Perseveration is the uncontrollable repetition of certain responses to stimuli both external and internal. Many people with brain injuries and developmental disorders exhibit perseveration. “Perseveration may also refer to the obsessive and highly selective interests of individuals on the autism spectrum” (Wikipedia).

When the young lady in the picture below was a young child, she repetitiously tore the pages of any book she could put her hands on. The ripping sound seemed to satisfy some need. We had to hide them for a while. We bought her board books and vinyl books, to help her enjoy books without the opportunity to destroy them. She also would repeat the same sentences verbatim regarding her cats or to dogs to anyone who would listen.

Perseveration in high functioning people on the autistic spectrum can also find expression in perseverance, a related concept. “Perseverance: steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” (

This young lady is my daughter. Her steady persistence in the face of obstacles and discouragement led to an Associates degree in accounting, and then a bachelor’s degree. Her face says it all – I accomplished what others said was impossible.

232323232%7Ffp53394)nu=3347) (3)4(6)WSNRCG=3238336688;9;nu0mrj

She has severe learning disabilities, autism, and had a brain infarction at birth. Her speech impairment was in the severe category for many years; she had speech therapy well into high school. She learned to read in the eighth grade due to the persistent efforts of her wonderful teachers. Among the first book she read independently was The Lord of the Rings. Before reading the trilogy, though, she listened to many books on tape through the Reading for the Blind program.

Her regular education teachers said it would be a waste of money and time for her to attend college. A neuropsychologist told us that at the age of 19, it would be impossible for her to succeed at college, and even if she succeeded with a few courses, she  would not be able to understand upper level courses.

Finding meaningful employment is very difficult for high functioning people on the autistic spectrum. She graduated from college in 2010, but has yet to find permanent employment. But still she persists in her efforts. She volunteered at a homeless shelter for over a year using her accounting skills. This fall she had temporary full time work with them during holiday season (three months). She continues to work a few afternoons a week. She continues to persevere in her hunt for permanent employment. She has to find a job that she can get to by bus, because due to her physical limitations, the driver’s rehabilitation program has deemed her unable to drive.

She persevered and accomplished more than we could have imagined when she was placed in special education at five years of age. I was discouraged when I received the results of the neuropsychological evaluation when she was 19. She had worked so hard. But my other daughter said to me, “they can test reading and language, but they can’t test character.” Her perseveration had developed into perseverance; “especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.”


8 thoughts on “Perseveration/Perseverance

  1. Thank you. She has worked very hard….and she really does enjoy accounting. When I would drive her home from her night classes at Davenport, she told me many things about auditing and accounting fraud.

    I finally said to her, “You know how we feel when your brother keeps us up to date on the latest computer news?”

    She laughed. “That’s how you feel now, Mom.”

    “Right. I could update you on the latest changes for Medicare set-aside trusts?”

    “No, that’s okay, Mom.”

  2. It is my favorite picture of her. She went to college for five years to get her bachelor’s degree. Rick and I took her to school before and after work, but she did the work of college. I helped her proofread her papers, but I did not write them for her. She owes less money for college than her brother and sister because she started at the Community college.

  3. Another window into autism and its challenges. Congrats to your daughter in the transference of perseveration into perseverance. What a joy for the momma. Thanks for teaching me something new.

  4. I am pleased for you that your daughter made it through college despite ‘professionals’ being extraordinarily pessimistic, which only shows just how amazing your daughter is not to be put off.

    I think it is still terrible there is mental stigma against your daughter just because she has high functioning autism. Am I correct in thinking she cannot get a job due to her mental health rather than her accounting abilities? Don’t let her give up she has done so well!

    I read the bit about the enjoyment of tearing paper, a sensory activity my autistic brother very much enjoyed himself! He would tear pages he liked out of books and I think the ripping sound he liked and also the fact his favourite page was in his hand out of the book.

    It’s really nice to know more people are sharing their experiences with autism enabling people to understand it more!

    • Hi Hannah.

      Yes, her difficulty in getting a job has to do with her autism…her mental disability. As soon as people give her a chance, she shows what she can do.

      When she was tearing paper like that we had no idea that she had a disability. It is only in looking back that we see it for what it was. At the time, it was quite frustrating and we lost quite a few books.

      She recently received a part-time position with Habitat for Humanity. She works 6 hours a week for the homeless shelter and eight hours a week for Habitat. I should update that on this post. Her case worker helped her get the job at Habitat. And she is doing quite complicated accounting functions.

      • I hated maths at school, big respect to her and I am pleased she has found a job!
        Yes, I know of some mildly autistic young man who I knew through my brothers old school, and he struggled to get a job but eventually got one in a cake shop which he enjoys.
        Really hope things change for the future, it annoys me how little people understand about autism and judge too quickly.
        all the best

Your Thoughts are important

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s