When I was at school, a mere 14-28 years ago (I feel so old now) words like autism and Asperger’s weren’t part of my vocabulary. As far as I know, nobody else at school was thinking about these things either, including the teachers. Today it seems to be common knowledge, although I hear a lot more about autism then Asperger’s when I hear school teachers talking about their classes.
Maybe that’s because children diagnosed with an ASD need more support with their learning than plain old Aspies? Maybe children with Asperger’s are still slipping through the net for this very reason? Maybe Aspies are simply less prolific?
What bothers me (and has been bothering me for about 18 years now) is the worry that most educational institutions will fail to meet the needs of children with Asperger’s.
My overriding memory of school days is the feeling of being invisible, like I wasn’t worth noticing. I found it hard to talk to my peers and my teachers. I didn’t know why I didn’t fit in. I started to believe I was worthless. I thought there was no real future for me. I became numb, and that meant I didn’t make the most of what opportunities I had. Every day was simply an endurance test. How much can I put with? How much can I take before I crack?
Not once did I feel like anyone understood me, or even attempted to see beyond my quiet facade. I was just the quiet kid who followed orders.
Now we have teachers who are more aware – but with so much on their plate, would they notice another child who was struggling but not diagnosed?
I hate the thought of a child feeling so isolated, when they should be surrounded by friends and possibilities.
But what does a child with Asperger’s need to flourish at school?
- Sympathetic teachers, definitely!
- A bolt hole – why not let us hide in the library or a reading room instead of hiding in toilet cubicles?
- Social coaching – this would be a big ask! Maybe an after-school or lunchtime class with a small group, or one-on-one, to give us some clues and encouragement.
Can you think of anything else that would help?