Tag Archives: school

School Was the Hardest thing About Growing Up Autistic

Someone asked about how I was in school.

I was in special education when I was young (early elementary school) and had tutor a few years later. I was a b-c (sometimes d student) with poor social skills. However, I still feel I was “smart” just not smart AT school.

Things that bore me go in one ear and out the other while things that catch my attention and interest me I can learn every detail about. That’s just how I learn.

School wanted me to learn boring things that seemed completely irrelevant and I had a lot of trouble with that.  My other problem at school is that we were expected to sit still for long periods of time without fidgeting. At home I had fidget toys all around me (pinwheels, kaleidoscopes, silly putty, and more). At school no toys were allowed

Teachers saw me as a problem, something they did not want to deal with. They wanted to send me away or pass me along. I even had one teacher tell me I “should have failed her class but she passed me just so she would not have to see me again next year.”

I started school young, excited, and ready to learn. I’ve always had a passion for learning but school almost beat that out of me. By the time I left school I didn’t even know who I was anymore.

School didn’t want me and college was never a real option for me.  I was dismissed over and over again by people who should have motivated me.

Every day I am grateful that I am self motivated. When I want something I push myself for it. I know not everyone has this skill – I wish I could share it with anyone who needs it.

Growing up in my own little bubble, the world in my head is magical and bold. My whole life it has felt as if people are constantly trying to pull me out of that bubble – but the bubble is where I want to be. I am the bubble and the bubble is me.

School wanted me to be a cube but all my edges were rounded. Why could I not just be myself?

 

#ActuallyAutistic #SheCantBeAutistic #AutismAwarenes #AutismAcceptance

I Worry About Autistic Children – Trouble in the School System

I was extremely fortunate in life, born into a large family who loved me greatly. Every one of them wanted to see me succeed. They pushed me and taught me things. My grandparents made sure I had good manners and my aunts and uncles taught me art and music. Cousins and family was fun but teachers and school was very difficult.

At home I felt confident and competent, this was always crushed when I went to school. My individuality was not cherished and teachers said I was too much of a distraction to stay in class. Eventually when I learned to sit still (which even now is hard on me) I was allowed to return to class with my peers.

They were strict and it was hard but in the end I had to want to go back to the regular class room so I would be motivated to sit still. Autistic people can do very well if they are motivated but our motivations my not make sense to others.

I’ve learned to use my own motivations as rewards for good work. I tell myself “if you do this now you can have a reward at the end”. Sometimes the reward may be a stretch or stim break, it could be a cup of coffee, or a snack. I need to be motivated and as an adult I have to motivate myself to create good habits.

It’s not much different than what I would do for my dog when helping him learn new habits. All creatures love rewards and I love my dog. I want to help grow good habits so my dog can have a happy life – we just both happen to love treats.

Teachers who punish, call out flaws, and ostracize children who are different were some of my biggest adversaries in school growing up. They didn’t know what to do with me back then. I was “smart and dumb at the same time”. Teachers also called me lazy. There were no accommodations for me growing up, I had to learn to blend in or get kicked out of school.

Fast forward thirty years and parents advocating for their own children often struggle to get reasonable accommodations for their children in the public school system. Schools want to offer many Autistic kids a minimal education and with our current political situation I worry things may get much worse.

Many great historical thinkers had trouble in school growing up. Imagine if they encountered a system that told them they were not worth teaching. What if nobody had taken the time to help them learn and grow?

Everybody deserves the chance to learn and grow. We need to make sure Autistic children do not get shut out of an education just because they have a different way of experiencing the world.

Standardized Testing Isn’t Totally Useless, but It Does Miss the Point | Scott Barry Kaufman – Big Think

This video from Big Think has some great points. I have never felt like the public school system was fair to me and the way I needed to learn in my own way.

Teachers wanted me to sit still and my peers bullied me. I have always loved learning but I HATED school. Something is wrong with that picture.

The world needs different types of minds, all minds, different perspectives. They are all valuable.

I can take no credit for Big Think‘s video below. Please check them out for more content.

“Girls with Autism; flying under the radar” – a new mini guide for schools and child based services. — Barry Carpenter Education

The following was in my news feed today, and as a girl who was missed the title of the original blog post stooped me in my tracks. Please be sure to visit the original poster for more information.

 

To mark World Autism Awareness Day, nasen has launched a new mini – guide highlighting the needs of girls with , or without a diagnosis of Autism. Written by Jo Egerton and Barry Carpenter, with contributions from the Girls with ASC Working Party, the guide is a free download to schools and services. The guide […]

via “Girls with Autism; flying under the radar” – a new mini guide for schools and child based services. — Barry Carpenter Education

Mean Words from Adults – A Misunderstood Child

Growing up adults had a lot of words to describe my inconvenient behaviors – defiant, smart-Alec, manipulative, inconsiderate, lazy, stubborn. Some of these words came out of the mouths of family members but teachers always had the most to say.

My mother would say that I was very smart and could succeed at anything, if I would only apply myself. She also called me manipulative when I tried desperately to control my surroundings. Many times my grandmother called me “Smarty” in a sarcastic tone when I interpreted her too literally.

My teachers called me disruptive, inattentive, and lazy when I was bored with the lessons they were teaching in class and overwhelmed by the sensory assault bough about by the classroom environment.  They didn’t seem to care that I already knew how to read or understand that learning my alphabet seemed illogical to me. I didn’t understand why they were going over this baby stuff.

They sent me away to a special education reading group when I had trouble reading out loud. Never mind that I was reading above grade level in my head, the teachers wanted to hear it. Speaking out loud in front of an entire classroom filled with mean kids who bullied me was terrifying.

I have never cared much about proving my intelligence to others, teachers included. I’ve always been able to hold myself accountable for my own knowledge. Why wasn’t that good enough?

In math class I was accused of being a cheater because I could easily do the problems in my head and did not show my work. Writing out all the steps was illogical and a waste of time. I’ve always had trouble with fine motor control, and even now writing by hand hurts after only a little while.

So many mean words, so many assumptions. My entire childhood, more than anything I was misunderstood.

My Autism Was Obvious But Everybody Missed It

I grew up without and Autism diagnosis. All I knew was that the other children thought I was weird and I did not fit in. Growing up I wondered what was wrong with me. Feelings and emotions that others had escaped me. I remember feeling disconnected and thinking I was incapable of love.

Recently I watched all of the home videos from my childhood starting with my first bath. Even at a very young age my Autism was obvious – if you know what to look for.

Being my mother must have been difficult. In almost all the videos I want nothing to do with her. She (and everyone) calls my name over and over again, but I act as if I cannot hear her. I have no interest in my mother in my baby videos. It is as if she does not exist to me.

My toys however DID exist, but not the dolls and stuffed animals. Little me LOVED the toy phones, radios, and record players. Anything mechanical with buttons to press or wheels that spun, and I had no interest in sharing these items and experiences with my family members.

Over and over again, my mother enthusiastically said my name in a sing song voice, but I did not even flinch. Eventually I learned, out of fear, to pay attention to my mother when she called me. When I became a teenager, failing to hear my mother would bring out her wrath and got me into trouble.

Another marker for autism, stereotyped repetitive speech and movements filled all my videos. I flapped my hands, spun in circles, rocked back and fourth, and in an earlier video when everyone is singing the birthday song to my aunt, I seem stuck saying “happy balloon” over and over and over again (as I flap a balloon in the air like a maraca).

Even in later videos, at about the age of seven, my verbal and physical stims are hard to miss. It is as if I cannot stop moving. There is a video of my step father holding me still and tickling me, watching it makes me want to cry. Doesn’t he know?

Being tickled was the worst and being held still was almost as bad. I say over and over again “let go, let go, let go!” in the rhythm to the song playing on the radio as my family sings along. He was torturing me, and laughed as he did it. I hated my step father.

There are things that I remember about my childhood that we did not have on tape. My mother would always telling me “Look at my nose. Look at my nose” when she spoke to me, trying to teach me the eye contact that has never come naturally.

I also remember my family constantly reminding me to “use my indoor voice” becase I had a VERY hard time modulating my speech when I was younger, I still do from time to time if I get excited. Sometimes when I am feeling extremely enthusiastic, even now, the tone of my voice becomes squeaky and high pitched.

Thirty years ago Autism was not as well known and understood as it is now, and was primarily thought of as a “male disorder”, but still I remember my mother fighting back when the teachers at school tried to suggest she have me examined by a professional.

She was protecting me. I know that, but can’t help but wonder how my life would have been different if I had been diagnosed as a little girl. Would I have been diagnosed correctly or would I have been heavily medicated with Ritalin like so many other kids were back then?

I will never know because although my Autism was obvious everybody around me missed (or ignored) it.

 

For you visual learners – more info about the early signs of childhood Autism in the video below.

Early Signs of Autism Video Tutorial – Kennedy Krieger Institute

Trouble and Bullies in School

I was a smiley and happy girl before I started school.

I hated school when I was young. My body was made to be constantly in motion. Sitting still and paying attention to the teacher was difficult.

School was overwhelming. It was the first place I experienced sensory overload, and I had a hard time understanding my teachers in a classroom environment. The florescent lights gave me “headaches” and I had a hard time focusing because of all the “background noise”.

In first grade the other kids were learning how to read, but I taught myself to read at an early age.  The teacher wanted me to sit still, not distracting the class, but I had other ideas. I wanted to crawl around on the floor, hide under my desk, and spin in circles.

My teachers were not amused by my behavior and suggested my mother have me evaluated for ADHD. At the time ADHD was the general diagnosis for disruptive children and Ritalin was being passed out like candy. Teachers liked active kids being doped up because it made their jobs easier, but nobody seemed to question if these drugs would have harmful long term effects on the children.

My mother refused to have me evaluated. She was angry when my teachers suggested that I was unintelligent. I was a bright child and my mother knew me better than my teachers did. Unfortunately there was no convincing me to apply myself to the “trivial” things that my teachers wanted me to learn.

The other kids were horrible to me. I was picked on constantly, verbally abused and physically beat up regularly. When my mother would ask how my day was I never mentioned the bullies. I took my beatings as they came.

The other kids told me I was “creepy” and called me a “witch”. When Practical Magic came out in 1998 the kids started to use the chant “Witch witch you’re a bitch!” any time teachers were out of earshot.

Things didn’t get any better in middle school. I spent most of my childhood wishing to be an adult, just trying to get through being a kid. I HATED my childhood. I wanted to be an adult, because adults treated each other better.

I remember my first ride home on the school bus in sixth grade. In elementary school bus seats had been assigned, but the bus driver let me know that I could sit wherever I wanted. I was one of the fist kids to board the bus in the afternoon, so I chose the very last seat.

A boy tapped me on the shoulder and I took my headphones off. He let me know that I “was in his seat”.  I smiled politely and let him know that we did not have assigned seats this year. Before I knew it his fist was in my stomach. It felt if he had punched all the way through my gut into my spine. Nobody said or did anything to help me.

I sat in the seat directly behind the bus driver for the rest of the year on days I had to ride the bus.

The warm happy girl who had started school only a few years earlier had almost completely vanished. I was in a dark place, every peer I met became a potential threat and I was learning not to trust anyone.

In high school I became a better “actor” and learned to mimic the people who were not getting picked on. Things got better, but I had become a very shallow and fake person. I had backstabbing and untrustworthy “friends” and became just like the people that I spent time with.

The bullying had stopped, but I had become a shadow of my true self.

Years later I am still cleaning up the damage done by my childhood, rediscovering my true nature, and getting back to being that warm and happy girl that I was meant to be.