I graduated high school on June 5 with a diploma. My GPA was the fourth highest in my grade. I did it despite being really autistic. I did it though I get tense and even aggressive sometimes. I did it though I can’t speak verbally and communicate by iPad or letter board.
I can’t stop being autistic. It is with me all the time. I’m wired in a peculiar neurological way. Despite this, I thrived, taking AP and Honors classes and doing my work along with my normal peers. The school was great and worked like a team. My teachers were supportive and respectful and I am grateful.
My last year suffered because of a crisis in 1:1 support. This nearly turned me into another person, I was so stressed and overwhelmed by the situation. But I can smile again and I will put it behind me and move on.
Because autism makes us so reliant on our 1:1 support, when it’s strong we can flourish. If it’s not, we can collapse. Now that I have graduated, I will have more power to choose who helps me so I need never be trapped again with a bad match and bad leadership.
Thanks to all my teachers, the school administrators, Adrienne and Anna.
My Spanish teacher had a meltdown in class a few weeks ago. Lots of kids were rude and disrespectful to her. She said, “I quit,” sat down and did nothing. After that, until I got switched to another Spanish class, we had subs. I actually wanted to learn Spanish and she was nice to me so I felt disappointed when this happened. She burned out in front of us.
I have been wondering why the students in that class had such terrible attitudes. I realize some have difficult home lives or have homes that don’t focus on learning, but to me the indifference to learning is puzzling. In my case, I fought so hard to be allowed to learn and to have a career one day. How come they waste their chance to get an education? It makes me very sad because the kids are decent people. They are nice to me and treat me with decency, but they are not nice to the teacher and don’t respect her. But I think even sadder is their lack of respect for their own futures. I think they can’t imagine that better things will come if they try.
I was imprisoned by my body and trapped with no education in school year after year when I was small. I know that an education is a gift, but they feel it is a prison. I wish I could help them to see how to value it.
First day of school tomorrow. I will have English, Spanish, World History, Algebra 2, Biology, plus an elective and PE. It will be a busy, hard year. More than anything, I’m excited to be returning to school. My old math teacher is the same, and my new teachers seem really nice and tolerant of me. It is nice to learn in school. I value the opportunity.
My high school is a really nice place. The change between my current school and my old school is huge. Last semester I felt miserable. I knew the school did not want me there. They never lifted a finger to be kind or help me feel easy or relaxed. It was so stressful it is hard to describe. I won’t go into details, but the administration was really making my life intolerable when all I wanted to do was access a normal education.
The fact is being disabled is hard enough without being rejected or made to feel awful about a disability you can’t get rid of. So the difference between that kind of environment and my current school is striking. The administration is kind and happy to have me there. The teachers really are respectful of me and nice to my aide. My stomach is not nauseous when I go to school now. I feel at home, so now I can just learn like everyone else.
My realization is that the attitude of the administration is incredibly important to a school’s culture. For some reason, my old school has a better reputation and is thought of as a better school out in the community. I know I’m in Honors classes so I am around the most motivated students, but my observation is that it isn’t better in instruction, friendliness, or student behavior. It is better at hassling disabled students though, and does have a reputation for that. The new school is like a hidden school because everyone wants to get their kids in the other one and I think this one is much better. Irony, for sure.
I went to check out another high school today. They had Open House. I think many of you have read about how difficult my high school has been. It started rough, in part because I had an unprepared aide who was not ready to work with a grown kid. I am tall and strong, so I am not easy like a small elementary school kid. I was also overwhelmed by the size of the school and the number of students. It was incredible how many came out of the rooms when the bell rang. Finally, it was pretty clear to me the school was worried about my early behavior when I was overwhelmed. It was unfortunate because I did great in middle school. Not perfect, but better each year.
In high school I started improving steadily too but I think my less than stellar start has affected the ability of some folks to see my improvement. Still, I get excellent grades and I try very hard to excel. Now I have my old, trusty, terrific aide, Cathy, all year (yay), and a wonderful new aide in training for next year. I was at the end of my rope a month ago. I came home from school in a sort of panic. I pleaded to find me another school because I felt unwelcome. My mom began looking and found some possibilities but I wasn’t eligible for different reasons, usually residence issues. She found one possibility I visited today but we don’t know if I can transfer mid-year. Oh wow- it had a horse and goats and sheep, but it also had friendly people and a warm and welcoming administrator. Cross your fingers for me.
I decided to overlook the fact that I feel unwelcome now in my current school. This has helped me relax and I can see I feel calmer. It also helps me mature. This challenge of my high school made me grow and get tougher but I am still eager to move on to a smaller, warmer school.
My friend, Cathy, is leaving me as my aide. I have had many aides in school over the years. I am starting to accept that none stay forever, but I wish Cathy could have stayed for years. In my situation I really need an aide who is intelligent and good at communicating with me. She really assisted me in lasting all day in regular education, in communicating in class, and in doing my work in class. I got more independent as the year went on. It was like a goal I had which she helped me to achieve. Now she moves on in life and I wish her lots of luck in her goals.
Cathy, my wonderful friend, I am fortunate I had your support in school in 8th grade and at home before. Thank you for everything.
How do you treat people with autism? In my experience the way people act can vary widely. Some people stare or act like I’m invisible. Others try to be nice. These fall into two groups. First are the ones who act like I am not understanding anything, who look at me like I’m a species of lower-cognition human. They try to help by talking slowly and giving me high-fives. They are well intended. I am not angry at not knowing and being kind. I do get angry if they know I understand and still act this way.
The other folks act pretty normally around me and ignore my weird stims when they come. I am so relaxed around these people. I do take advantage of the opportunities I get with people who are too understanding of me, however. If someone is not intuitive and I feel they are clueless, I can be a real pain, to put it mildly. I mean, all I need is a weak, sympathetic helper and I’m a strangely obnoxious guy. It gets awful because I don’t like being so stimmy and all, but I take advantage of the opportunity time after time. I laugh now thinking of the hapless substitute aide two years ago, who talked to me like I was retarded, watched me stim without helping me get control over myself, and told my mom I had a “good day” at school. When my aide returned the next day the assistant principal stopped her and said, “Never be absent again.” Ha ha ha. It’s funny now, if not then.
This is true in a way for all people. My history teacher was really structured. The students were sitting and working quietly. It was a really nice class. My English teacher was not good at structure or discipline. The same students were rude and disruptive. That class was more of a trial. The students were mostly the same people. My impression now is that a good leader is essential in teaching and in people who work with me. It’s a true thing even with dogs, or anything. We work on making sure our dogs are not the leaders of our home. I know people whose dogs run the entire house.
In autism, we have impulse control problems. My aide must help me control impulses, keep me focused, and help me function in society. I am improving in self control. Glad about that, but I’ll tell the truth, I’m likely to take advantage of wimpy people and I bet your autistic kid will too.
Hope this helps with the selection of an aide.
The middle school I just graduated from was big. The procession in the graduation went on for about twenty minutes. It was the longest parade of students in suits or fancy dresses and high heels. The graduation meant a lot to me because I earned it. I thought about my journey to this point. I think I need to say thanks to the school.
In my education, I never had the chance to show my knowledge until middle school. It was the first school that accepted me as a student who could learn at grade level. They accepted me as a person who was different but not who needed to be kept from regular education. Each year got better and quickly became a full day of mainstreaming. When I started I wasn’t sure I could do it. Now I know I can. I am starting high school with the knowledge that I did well in middle school.
My teachers were taking on a new kind of student. Classes were humongous. I got minimal individual attention. Classes were interesting or boring, like any other student’s experience. It was normal boring, not a mind numbing denial of education boring. I am grateful to my middle school for that. Some teachers understood me and my situation better than others. Some were not very insightful at all. Some were open-minded and some were probably annoyed to have a disabled student crowding their classroom with an aide. The truth is, they all gave me a chance. Some people really never have this opportunity. It was hard, but a great thing to learn and be part of regular classes.
I think some people were amazingly helpful so I want to to acknowledge them. First, I want to give special thanks to my wonderful aide, Cathy, for the patience of a saint, her lovely disposition, reliability, and wonderful communication skills. I also want to thank Mr. Miller who was always the problem solver and support I needed in administration. Last, thanks to Mrs. Johnston who in a short time became a huge help to me in my journey toward high school. The rest of the teachers deserve recognition for putting up with me. Ha Ha. 🙂