This post was inspired by School Was the Hardest Thing About Being Autistic by Anonymously Autistic
There has recently been a lot of autistic people on primarily Twitter speaking about their experiences with school and the results have been heartbreaking to say the least. The bullying was even adopted by teachers and the older I get the more I understand that those whose job it is somewhere to protect doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what they’ll do.
My memory is not the best but that’ll probably be an advantage in telling you a vague version of my personal experience.
I wasn’t diagnosed until I was ten/eleven. For those who aren’t familiar with the UK school system, this was during my first year of secondary school. Before this, there is Infants (before 5 yrs old, I think) and then in-between Infants and secondary school is primary school (5-11yrs) I think, it’s been a while. In both these systems, I wasn’t diagnosed, which made my obvious difference even harder to process.
From as far back as I can remember, I was bullied and isolated. I am the type of person to prefer being isolated so that in itself was never a problem for me. In late primary school, however, they started getting a bit harsher with the way they decided to use me as their entertainment. They stole my stuff (coats, school supplies, etc). Occasionally, they’d give it back. They threw things at me during lessons. They’d tease me on the playground and chant the words I’d cry, just leave me alone! I had sensory problems so I didn’t shower everyday like other children were capable of doing without meltdowns. I was made fun of because I smelt bad. Because I was “fat”. Some even went as far as to pretend to be my friend just to try and get me to tell them things they could use against me. Kids were smart.
Outside of lessons, they’d throw rocks at me and laugh that the rocks “bounced back”. They knew where I lived and would spit at my door, or wait outside until I left (I think they gave up fairly quickly when they realized that I didn’t leave). They’d tease me for being “dumb” or for being a “trouble-maker”.
The teachers were not much better. They were tougher on me because I was a “trouble-maker”, they had little faith in me because I wasn’t good at academic subjects (or even creative ones for that matter). None of them made any effort to stop the bullying, none of them would allow me to sit in the library instead of outside in the playground.
They knew I had social-based anxiety and put me into a school play
Secondary school, little did I know, would be worse. For the first year, I traveled with the primary school students I had just agonizingly spent the past few years with (and was not excited to spend a few more years with) into secondary school. Primary school students from other schools were also joining us in the first year. What came as no surprise to me is that they weren’t very nice either.
This time around stuff was still being stolen from me. Perfume was without my consent being sprayed onto me (a big deal when you’re autistic with sensory problems). These were also the years that I was understanding my sexuality (or trying to), and developed crushes on girls. People picked up on that, they started using the general insults they would direct to people they think are gay. Another story for another time perhaps.
I was transferred in March-time to another mainstream school about twenty miles away. This one had an autism specialized unit attached to it. The autism unit was really hard for a while but, eventually, it did begin to help me and it was so much better than being outside of it in mainstream school.
Here, the words “r*tard” were said quite a lot – for example, when I was new into class a student said “Why do we always get all the r*tards?” as they already had other autistic/”special needs” students in the class.
Stuff wasn’t stolen from me here, at least.
They’d ask me out for dates as a joke, and it was lucky that I assumed people were making fun of me and never took them seriously as my autistic self doesn’t fully understand what is a joke and what isn’t. I started to develop bigger boobs earlier than a lot of my classmates and because I was mute I guess they thought I was a robot or something and just stared down my shirt like I wouldn’t/couldn’t notice.
People insulted me as they spoke around me because, again, they assumed that because I was mute I also couldn’t hear.
I said I would keep this vague and it’s over 800 words already! Lets jump to the teachers and their lack of help.
My English lit teacher would frequently be annoyed at how I wasn’t “slower” than the other students. I later found out it was because I learned in a different way and spent a lot of the time thinking I was “stupid”. He would also make fun of my lack of social skills by saying “Come on, Lorna, be social!” when I refused to sit around other people during tasks that weren’t even group tasks. He tried to discourage me from re-sitting another year because he just didn’t want to teach me anymore.
My geography teacher would laugh as the students in the class made fun of me for my weight or the fact I didn’t speak. Even though I was earning myself higher grades in coursework for trips I didn’t even go to, a majority again made fun of how I was “stupid”. I don’t think he knows I knew, but doors aren’t soundproof. I would leave classes early before lunch to avoid queues (which was allowed for me to do by the autistic unit) and I left early during last lesson to get to my taxi, also because of the autistic unit.
School was not fun. I didn’t want to make this in depth as then the post would have been way too long.
As I always say, autism is not the problem. Ablest people are the problem.