What YOU think. What I feel – Issue #2
AsIAm.ie is committed to reaching out to the general public, who may have no knowledge of the condition, to give some insight into what it is actually like to have Autism and to stress the importance of building a society which accepts and understand every person AS-THEY-ARE
In this article, now a weekly series, we are asking the public to consider how they might view a person, who has Autism, in a given situation (even if they do not know they have the condition) and how the person with Autism feels at that time. This week we will focus on classroom scenarios (from the point of view of teacher and student), at the request of a number of users.
A child with high-functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, in a classroom, who is very precise and requires structure and routine. The student is quick to highlight mistakes on the board or to contradict the teacher, maybe even speaking out of turn. He might also get frustrated or seem cheeky at times if things don’t go to plan or you are asking him to do something which seems illogical or is a break with routine
YOU think: This student needs to learn some manners and restraint. He is behaving like a “know-all” or a “smart alex”. When he stops everything to ask you to fix a spelling or gives out that you are running 5 minutes behind on schedule – he is being disruptive and his behaviour is impacting on other students in the classroom. When I change plans or ask him to do something he is not used to he just tries to stonewall me or pretends to be upset – just because he doesn’t want to do it.
WE might feel: I try to work out the world around me by thinking in “black or white” terms – its helps me process what is going on, to concentrate and gives me a degree of comfort. If we are in school to learn I don’t understand why it is not a good thing to correct something if it’s wrong – because if its wrong its wrong, right? If I don’t say something I might actually get more distracted or stressed and I can’t take instructions or phrasing which isn’t precise because how can I follow it? I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings – I just don’t socially edit but say it honestly as I see it. I find the unexpected terrifying – as I find it hard to cope with so many situations how can I even try if I don’t know what to expect? That’s why timetables and routine are everything for me. It can be a stressful way to live but for me its the least stressful option. When things don’t go as planned I can get very frustrated or uncooperative but I really just need some space to come to terms with the change, or even if it can be explained to me in advance, I just can’t deal with people telling me to change things, without reason and being very firm – it makes me feel stressed out, uncomfortable and highly anxious.
A highly disorganised student with Autism who may consistently be late for class, be missing work or books/equipment and who cannot manage to file or organise work
YOU think: Students need to be organised and need to take responsibility for this personally. I cannot abide it when a student is disorganised and how I am to know if they find it difficult or not. The only way a student will learn is through penalties.
WE might feel: Dates, times, rooms, books, equipment, folders, formatting, layout – all different things to remember for different times and dates. I would love to be organised, it would make my life much easier! But as someone with poor concentration and a problem with over-stimulation I find it very difficult to get my own mind organised at times! I just wish I wasn’t seen as just being disorganised by a teacher but rather that it was recognised that this is actually a part of my special educational needs. With a little quiet support I might be able to get a system in place to try and keep on top of things as presently it is a source of major anxiety without anyone giving out to me about it!
A child with Autism, who has some very challenging behaviours, in a mainstream classroom
YOU think: I don’t feel sufficiently trained to deal with some of the behaviours of this child – I know he is not just being bold but I just don’t know how to manage when I still have so many other children to look after. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t find working with this child very stressful but I just wish there was a way of identifying when they were likely to be having a difficult day or might get upset so we could deal with it instead of allowing the situation to escalate in such a negative way.
WE might feel: I just find the classroom to be such a frustrating environment: social situations which I find difficult, smells and noises which are so hard to cope with and so much activity that it is nearly impossible to follow what is going on. I find that sometimes I just need space or am anxious about a particular aspect of the day (at home or in school) or with a change in how things usually are at school and I feel I can’t communicate this. Then something just triggers me to get upset or to have a “meltdown”. I get very upset and I also upset teacher, which I don’t like doing! My parents think it would be good if we started keeping a daily diary between school and home so they could let each other know what is going on and why I might be upset. As well sometimes I wish there was somewhere I could opt to go to, safe and comfortable, for some quiet time to talk about what is worrying me or maybe get some fresh air to burn some steam. I just really hope I won’t be seen as bold or aggressive as that is not who I am.
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