Programming with a learning disorder

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#1 Fishb0ne  Icon User is offline

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Programming with a learning disorder

Posted 21 October 2014 - 03:33 AM

Hello everyone,

Let me introduce myself real quick. I'm Fishb0ne, I'm an avid gamer and I enjoy reading (ACTUAL BOOKS!) and collecting Magic The Gathering. I'm 20 years old, Belgian who lives in England, 6'4" tall, skinny like slenderman, I have two leopard geckos called Leo and Lexy, I'd love to own a Yemen chameleon and I frequent forums in my spare time. I'm currently studying IT & Business Level 3 and I'm hoping to study ethical hacking at university.

Now that we got that out of the way, let me get to my problem. I have been trying to learn to program for around 3 years now and I've been struggling quite a lot with it. I've bought several books in both Dutch and English and I still cannot make sense of them. I have NLD (Non-Verbal Learning Disorder) and this has been holding me back in learning programming quite a lot. I have a reasonable amount of knowledge around programming languages but I can barely program. I have tried Java, C#, C++, Objective-C, C, Visual Basic, Python, Ruby, PHP, Javascript, PASCAL, Fortran, Eiffel, BASIC, assembly languages and a lot more but I just cannot get the hang of it.

I did an evening course in Visual Basic which I failed hard because I just did not understand a word of what the teacher said. I'm very eager to learn and I love learning but this has been so frustrating and hard for me because I've just been stuck behind a brick wall ever since I started. I do not give up really quick but I have had times where I thought to myself that I should just give up. I haven't gotten farther than doing arrays in Visual Basic.

I've read the For Dummies books, I've read the For Beginners books, I've read every single book imaginable and I still do not understand what it all means. I have no money to pay for a private tutor or to follow a class and I do not know what to do anymore.

Is there anyone who can help me at all? I've tried so many forums and nobody has been able to give me any good information.

Thank you all and sorry for the wall of text!

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Replies To: Programming with a learning disorder

#2 infernorthor  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming with a learning disorder

Posted 21 October 2014 - 03:47 AM

I can't say for certain what will help you.

Programming is not easy. You just need take it slow, start from the beginning.

Practice and building an understanding is key.

You might want to think of how you've learned other things, and see if it can help with what you are doing now.

Think of programming as making a cookbook.
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#3 Skydiver  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming with a learning disorder

Posted 21 October 2014 - 05:53 AM

Moving this to the Software Development forum since this is not C/C++ specific.
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#4 cfoley  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming with a learning disorder

Posted 21 October 2014 - 06:21 AM

Programming is a difficult thing to learn for everybody. I can only imagine it is even harder with a learning disorder. Although I have very little knowledge of learning disorders, here is some advice I would give to any aspiring coder. Maybe it will be of use to you too:

* Pick one language and stick to it. All the languages you listed are conceptually very similar so just pick one. My first recommendation to beginners these days is Python. If you find programming difficult because of all the things you need to remember then maybe something like Clojure or Racket would help. The latter two have very little syntax but are still plenty powerful.

* Programming is a combination of knowledge and skill. You can't learn the skill from a book. You have to pick up the skill by repeatedly trying things out. A good book will have practice problems. Do them all. If it doesn't have enough then look for more elsewhere. You should also have your own mini projects to work on. You won't always be able to finish them. You will make loads of mistakes but the learning from those early projects is invaluable.
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#5 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: Programming with a learning disorder

Posted 21 October 2014 - 07:03 AM

Quote

I have been trying to learn to program for around 3 years now and I've been struggling quite a lot with it. I've bought several books in both Dutch and English and I still cannot make sense of them.
[...]
I've read the For Dummies books, I've read the For Beginners books, I've read every single book imaginable and I still do not understand what it all means.


Not to be too impartial here, but have you looked into your NVLD and tried to understand what ways are best for you learning? Perhaps you are doing it wrong, or there is some option around the wall you have not considered?

Also not knowing what your NVLD maybe (that is a large spectrum) you may think about investing your time elsewhere. Not everyone is suited to do everything no matter how much we may wish otherwise. On the plus side there is a huge playground for the 'Information Assurance/network security' business that does *NOT* require programming. If you are ambling that direction then you may want to bounce out of this hole and pursue the other areas.
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#6 baavgai  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming with a learning disorder

Posted 21 October 2014 - 07:57 AM

View PostFishb0ne, on 21 October 2014 - 06:33 AM, said:

I have NLD (Non-Verbal Learning Disorder) and this has been holding me back in learning programming quite a lot.


No, it's not. Or, rather, blaming a condition for having trouble with something only gives it power over you and holds you back. Stop that.

Quote

* most people with Asperger syndrome (AS) fit the criteria for NLD *
-- http://en.wikipedia....arning_disorder


I find this rather curious. I know a ton of aspies. In a sense it is the geek archetype and most programmers I've ever run into have a few ( or more than a few ) checks on the spectrum. The point is, the "disorder" doesn't actually sound like the kind of thing that would stop you. Because programming is, 100%, verbal, in this sense.

Programming is also hard. Sometimes very hard. It requires thinking in a certain way. If your brain isn't wired up that way, you essentially have to learn to think differently to program. This isn't bad, but it isn't easy.

Programming is even hard for smart people. ;) People who often pick other skills very easily hit a wall with programming. Don't expect to just "get it" because you won't.

You have to sit down and begin at the beginning. Write that hello world program and whatever comes next. Assume you're an idiot because when it comes to programming you still are.

Don't beat yourself up and don't think you can do everything at once. Programming is about breaking very large problems down into many very small ones. The small ones aren't too hard, but you will have to do a lot of them before the large ones make sense. Be patient and DO NOT say "because I have X I can't..." If you don't think you can then you never will. You CAN: go from there.
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#7 Fishb0ne  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming with a learning disorder

Posted 21 October 2014 - 09:45 AM

View Postbaavgai, on 21 October 2014 - 07:57 AM, said:

View PostFishb0ne, on 21 October 2014 - 06:33 AM, said:

I have NLD (Non-Verbal Learning Disorder) and this has been holding me back in learning programming quite a lot.


No, it's not. Or, rather, blaming a condition for having trouble with something only gives it power over you and holds you back. Stop that.

Quote

* most people with Asperger syndrome (AS) fit the criteria for NLD *
-- http://en.wikipedia....arning_disorder


I find this rather curious. I know a ton of aspies. In a sense it is the geek archetype and most programmers I've ever run into have a few ( or more than a few ) checks on the spectrum. The point is, the "disorder" doesn't actually sound like the kind of thing that would stop you. Because programming is, 100%, verbal, in this sense.

Programming is also hard. Sometimes very hard. It requires thinking in a certain way. If your brain isn't wired up that way, you essentially have to learn to think differently to program. This isn't bad, but it isn't easy.

Programming is even hard for smart people. ;)/> People who often pick other skills very easily hit a wall with programming. Don't expect to just "get it" because you won't.

You have to sit down and begin at the beginning. Write that hello world program and whatever comes next. Assume you're an idiot because when it comes to programming you still are.

Don't beat yourself up and don't think you can do everything at once. Programming is about breaking very large problems down into many very small ones. The small ones aren't too hard, but you will have to do a lot of them before the large ones make sense. Be patient and DO NOT say "because I have X I can't..." If you don't think you can then you never will. You CAN: go from there.


I have a form of autism called PDD-NOS (it's different from Asperger's in a few ways) so that was an amazing guess actually.

Thank you very much for this. I want to learn C++ because I want to write my own exploits and have a solid foundation in programming but it does quite scare me. I'll just keep at it but I just don't know how people can load up their editor and start experimenting until stuff works. It just goes above me.

I am quite a logical thinker and I have had to do quite a few logical tests and I scored over 80% on each test.

View Postmodi123_1, on 21 October 2014 - 07:03 AM, said:

Quote

I have been trying to learn to program for around 3 years now and I've been struggling quite a lot with it. I've bought several books in both Dutch and English and I still cannot make sense of them.
[...]
I've read the For Dummies books, I've read the For Beginners books, I've read every single book imaginable and I still do not understand what it all means.


Not to be too impartial here, but have you looked into your NVLD and tried to understand what ways are best for you learning? Perhaps you are doing it wrong, or there is some option around the wall you have not considered?

Also not knowing what your NVLD maybe (that is a large spectrum) you may think about investing your time elsewhere. Not everyone is suited to do everything no matter how much we may wish otherwise. On the plus side there is a huge playground for the 'Information Assurance/network security' business that does *NOT* require programming. If you are ambling that direction then you may want to bounce out of this hole and pursue the other areas.


I haven't really researched into it to be honest, even after being diagnosed for over 10 years. I'll look into it and see what method is best for me. I do enjoy solving problems but I need to see the solution after for me to understand.
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#8 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: Programming with a learning disorder

Posted 21 October 2014 - 09:46 AM

View PostFishb0ne, on 21 October 2014 - 11:43 AM, said:

Thank you very much for this. I want to learn C++ because I want to write my own exploits


Perhaps I'm misreading you, but if by "exploits" you mean code to appropriate or disrupt computing resources which you do not have legitimate access to, you will find no help with that here, and you should probably reconsider what you're doing.
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#9 Fishb0ne  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming with a learning disorder

Posted 21 October 2014 - 09:49 AM

View Postjon.kiparsky, on 21 October 2014 - 09:46 AM, said:

View PostFishb0ne, on 21 October 2014 - 11:43 AM, said:

Thank you very much for this. I want to learn C++ because I want to write my own exploits


Perhaps I'm misreading you, but if by "exploits" you mean code to appropriate or disrupt computing resources which you do not have legitimate access to, you will find no help with that here, and you should probably reconsider what you're doing.


I'm sorry for not making it clear haha. For my (hopefully future job) as an ethical hacker I will need to write my own exploits or modify existing ones to check for vulnerabilities. I don't intend on doing anything illegal with them and the exploits will only be used for work.
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#10 baavgai  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming with a learning disorder

Posted 21 October 2014 - 12:09 PM

View PostFishb0ne, on 21 October 2014 - 12:45 PM, said:

a form of autism


Yeah, I'm afraid I tend think of autistics I can chat with as being in the aspie zone. Curiously, the American Psychiatric Association no longer lists Asperger's or PDD-NOS, chucking them all under ASD ( the "spectrum" ) More here.

View PostFishb0ne, on 21 October 2014 - 12:45 PM, said:

I want to write my own exploits and have a solid foundation in programming


Not the most noble of causes. Also, not well documented. You have to understand how computers think before you can lobotomize them. An "exploit" is often more machine code than anything else. You'll do better if your starting goal is to simply learn to program. Don't get distracted with "but I want to do X."


View PostFishb0ne, on 21 October 2014 - 12:45 PM, said:

I just don't know how people can load up their editor and start experimenting until stuff works.


Using some kind of editor and hacking something by following the dancing program pointer is different from programming. It hardly seems worth the effort, honestly.

Thinking logically is a good start. Indeed, you can't really get anywhere without it. But it's still just a start. Don't worry about "how people" can do the voodoo they do. Only be concerned with doing something new yourself and you'll be fine.
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#11 thecoat  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming with a learning disorder

Posted 24 October 2014 - 10:29 AM

I'm ignorant about NLD, but from my understanding it means you learn better via verbal discussion than from a book? If that is the case there are a lot of great video/audio tutorials sites that specialize in training and teaching often times from the ground up. I may be misunderstanding the condition (sorry if I am) but it sure sounds like trying to learn from books makes things a lot harder. One huge benefit to videos is you can pause them, and proceed at your own pace, rewinding etc, in contrast to a classroom environment where you might feel pressure not to hold up the show. You may not be able to ask questions, but websites like DIC can help fill that void.

http://www.lynda.com/ Covers a range of platforms and technologies.

Obviously centered on MS platforms, but it's free and has some great series.
http://www.microsoft...ualacademy.com/

I'll reiterate what others have said, start by learning to do the things being taught (usually fundementals) not by trying to learn how to accomplish X specific goal.
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#12 Nitewalkr  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming with a learning disorder

Posted 27 October 2014 - 04:11 AM

Perhaps a little late to the discussion but I found this.

If its a matter of learning, I would suggest reading constantly to ease up the struggle of understanding. (Ya that just came out offensive, I apologize.) Its the only way to get past the NVLD.

If later on in few months you dont see any improvements, I would suggest you go to youtube and learn through video tutorials.
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#13 Lemur  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming with a learning disorder

Posted 30 October 2014 - 12:09 AM

As an Aspie, it really does become a matter of letting it dominate you or deciding to use it to your advantage. I didn't know that's what it was until I was ~18, but it made a lot of sense with things in my past. Actually, it's probably a good thing I learned so late, it made it far harder to use that as a crutch. I'd even told the doctor any pills he gave me would go down a toilet, mainly because I saw no need to get an expensive addiction to something I'd done fine without.

One thing to note is that my case is unusual in that I'm high on the range and can control it a lot more than others I know. Some legitimately need the help, and should get it. There are others that use it as a crutch that are higher level than me, and I won't hesitate to call them out on it.

Your case may be entirely different, who knows, but don't let it rule you. Seeing a counselor about things isn't a sign of weakness, it's asking for help in your everyday battle instead of submitting. That takes some courage to do, and the stigma around it is completely unwarranted.

Yes, programming is hard. Yes, it takes a ton of time to get good at for most people. It wasn't until I was probably 20 that it really clicked for me, and I'd been at it since I was maybe 8 or 9. Pick a language, and learn it through. Don't bother with others until you actually need them. The only reason you should be learning multiple is if classes require it, or you're picking a strong group of One Enterprise OO (C++, C#, Java), One Scripting (Ruby, Python, Perl), and One Functional (Scheme, Haskell, Erlang.) Even then, one at a time for at least a few months or you'll burn dry.
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#14 Tyl0rb0b  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming with a learning disorder

Posted 03 November 2014 - 05:09 AM

This has nothing to do with a learning disorder.
It's just the most common programming beginners mistake.

View PostFishb0ne, on 21 October 2014 - 03:33 AM, said:

I have a reasonable amount of knowledge around programming languages but I can barely program. I have tried Java, C#, C++, Objective-C, C, Visual Basic, Python, Ruby, PHP, Javascript, PASCAL, Fortran, Eiffel, BASIC, assembly languages and a lot more but I just cannot get the hang of it.


Of course not. Because you learned language basics instead of programming. Two completely different things.
You can't learn programming out of a book. It's an activity, a craft. You have to do it in order to learn it.

We are talking about sticking to one language and working on small - medium projects for at least a year to really get the grasp of it.
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#15 Fishb0ne  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming with a learning disorder

Posted 05 November 2014 - 07:35 AM

Thank you everyone for the posts. I have decided that I'm going to stick with programming and will try to make it through. I have hit another problem though and that is deciding on a programming language to stick with. Should I start out with VB.NET, C# or dive straight into C++? I want to be able to start a project that I can come back to later and improve. Maybe a small, simple game like Tic Tac Toe or something similar.

Thank you!
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