll make a fool of myself. Usually children find this the most interesting. At the end I'll tell them about that algorithms are math too. (Usually at this time, I'm thinking in my head -- CHURCH'S THESIS, CHURCH'S THESIS, CHURCH'S THESIS!)

My advice is go to a community college or local state school and take a semester to explore some options. A local college might be better because they generally offer more classes. However, community colleges offer more leeway towards casual exploration. Try your hand at graphic design, film editing, or programming. Maybe even take an introductory math course. However, take a class you think you'll enjoy. If you find a major you enjoy, you can work on projects related to your field. The coursework will cover all of the other details. Don't let the Slashdot naysayers dampen your enthusiasm. If you can follow a step-by-step set of instructions, you can be a mathematician. Like I said before -- Church's Thesis, Church's Thesis, Church's Thesis!

Good luck.

**Incidentally, Church's Thesis simply states [I'm oversimplifying here] that all of mathematics can be computed as some computer program and any computer program can be calculated as mathematics. In short, the computer program is math.

***Technically, the above statement becomes murky in the world of meta-mathematics.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?