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Navigating the Academic Landscape: Beyond GPA

My undergraduate journey was a voyage through the realm of psychology, filled with diverse perspectives and passionate peers. As I ventured into the world of higher education, I found myself surrounded by fellow students on the path to becoming Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) practitioners. At the time, I hadn't yet recognized my own identity as an autistic individual, but something about ABA didn't quite sit right with me, leading me to deliberately avoid it. Instead, I steered my focus towards addiction recovery—a deeply personal choice influenced by my own struggles with alcohol addiction.

What intrigued me most during those formative years was the clear divide within our cohort. Those who embraced ABA tended to reject humanistic psychology, ardently subscribing to the belief that behaviorism was the one true framework for understanding human behavior. To them, behavioral patterns were the ultimate expressions of underlying psychological issues, and addressing these patterns took precedence above all else. Little did I know that this division of perspectives would later serve as a microcosm for a much larger conflict—one that would profoundly impact the autistic community and my role within it.

Fast forward to today, and I find myself reflecting on an academic turning point—an experience that caused my pristine 4.0 grade point average to stumble, albeit slightly. The catalyst for this deviation was a paper I had meticulously researched on the benefits of psilocybin for addiction recovery. I had presented it to a professor deeply entrenched in psychopharmacology, but her response was unexpected. Despite the thoroughness of my work, she marked it down for a seemingly minor APA formatting error, resulting in an A- for the course. This seemingly minor shift, dropping my GPA to 3.98, proved to be a powerful revelation. It underscored the undeniable truth that external factors, including subjective grading and individual biases, can exert substantial influence on the measurement of academic performance.

This revelation, in essence, challenges the prevailing notion of GPA as an objective measure of a student's abilities and knowledge. Instead, it serves as a potent reminder that GPA, like so many other constructs in our society, is a reflection of broader contextual and subjective influences. It compels us to reconsider how we assess and value knowledge and abilities in our educational systems, highlighting the need for a more holistic and inclusive approach.

In my journey through academia, I have come to realize that challenging established norms, provoking discussions, and effecting positive change are endeavors worth pursuing. It is my hope that, by sharing this narrative, we can collectively question the conventions that govern our educational systems and strive for a more equitable and just approach—one that values the unique experiences, perspectives, and potential of each student, regardless of neurodiversity.

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