Although research may be occurring to help experts and society understand Autism Spectrum Disorder a lot more clearly, there a still a lot of areas that could improve to help people with the condition and to make their experiences in these places a lot smoother and more comfortable. One of these areas is the education sector.
Due to not being diagnosed until I was 26 years old, I did not receive any help or support from my school to help with the daily struggles I endured because of my autism. In fact, I don’t recall anyone in my school year being diagnosed with ASD, even though I can name a few people who definitely had obvious symptoms in hindsight. The simple truth is that my school was just not prepared to deal with students who had learning difficulties. Such pupils were just unfairly placed into the lowest performing classes where they were surrounded by disruptive students and so had no chance of fulfilling their potential educationally.
What my teachers didn’t seem to understand is that pupils with ASD, and other learning difficulties, often need extra time and attention in order to learn and overcome obstacles they might find hard to cope with. This made it even more aggravating for me, as someone with autism, because at the time I was expected to learn and understand subjects at the same rate as the other students. This wasn’t always a problem as I actually excelled in some topics, but for some classes I really struggled to keep up and understand what was being taught to us.
I watched a documentary on Amazon Prime the other day entitled “Autism & Me”. It was about different aged young people on the spectrum in Ireland and how they coped in everyday life. It shocked me how good the facilities in their schools were for children who had ASD and made me think a couple of things:-
- What has changed since I was a school pupil to make schools take the positive step to ensure autistic students are cared for in the correct manor?
- Are these facilities in most schools in the UK now as well?
If nothing has really moved forward in terms of research into ASD in the last decade, then why weren’t these facilities in our schools when I was a student? So many of the children in my school could have been saved from the difficulties they faced if such programs had been put into place years earlier. I have no idea if my old school now has this type of support in place for their autistic pupils, but I’d like to think it does, if only to help save their current students from experiencing the awful standard of schooling I had to endure during my time there.
The Irish documentary made me realise that it is possible for the education system to get things right if they prioritise their plans correctly. People with ASD should not be left to fall through the cracks of the system as they can bring so much both educationally and socially to a school if given the chance.
So to any teachers reading this, please remember those of us who have Autism Spectrum Disorder. Do not allow us to fall behind through no fault of our own. Support us and we will show you just what we can do.