I have worked with approximately 30 children who have an Autistic
Spectrum Disorder. Most of these children had additional learning
difficulties, it was a Special School.
I left 3 years ago to look after my young sons, but I think about the
pupils a lot. I spent six years with the same group of children. Six
boys, two girls. Most of my colleagues said they couldn't handle
working in the Autistic unit. "They're hard work" "They can be
violent" "They don't listen"...
I'd imagine you think over the period of ten years I received some
specialised training in Autism? No, none at all. I requested training
every year, there was never enough money for it.
The children I worked with had a huge impact on my life. I was
injured, assaulted, my clothes got ripped. I cried a lot with
frustration (at people's inability to accept Autism).
I laughed every day, and continue to laugh at some of the situations I
found myself in, and some of the innocent comments made by the pupils
which were hilarious. A trip to the shop to buy bread and milk would
always end in drama. One pupil felt it necessary to strike up
conversations with strangers using his unique descriptions of their
appearance. "So, old lady-you have the moustache?" My fondness for the
group meant I rarely thought about Autism, they were a group of
individuals, defined by their personalities, not their 'disorder'.
Once, the whole school were invited to the Wales Millenium Centre to
watch 'Sleeping Beauty on Ice'. I overheard a member of senior
management say "I don't think the Autistic Unit should go". I was
determined to go, really fed up of the discrimination.
We went, and hoped for the best. The best happened. All the pupils
from the Autistic Unit sat still, entranced for the entire show. The
rest of the pupils, bored and impatient, caused quite a scene, crying,
shouting and running around.
Every single negative thing that happened during my time at the school
was due to lack of tolerance.
If you know nothing about Autism, just learn this one thing. Autism is
nothing to be afraid of. Intolerance is the only problem. If you had
Autism, I reckon the only thing you'd ask for is acceptance. The world
is difficult to understand for many, please do NOT assume your
understanding of it is right.
One pupil said "I don't like assembly, I'm not going". I didn't like
assembly either, I went. What is it that made us SO different eh?