Teen years with and without Autism

 

I have Asperger Syndrome and my teenage High school experience was a living hell that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

I will be blogging about this over the next few weeks but I want to begin by taking a step back and putting this into perspective.

 

Even if schools did not exist, teen years would be a formidable challenge due to the changes that are common to all children.

  • Emotional, physical, biological, psychological

Teenagers can be very cruel to other teenagers but the physical confinement of the school system provides an environment in which this cruelty can be amplified.

  • Teenagers may feel a greater freedom to be cruel/bully others students
  • This can be far more damaging when the cruelty/bullying is being carried out by groups

The ‘reasons’ for bullying are outside the scope of this post, but I do want to look at the victim profile.

 

While Autistic children seem to be very well represented as bullying victims, I think it is important to acknowledge that given the extent of bullying in school systems, Neurotypical (non-Autistic) children are also victims and in very large numbers.

Any teenager who is ‘different’ runs the risk of being bullied and suffering a miserable existence at school, regardless of neurology.

  • Astonishingly, I don’t actually recall any physical bullying at my High School, but there was relentless psychological bullying.

When we advocate for Autistic school-children, I think it’s important to recognize that bullying is a Universal problem for children and to acknowledge that non-Autistic children also suffer terribly under school systems that in some cases are effectively day prisons!

 

I wasn’t the only victim of psychological bullying at my High school, but I seemed to be the only one who was completely and utterly socially rejected.

  • All of the other victims of psychological bullying in my Grade seemed to have a group they hung out with
  • It may have been a small group, but they belonged

The kids who weren’t particularly good at sports hung out together, the kids who were good at wood-shop hung out together, the kids who struggled academically hung out together etc etc.

But I was a complete and utter outsider. I belonged nowhere, was made welcome nowhere and was invited nowhere.

When I wasn’t being taunted, mocked or showered in hatred, I was just invisible, ignored, alone, adrift.

I enjoyed no solace with others suffering in the school system because I lacked the hard-wiring needed to connect with any of them socially and they knew it!

  • I of course was oblivious
  • Even the rejected students, rejected me!

This was the devastating part of my High School years.

  • There was no respite, no sympathy, no shared suffering, just unending despair

I was a Grade A student and a Champion swimmer.

  • I wasn’t bullied for being overweight, because of my skin color, my ethnic background, being poor…..(fill in the blank)
  • All of which are a violation of a person’s dignity

My bullying at school, in the form of unbroken ostracism, was due entirely to the rejection of my fundamentally different style of social interaction, which was and remains the result of being born Autistic.

 

During the next few blog posts I will be sharing some of my experiences of High School.

It won’t be fun writing these, but I hope that these stories might help others by easing or preventing the suffering that I endured as a teenager but thankfully survived.

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ganderingdreams
    May 21, 2012 @ 03:37:48

    Looking forward to your next blogs , this is very interesting and I know it’s not easy to wriite about some things that happen or the feelings that they invoke but it can help you or others to cope and that can only be good 🙂

    Reply

  2. outrunning the storm
    May 21, 2012 @ 07:13:34

    Thank u for forwarding me your blog on twitter. I really enjoyed the first few posts and look forward to reading more

    Reply

  3. spectrumscribe
    May 21, 2012 @ 11:43:52

    Thanks for your encouragement, I’m new to blogging so your comments are welcome and helpful.

    Reply

  4. seventhvoice
    May 21, 2012 @ 19:09:34

    Great post. Looking forward to the next one. Thank you.

    Reply

  5. mandy heales
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 10:28:06

    It sounds as if your experience was very like my sons. It has left him anxious about going anywhere on his own or meeting strangers. I wish schools would teach young people about the effects of bullying and be more supportive towards students with asds.
    Excellent blog.and one i shall follow!

    Reply

  6. Sue
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 15:51:46

    Mahalo for continuing to share your story. It is important. I truly believe that the more people who speak out the better chance we having of enacting real changes in society.

    Reply

  7. lybliss
    Sep 30, 2012 @ 22:29:55

    thankyou for sharing, and I’m looking forward to reading the next posts.. My Aspie son is blessed to have attended a small private high school with an Applied Learning teacher whose own son is Aspie – so she is a champion advocate. While there has been some bullying and isolation, the school has worked very hard to support and understand- to the point where when my son finally lashed out at a kid who has been constantly bullying him, he wasn’t punished, the other childs family were told he had been asking for it for several years! He will complete Yr 12 (Senior High School) in 5 weeks time. Not an A student – more like a D student, but I give him full points for sticking at it and completing his education

    Reply

  8. spectrumscribe
    Oct 01, 2012 @ 21:53:06

    Congratulations to you and your son for his upcoming High School graduation and thank you for sharing your story.

    My retaliation against taunting in High School was mostly intellectual. I would dissect the culprit with a sound bite and then walk away, leaving him speechless.

    I recall a teacher pulling me aside one day and berating me for my tendency to make ‘caustic’ remarks to the other boys! I was around 12 years old.

    I was very confused by her comment. I was the recipient of serial taunting, scorn etc. I was berated for retaliating in kind, while they were given free rein to torment! There seemed little point in ‘pleading my case’ to someone who at best, seemed to lack even a basic knowledge of the psychological bullying culture in our school and at worst was just too stupid to engage with, in a manner that was even remotely meaningful.

    Three years later, I was finally vindicated.

    It was lunchtime and I was standing in line outside the school canteen. The boy directly in front of me turned around and started to bad mouth me, as was his habit. He had real ‘social rank.’ He was a sprinter on the track team, had a motorbike AND a girlfriend. He also had a reputation for being ‘tough’ – I lashed out, in what seemed like slow motion and then everything went blank. The next thing I remember was seeing him on the floor bleeding.

    The following day, the High School Principal called a general assembly of my entire grade. He articulated his disgust at the culture of psychological/emotional bullying (he was a little less eloquent) that was now so bad, that an Honors student had finally been provoked into fighting! He expressed no criticism of my actions. That was the last time anyone interfered with me during a school meal break.

    It took a lot of courage for your son to stand up to that bully and it’s great to hear that his actions were vindicated too.

    Reply

  9. Austin
    Jan 02, 2013 @ 23:40:38

    I found out about my autism at 10 or so yrs old and now I realize the rest of my HS years will be hell, I’m 13 and am somewhat accepted but don’t really know at all, nobody really talks to me

    Reply

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