I have been thinking a lot, lately, about my time spent in mainstream education; I came to the conclusion that although I learnt a lot-about people, how to behave, a love of history, etc-I still think a lot more could have been done in terms of support.
I’m not disparaging the learning support I was given; a lot of the time, what I was given went above and beyond what I was asking for. (There was just bureaucratic measures in place at times, so I had to jump a few hoops.) I had some amazing teachers-one of which you can read about here-and some incredible learning support assistants.
(I do ask a few fellow ASD bloggers what they thought; sadly I can’t see their tweets, so they can’t be imbedded here.)
I think that most of the teachers were aware of what Aspergers is-apart from one who described us as being “a bit cold and a bit weird”-but it was often students that I ‘butted heads’ with. Having to explain my diagnosis over and over got frustrating to say the least. And being treated differently once I disclosed that I was Autistic was nullifying.
Throughout education, I did have a bit of a rough time occasionally; for instance, whilst in Primary school, one of the exercise books I kept was graffitied by about six other children-with words such as ‘pig’, ‘ugly’, ‘fat’. I was often told-from Primary to secondary school-that I was ‘ugly’, ‘weird’-which I think picked up on stimming behaviours, and special interests-or even a ‘freak’. I didn’t make a lot of friends-it’s still difficult for me even now. My clothes were deemed ‘insignificant’, or even stereotyped as being that of a ‘Granny’. I was left out of social events, Christmas gift swaps, and more.
Aspergers and Autism were not openly discussed subjects at the places I attended, really. We all knew what Depression was, what Dyslexia was-there were signs up everywhere. But I think I can remember counting only one for Autism. We didn’t have an assembly about Aspergers, and there wasn’t always a support network-I had to sort of fashion my own.
I can’t help but think that if Aspergers was given the same visibility as other issues, I wouldn’t have had some of the issues that I did. And if there was early intervention, rather than being diagnosed much later in life, a lot of things would have been so much easier.
Education left me with a lot of skills-such as how to use Page plus six to create a magazine, how to craft your writing-as well as with a love of history and politics, as well as the need to write and network. I also learnt a lot about people-how to ask for help, when someone is your friend, and what not to do on social media. (Spoiler: if someone is leaving you out of social events deliberately, they are not your friend.)
I just wish that where I spent my education life that the ‘invisible disability’ had been more visible.