Has anyone stopped to think about how damaging the NT education system is to autistic people? More specifically “high functioning” autistic people.
When it was first suspected that I have ADHD and Asperger’s when I was 13, the learning support at my secondary school was all ears about how they could help me, and allowed me to use things to fiddle and doodle with to help me focus and do well in a classroom environment. That changed when I got my diagnosis roughly 7 months later at the beginning of GCSEs. All of a sudden teachers seemed to forget that I had needs that had to be accommodated to and instead I was a burden to their classroom. I was always told I was disruptive but this was like a whole other level of being clearly hated by my teachers.
The school system began to move too fast for me and I struggled incredibly with my GCSEs. I got mainly C grades which, although I know is a pass, the school system plants it into your brain that you’re failure if you get a C or below. Everybody deems you a failure, and everybody laughs. This is so true even to the extent of when I went into my local comic book shop with my friends at the time when I had recently gotten my GCSE results, the man at the till asked us what we got, and whilst my friends were proudly listing off the A*’s, A’s and B’s, I was embarrassingly listing off my C’s, D’s and E’s and was dubbed “the numpty of the group” by the man. You can imagine the awkward laughter.
I knew I was good at things. I was good at philosophy and English especially but didn’t get to prove this through a letter on a piece of paper that remains shunned away on the shelf above my desk. During a meeting with a speech therapist to get my diagnosis of autism, she told my mum that I would most likely need extra time in exams. Which I did – I can’t time keep at all and just don’t know how long to spend on questions as well as it taking long for it to process in my brain. But I wasn’t allowed this extra time by my school, just a prompter who was ridiculously annoying. If you’re unsure what a promoter does, they basically just prompt you to get back to your exam if it seemed like to you were getting distracted. Not helpful when I’m trying to think.
Anyway, I’m writing this blog post now because I’m nearing the end of my first year of college. And I hate it. I simply need more time. My life right now is stress and meltdown and stress and meltdown. I have 3 weeks left to create a short film, but for some reason my concentration is gone. Just like that. Perfect concentration pretty much through the whole year, a lot of enthusiasm, and now it’s gone. But if I try and explain this to college or try to ask for more time, I know they won’t understand. And I believe simply that it is because I am not autistic enough. Yes, I am autistic, I have a lot of struggles that only those that I live with mainly get the joy of helping me deal with them. I’m very good at covering these traits up when out and about, and especially in college. If there was an Academy Award in “masking” as I like to call it, I’d win. Because I don’t present as autistic, no one seems to understand that I have these struggles that need to be dealt with. I was actually told that people like me get no help in 6th form/level 3 college courses. That’s ridiculous. Is there something in people’s brains that tells them that after the age of 16 people’s problems just go away if they are more “high functioning”? If anything they just get worse because everything starts to move too fast and stresses me out to all degrees. Right now I actually feel physically sick because I’m so stressed.
Sometimes I wish the severity of my autism was worse so that I don’t have to put up with living in the NT world the way I do. Or maybe people could validate my autism and accommodate my needs. That would be cool too.