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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?

 

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I’ve been working on a big project for a local college and it’s made me realise just how much help and support kids get these days. I’ve also been watching a series called Educating Yorkshire, which has been a real eye opener!

In the TV series, the teachers really care about their students’ welfare, and they listen to what they have to say. The college I’m doing work for seem to take the same approach. They want to prepare their students for life, not just get them ready to pass exams. This mature, forward-thinking attitude is wonderful, and I wish it had been more prevalent when I was at school more than a decade ago.

It’s alright – this isn’t going to turn into a whinge! In fact it’s made me quite happy. I was worried about my daughter going to school. All the early signs indicate that she hasn’t turned out like me, an Aspie. Even so, I have been concerned with what might happen. My own experience of school was quite negative and I didn’t want her to go through years of sadness. I know that many of my peers enjoyed school, but having the experience of how bad it could be was frightening. I don’t believe home schooling is an option, and I know (in my head) that school is full of great opportunities. Nonetheless, I was afraid for her.

Now, if she goes to nursery, I know there’ll be a ‘key person’ who will take care of her properly. When she gets to school, there will be teachers who know how to spot and take care of emotional and social problems. When she gets to college, she’ll have similar support options and a probably a special tutor to help her stay on-track.

What a luxury, that there should be trained and caring staff at every stage of my baby’s childhood. I hope every country that is capable of this level of care provides it.