Being autistic in mainstream education | Becky Cox | [email protected]



according to the official NHS statistic over 1 in a hundred people in the UK are autistic there are roughly 200 people here today so there should be at least one other but that's not how statistics work of course not only are they always changing but they're different wherever you go and people aren't always gathered into one room in the US for example the official statistic is one in 68 children but a more recent estimate guesses it to be one in 45 of course this also doesn't count the amount people who go undiagnosed and only recently as research being done into late diagnosis and also people who are on private institutions and aren't on public record so this is my autism I love music in this way I am like most teenagers I cannot stop thinking about music in that way I am not so much like most of the teenagers I struggle with school that's not uncommon but I also can't stand direct sunlight or bright white rooms this time last year I was getting migraines three times a week and even when I stopped testing three times a week I kept saying I did I can't follow vague instructions which means that clean your room or make dinner doesn't really work with me and I can't cope with changes in routine or unplanned events they are my nightmare I don't like heat or cold or foods I don't know or textures I don't like I cannot start things and when I do I tend to stop them I don't like large crowds or parties and I cannot stop thinking about music but there's another side to this I'm a liar and I can understand sarcasm I can search for subtext though it may not come naturally and I had no developmental delay in fact I had a developmental advantage I've always been able to speak about 95% at the time and while I can navigate conversation with relative ease I do tend to dominate it in tangents though I've been told it comes across as eccentric rather than abnormal I said I'm a liar and that's true and it's a contrast with the Serio types of autistic people being honest in every single situation I SiC two conversational scripts whether it's true or not that's how I get by so how is autism diagnosed nowadays well it depends on where you are and who you talk to in the majority of the world particularly in the US and Western Europe it's diagnosed like other mental illnesses and developmental disorders via the dsm-5 or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual fifth edition the fifth edition was introduced in 2013 and lays out a variety of criteria that one has to meet to get any diagnosis that falls under mental illness and developmental disorder well there were many big influential changes many of them controversial with the fifth edition one of them being the grouping of the autism spectrum disorders these were previously known as classic autism for lack of a better name Asperger syndrome Rett syndrome childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified or pdd-nos for short these were grouped under an umbrella term the autism spectrum disorders which in 2013 became the term ASD the lack of separation was because there wasn't really a line that you could draw between them there was no real way to tell where Asperger syndrome ended and classic autism began pdd-nos and Asperger syndrome were separated by one immeasurable symptom so you could see how that didn't really work another reason for the lack of separation and the and the dissolving of the different diagnoses was they promoted some harm sorry Oh types if somebody was diagnosed with classic autism when they were young from the moment they were diagnosed they were likely told that they would never be independent we'd have to rely on other people their entire lives probably wouldn't have their own career and may not ever be able to speak again you can see how that caused some issues on the other hand if somebody was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome they were told that they were fine really and that there was no issue there they didn't really have any problems and they weren't allowed to express any frustration with the situation they were in the changes in the dsm-5 also strengthened the reliance on functioning labels which have been used for years beforehand but more recently over the last years the functioning labels known as high functioning and low functioning were again a separation of people within the spectrum and they often didn't paint a very true picture of how people really were if somebody couldn't speak they would be automatically labeled as low functioning even if they were high functioning in every other aspect of the word and if somebody was high functioning they may not have been in all situations at school maybe at home not and these labels led to several other issues decisions be made on the basis of these labels before people even had a choice to make it themselves one of these being the education debate the education debate is as old as the discovery of autism itself mainstream education or separate schools there are pros and cons to both of these as in any debate the pros being better equipped staff a sensory friendly environment tailored teaching methods to help people to help people learn in the way that's best for them and less bullying and while bullying still exists in any school it wasn't necessarily based on a disability that somebody had of course the cons were the lack of equality of opportunity people in an additional needs support school may not be offered the same qualifications or air paths as those in mainstream education and the separation in itself causes a Sigma because if people don't know anyone who's in a separate school all they really have to rely on his media stereotypes you can probably tell from the title of my speech I'm the latter I went to a mainstream school and because I was diagnosed at 16 that really wasn't a choice that we had and I wouldn't have gone to a different school anyway I don't think I was always quite happy at Primary School and then at the beginning of secondary school so while I wouldn't have gone to a separate school the option probably would have been a nice addition I've struggled in school since yes Evan though I didn't necessarily realize it at the time probably the biggest indicator was not doing any history homework for the entirety of the year because my teacher wouldn't notice I still got the best mark on my report for homework for that subject the homework was the main issue in that I wouldn't do it and then I would get anxious about going in the next day and so I would do anything to avoid going in the next day and I mentioned those migraines and how even when I stopped having them I said that I did my attendance was not great particularly in year 10 and 11 even the days I did go in I would usually skip a lesson because the school nurses were pretty easy to convince I would go up to them and say oh I'm getting another migraine I've taken the medicine it should go off in about an hour or so and then just go to the lesson after I was referred to the school nurse in year 11 under the pretense of it being about migraines when it was really like anyone else with my attendance about not going into school and then after a couple of sessions with her I did several questionnaires about diagnosis and was then sent to Cam's over the summer where I got the official diagnosis after a two-hour test that was quite similar to the eleven plus it featured definitions of words and noticing patterns and various other things so this is a different perspective to many autistic people many people are diagnosed either very early in their life or in their adulthood being diagnosed last August I've worked with the additional needs staff at my school to make things easy year for myself and though there are limited resources here with most of the sensory equipment such as weighted blankets being kept in a separate school and needing several referrals to gain access to them we're on a small island it's understandable though the lack of awareness is probably the biggest issue I was told when I was young that I was a genius and that I was a future straight-a student that didn't happen I know I'm not the only one not living up to those expectations because of this I know I'm not the only one in my school not the only one in my year so the motivation and the point behind this whole speech is awareness and not only that but acceptance acceptance within schools within my society and within youth communities we have enough blue lights and documentaries and we've had enough of vaccine scare mongering and heartwarming sob stories we are here in your schools and in your workplaces and I had a choice to make about whether or not I told people about this and I haven't told everyone about this and there are probably some people here that I know who didn't know this about me yet but I'm not going to be quiet about it and we're not going to remain invisible anymore thank you

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