When My Daughter With Asperger's Wrote About Her School Experience
Our Girlie (our daughter) was always the pride of our life, but she needed lots of support growing up. A diagnosis of sensory integration disorder started the process at age 2, followed by anxiety disorder at age 3, ADD (attention deficit disorder) and executive function disorder in elementary school. We asked the professionals in her life whether she was on the autism spectrum and were told no. Things were not great for her in school, but they were OK. She managed — until seventh grade. No one wanted to be friends with her anymore. She had a hard time with academics. Then I started receiving messages from the guidance counselor that she cried daily. We didn’t know why, but the accommodations just weren’t working for her anymore.
We knew something had to change — but what? Her sensory issues and anxiety were becoming worse. We made a drastic decision — for eighth grade, we would enroll her in an online public school, which would give us the flexibility we needed to figure out what she needed. One year of schooling at home, then she would return to a regular public high school — that was our intention.
We were referred to a pediatric neuropsychologist, Dr. Anna, who explained our daughter to us. At age 13, our Girlie was diagnosed with high-functioning autism and anxiety disorder. Dr. Anna’s recommendation was not that she return to public school, but attend a small school where she could have daily counseling and support. A therapeutic special education school/program.
As we were going through the IEP process with our town (and as part of the schooling-at-home process), I asked our Girlie to write an essay about what it felt like to be at her previous school. She brainstormed a list of talking points that she wanted to cover.
My husband and I cried when we read this. I submitted it to anyone who would read it. It was perfect:
I was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and anxiety disorder. If you don’t know, Asperger’s is a form of high-functioning autism. If you can understand that, it doesn’t mean I can’t talk or walk or write, I am mostly as normal as you. Except, my anxiety disorder messes this up, and I can get scared, mad, hurt or upset very easily.
For the past year, my mom and dad have been trying to find a school that suits my needs. I don’t mean to be rude, but I had a pretty bad experience at [name redacted] middle. Aside from a few things. Please don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad school. It’s just, I didn’t have the best of times here.
Some of the things that give me trouble is the loud and crowded classrooms. They stress me out to no end, and I find solace in doodling my problems away, which gets me into trouble. I am generally not an outgoing person. I won’t tell any names, but I was either teased in school, or people saw right through me. I think you need to make a better effort to actually know these kids, because you, the adult, don’t know what happens in schools. Also, don’t even get me started on other students. When it comes to bullying and shunning, boys call someone a bad name or punch them, but girls plan. They elaborate.
Anyway, back to me. As I stated earlier, loud and classrooms make me stressed. Another thing that I have trouble doing is paying attention and telling if people are being sarcastic. I have trouble with social cues and emotions. I also cry when I get frustrated, and I can’t help this. It’s a part of who I am. Yelling at me, or sending me out on a walk will not help. It makes me embarrassed and angry if you send me out, and that will make me cry even more. Also, making direct eye contact can make me very nervous. I am not being rude, it just makes me anxious. Just because I am not looking does NOT mean I am not LISTENING.
This whole thing started one day when I got home from middle school. My parents and I felt I wasn’t cut out for the school, so we decided to try homeschooling. I was happy at the prospect because I could work alone on my own time. Eventually, the lessons became hard and repetitive. I had the hardest time with math, as I always did. I do terribly at math without help. Then, I started to realize, I was getting lonely. I had a dilemma. I wanted to see more people, but I didn’t want to be crowded.
I would cry at school. A lot. I would get so scared, stressed or anxious. I didn’t cry at home much, just at school. I can’t remember the reasons now, but it didn’t bother me at first that I cried. Until I found out people were making fun of me. I can’t help crying. So I would go into the bathroom and cry. Then nobody would see me and call me nasty names.
I just want to go to a school where they have kids like me. Kids I can relate to. Other people with anxiety and/or Asperger’s, who can tell what I’ve been through, and maybe help me to make friends better. With smaller classrooms, and teachers who can help me when I cry, and not embarrass me.
Thank you for listening to me.
I’m happy to say that for the past few months, she has been in a therapeutic day school for high schoolers with anxiety. She has real friends she Skypes with afterschool. She is learning. She still has some bad days at school and needs to stay in her clinician’s office to calm herself. But every morning she’s up, dressed, puts makeup on and gets on the bus to her new school. She loves going there. And we definitely have our Girlie back.
A longer version of this post originally appeared on the Believe You Can Facebook page.